Merging two established brands for one great result

As I brainstormed ideas for an article on the merger of two brands, I felt it was necessary to take you back to the beginning. In 1969, Charles A. Penzone, a young and ambitious hair professional, launched his salon empire with two hair professionals and a $500 bank loan.
Twenty-two years later, Charles’ vision of The Grand Salons became a reality when several neighborhood salons consolidated to create the world’s first full-service, freestanding salon and day spa. The concept landed Charles on “The Today Show” and in People and InStyle.
The brand was booming — a research study found it had 94 percent recognition in Central Ohio.
In 1996, a realtor contacted Charles about a smaller, 1,100-square-foot salon in German Village. The next day, salon professional Rick Wellman resigned because he didn’t want to work in the suburbs anymore, where the Grand Salons are located.
The puzzle pieces fell into place. Charles set out to recreate his initial smaller business model with Wellman as the first employee. MAX THE SALON was born with its own size, look, operations and advertising.
In 2001, Charles introduced a second boutique brand — Q Salon, an industrial, warehouse-themed concept.
Merging brands
Fast-forward to 2015. Our MAX THE SALON and Q Salon concepts have been the most profitable per square foot — exceeding industry benchmarks on profitability for their size.
The brand identities, however, hadn’t evolved since the 1990s. The logos looked dated, the supporting materials didn’t speak to the brand’s energy and vivacity and the salon exteriors remained unchanged.
Given increased competition in those neighborhoods, a rebrand would help us not only remain competitive but also set the brand up for sustainability and expansion.
We took the opportunity to merge Q Salon into the MAX THE SALON brand with a rebranding exercise. We felt the fresh approach would engage the teams at all three locations, bringing them together as a cohesive unit.
Jena Huffman, director of marketing at The Charles Penzone Cos., led the initiative. She empowered and included team members with brainstorm sessions, focus groups and collaborative conversations.
A local designer created brand identities and logo options, and the professionals ultimately selected the new face of the brand.
In this process, the MAX brand connected to the larger parent-brand. Now, a “Charles Penzone Concept” is included within the logo to establish the deep-rooted history and emphasize the professionals’ talent and training.
Since the merger, the professionals at MAX THE SALON have re-engaged in their careers. Morale has been boosted and professionals are picking up additional days. We’ve witnessed the results — the revenue at each of our three MAX THE SALON locations has increased.
Future of the brand
This year marks the 47th anniversary of The Charles Penzone Salons. I consider myself fortunate to have spent 29 years in such a creative, collaborative and evolving environment, learning many business lessons along the way.

Now, as president, the company’s entrepreneurial spirit is driving the way to the future. We’ll be celebrating the success of merging brands and looking to the next project — a new salon concept in Dublin!

Debra Penzone is the president of Charles Penzone Family of Salons. Debra’s expertise as a business leader, hair professional and her avid philanthropy have earned her the respect of the salon industry and the nonprofit community.