In SMPL Q+A, we interview our practitioners on all things relevant to branding, design and simplicity. Here, we speak with our experts about our work with Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD). Warner Bros. Discovery is a leading global media and entertainment company that creates and distributes the world’s most differentiated and complete portfolio of content and brands across television, film and streaming.
Why did Warner Bros. Discovery engage Siegel+Gale? What made this engagement so unique?
Laura Marino, Senior Director, Account Management: The merger of Discovery and WarnerMedia into Warner Bros. Discovery brought together two entertainment conglomerates with very different backgrounds. Discovery’s brands, ranging from Magnolia Network to HGTV and Food Network, focused on popular unscripted lifestyle content, while WarnerMedia brought the heritage and prestige of HBO and WarnerBros. WBD engaged Siegel+Gale to create a brand that captured the combined organization’s bold vision for the future, attracting creators and investors and galvanizing employees. The Siegel+Gale team represented a cross-office collaboration, with employees spanning our NY and LA offices, all who felt passionately about being part of this exciting endeavor. Our team structure complemented our client team, who also have offices on both coasts. This proved very efficient, significantly improving our ability to meet our ambitious timelines. Having quickly established a close rapport with our clients, the brand is a result of the true partnership between the WBD and Siegel+Gale teams to arrive at the final brand strategy, visual identity and campaign for the corporate brand as well as defining the brand strategy for their new streaming service Max.
Lisa Kane, Group Director, Strategy: Despite the differences mentioned above, WarnerMedia and Discovery had something in common: both companies amplified the voices of storytellers to bring the world to us and transport us to new worlds. As one company, Warner Bros. Discovery has an unmatched breadth of content—fantasy and reality, scripted and unscripted, documentaries, news and sports—and the ability to bring stories to audiences on a global scale.
The positioning, “We empower creators to dream bold and share stories that move our worlds,” was rooted in this insight. One of the most important things to note about this strategy is that it is directed at an industry audience. Consumers worldwide may care a great deal about the brands they know—HBO, TBS, CNN, TLC, HGTV, etc. But Warner Bros. Discovery’s goal is to be a home for all creators and help them bring their stories to life. They needed a company brand that could help them reach and inspire the writers, producers, directors, actors, set designers, camera operators and hundreds of other roles I am neglecting to mention here.
The Warner Bros. Discovery brand strategy is an internal mandate and a call to action—to give creators the freedom and tools to realize their dreams and create stories that capture the hearts, minds and imaginations of people around the world.
Elizabeth Rodriguez, Associate Director, Strategy: The positioning is admittedly ambitious; it promises “boldness” and the ability for stories to “move our worlds.” While ambitious, it’s authentic. We uncovered these concepts at the core of the two organizations, which, on the surface, could not have seemed more different.
Discovery boldly amplifies niche corners of the world and HBO’s legacy of boldly setting new standards for TV needs no explanation. Both companies boldly explore the intricacies, hilarities and even absurdities of the shared human condition. It’s in this bold exploration that quality content is created, writers are heard and viewers feel seen. In turn, worlds behind screens and in living rooms move a little closer.
What made this project so unique was the nature of content itself. We weren’t dealing with a product that lives on a shelf or a service that is delivered. Content, in its best incarnation, has both afterlife beyond the screen and the ability to drive the cultural zeitgeist. Our strategy needed to consider content as a total experience; we needed to consider how content lives in theme parks or even drives meaningful roundtable discussions.
When realizing the impact of content in our world, the positioning didn’t seem so ambitious. In fact, the promise felt just bold enough.
How does the visual identity combine the two iconic brands? How does it bring them to life as one?
Simrit Brar, Creative Director + Jason Miller, Creative Director: Our design philosophy is inspired by the moment when a creator/bold visionary frames a shot-bringing their point of view to the stories being told by Warner Bros. Discovery. The visual expression is a manifestation of the merging of the shared ethos of the two companies around a shared ambition. It is an invitation to enter Warner Bros. Discovery’s bold, rich worlds. Worlds that are exponential, forever building into infinity, forever expanding and alive. A frame that keeps changing, revealing new perspectives. You feel drawn in, propelled by not just Warner Bros. Discovery’s clear vision but also the diverse stories that open new ways of seeing, feeling and being.
The visual identity brings in new connected perspectives—amplifying voices, building bridges and connecting to one another. This is brought to life through the deliberate use of a broad color spectrum and rich, bold imagery representing the universe of the broadest and deepest stories told—from truth to nature to fantasy. It embraces the breadth and depth of Warner Bros. Discovery at every touchpoint. There is also a quiet confidence, leaning into the company’s legacy, balancing the vibrance with appropriate restraint where needed.
The graphic element that is core to the expression is called ‘the framing device,’ and it brings the bold imagination of our creators to life with movement, expansiveness and endless possibilities. The viewers are pulled into these worlds while we reach out and enter theirs. The framing devices aren’t just about capturing a shot or a moment. They open up infinite potential as they go from the simplest to the most complex, as a modular system to hold the vast universe of content, but also an element that effectively captures the positioning: “We empower creators to dream bold and share stories that move our worlds.”
How did Siegel+Gale partner with Warner Bros. Discovery on Max?
Sam Starr-Shields, Account Director: We and the Warner Bros. Discovery team were both dedicated to finding the right strategy for merging Warner Bros and Discovery content together on one streaming app. From the start of the partnership, we worked very collaboratively with the Warner Bros. Discovery team. To ensure we had a good understanding of the strengths, roadblocks and culture of each company, Siegel+Gale interviewed a variety of key stakeholders from both Discovery and Warner Brothers. We then worked closely with the Warner Bros. Discovery team to establish a strategic brand platform for Max that complimented the Warner Bros. Discovery corporate brand strategy. Once aligned, we dove into strategic architecture recommendations for the streaming app, pressure testing how best to structure Max and organize different marquee content both companies brought to the table. Ultimately, we leaned on the idea that Max could offer content no matter your mood. Max offers everything from a date night drama to a lighthearted reality show.
How did the new brand shape Max, the refreshed streaming service?
Lisa Kane: While the Warner Bros. Discovery brand was industry-facing, we had to take a more consumer-focused approach for Max, the new streaming service that combines the content from HBO Max and Discovery+. We created a positioning and architecture to articulate the benefit of having such a massive breadth of content in one place and invite deeper engagement with the platform.
The brand strategy was rooted in a basic human truth-what we want can vary from moment to moment and day to day, depending on what we’re doing and who we are with. The new platform would have it all, from popular genres to beloved franchises, the fresh and unexpected to the comforting and familiar. So, whichever “self” you bring to your viewing experience, Max has something for you and can serve up the best content for whatever mood you are in.
“When it came time to choose a global brand experience firm for the evolution of HBO Max, Siegel+Gale were the clear choice. They worked with us to craft a brand architecture and strategy for the new Max offering that was designed to connect with consumers on an emotional level and convey that our broad catalog of content offers consumers something to watch for their every mood, wherever they are.” —Vikki Neil, Executive Vice President, Global Brand & Creative, Warner Bros. Discovery Streaming.