Brands do the darnedest things. This most recent adventure on the wild side finds us at the funeral of HBO. After five decades the beloved brand that has become synonymous with premium content, Game of Thrones and boxing, and is suddenly being taken out to pasture. As humans, we don’t like change once we get into a routine that works. We are creatures of habit. We like the familiar. We take the same route to work, order the same mocha double shot frap with skim milk and park in the same spot. It’s predictable, comfortable and it can give you a false sense of security. It’s all good until you wake up one morning like Blockbuster and you find that a brand you love is now extinct. Or did it just evolve?
In today’s marketplace, when consumers, followers, and brand evangelists feel an affinity towards a brand, they’re not shy in voicing their opinions. They take changes as a personal affront. We’re living in the attention economy. Everyone is fighting for eyeballs, which makes it complex to maintain brand equilibrium. In order for brands to grow they have to evolve.
What happened with HBO?
According to Warner Bros. Discovery the problem with HBO Max is the HBO part. JB Perrette, President and CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery said: “We want it to be welcoming to all and easily recognizable, including to a key customer segment, kids and families.” Perrette went on to say and we’re paraphrasing here: “We all love HBO and its brand, but it’s not exactly where parents would most eagerly drop off their kids.”
CNBC reported in April, the name change was to signal that Max is now a family-friendly streaming service. Part of the logic behind scrapping HBO from the name was to protect the brand from potential dilution by being associated with not so favorable TLC reality shows like “Dr. Pimple Popper and “My 600-lb. Life.” That rationale makes sense.
Let’s get into it
I’m here to take a contrarian viewpoint on the HBO being AXED for the much more svelte: MAX. Many people, in fact, dare I say, most people, particularly my colleagues, were very upset about the HBO moniker being dropped. Some even compared it to Nike dropping their beloved ‘swoosh’. After having let the dust settle, and being an HBO Max subscriber, I have since used the MAX app and feel that it was the right thing to do. Not only that, but I’m here to say that HBO did a very bold move in dropping their name and do think that in the long run, it will go down as a genius move. Here’s why: it has all the classic, subtle textbook breadcrumb trails to the hero brand (HBO). If you look closely at the new MAX mark, you’ll notice that the font has changed to the more ‘blocky’ HBO font. You’ll also notice the “A” in MAX has the signature HBO ‘dot’ in the middle. Both of these design elements keep the loyal user connected to the old brand. It’s cleaner, it’s one syllable and it’s the future.
If you listen and believe the online chatter, the rebranding fiasco was not the worse part, the app is even worse. In an email sent out to HBO Max subscribers one of two things were supposed to happen, HBO Max would update automatically to Max or when you opened HBO Max you’d be prompted to download the new Max app. For a more in-depth look at the actual rollout click here. It’s one thing getting the branding wrong, it’s another thing to make the customer experience worse. In my experience, the app is still not going to win any UI/UX awards anytime soon. It lacks and ranks just above the AppleTV UI/UX which isn’t much of a compliment.
For now the price will remain the same, HBO Max subscribers won’t see any price increase, their raises will stay the same: $9.99 the ad supported tier and $15.99 for commercial-free streaming.
There’s an important lesson here, your brand is not what you call it. Your brand is the way your customers feel about what you create. A lot of companies make the mistake of thinking they have to slap a new logo or change their name which has nothing to do with how customers perceive or interact with the brand. Sometimes a rebrand can mean a change of direction and it can be a beacon of things to come. It’s always brave to step out into the new and fans can be fickle. At then end of the day, streaming content is a very crowded space, so making a splash with a rebrand may not be a bad idea after all.
– Ramon Peralta, June 2023