Brand Forensics Episode 1: The Max Launch

Brand Strategy
Following the clues to understand the newest player in the streaming space.
By 
Lauren Tannenbaum
May 31, 2023
Brand Strategy
Following the clues to understand the newest player in the streaming space.
By 
Lauren Tannenbaum
May 31, 2023

Of course, the introduction of Max recent rebrand sent us brand strategy nerds into a frenzy. But the transition has sparked conversation, consternation, and confusion to just about every corner of the media landscape (heck, it even featured prominently on a recent episode of Wait Wait... Don’t Tell Me).  

Even as the dust begins to settle, Max has remained a topic of keen interest and heated debate in our Joe Smith Teams chat, by the water cooler, and at the odd backyard cookout. Was it a good idea?  Why did they do it?  And then ultimately: where did it go wrong?

Just like a good Colombo episode, we already know how the story ends. So, we’re donning our beat-up tan raincoat and uncovering clues about where it all started.

The motive(s)

If you believe, as we do, that a brand is the human expression of a business, then proper brand forensics starts by winding back the clock to pinpoint the business problem someone was trying to solve.  

The facts of the case:

  • The merger of Discovery+ and HBO Max puts two large streaming services under one roof. The combined subscriber base of 92 million aims to give the new entity a better chance with competing against larger streamers like Netflix, who boast over 130 million subscribers.1  
  • HBO and Discovery have two vastly different brand perceptions and equities.  HBO (even though it acquired Sesame Street) maintains a perception of both adult and premium content, while Discovery maintains a broader demographic and set of content types.  

Taking these facts, we get to one potential business problem that the rebrand was trying to solve: How to combine the two entities into one streaming service without alienating either of their audience bases?

This seems to be a likely scenario, and executives from the company have hinted at it in various places. But we also think there may another less obvious problem at play, one that is plaguing the parent company of both brands: Warner Bros. and its recent reshuffling.

Looking at this "man behind the curtain", a few more facts of the case reveal themselves:

  • HBO is only one of the many brands within the new Warner Bros. Discovery portfolio (getting confused yet?) With Warner Media and Discovery combined, there are no fewer than 50 different brands and content streams housed under one roof.
  • Prior to the move to Max, some of these brands were consolidated under either HBO Max or Discovery+. But for others, viewers need to subscribe to or visit multiple services to see content from across the portfolio.

With these two facts, we get to a different potential business problem—and perhaps the one that is at the root of all this madness: How can Warner Bros. Discovery get more viewers to crossover from one of their brands to another?

That is, how can Warner Bros. Discovery get a larger share of attention?

That’s the hypothesis we’ve landed on for the motives for change.

On next week’s episode: Where did it go wrong?

Citations

1 HBO Max and Discovery Plus Will Be Combined Into One Platform

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