This blog post was a reader request, who asked us to look at the HBO Max rebrand:
I love how HBO Max changed its name to "max" so now has to clarify that it's the one to watch for HBO pic.twitter.com/k9uDFVvLgc
— Andy (@FrancisTheSailr) May 23, 2023
If you kill off a legacy name but have to add an explainer, then you probably shouldn’t have killed off the legacy name in the first place, right? HBO was recognizable.
The explanation is that when Warner Bros. and Discovery merged, mixing content from different sources justified the re-brand. The new streaming service gives you shit like Property Brothers in addition to Succession, so I guess they felt like keeping the HBO name on there was misleading, according to CEO J.B. Perrette (via CNBC) –
Perrette explained Wednesday why Warner Bros. Discovery removed the HBO part of the name from the new service. HBO is synonymous with adult entertainment, and Max will lean into offering programming for kids and families, he said.
“We all love HBO,” said Perrette. “It’s a brand that’s been built over five decades to be the edgy, ground-breaking trend-setter for entertainment for adults. But it’s not exactly where parents would most easily drop off their kids. Not surprisingly, the category hasn’t met its true potential on HBO Max.”
Beyond that macro shift, the old HBO Max app no longer works and you have to download a new app instead, which gets away from the purple branding and goes with blue instead. One of the things about the purple is that it made HBO Max stand out among other apps in the carousel, which aren’t very diverse in color. You’ve got the black, white, and red of ESPN+, YouTubeTV, regular YouTube, Apple TV, and Peacock, plus Hulu with the green letters over… black. The only apps that we’d consider mainstream in popularity that deviate from the palette are Disney+, Prime Video, and HBO Max, which now looks closer to Sling and Disney than it used to.
This reminds me of the Inquirer dumping Philly.com for Inquirer.com, or when Entercom became Audacy and retired the Radio.com brand. Take every justifiable reason and put it aside, because you had two incredibly recognizable domain names that worked in an old school and parochial market. People knew Philly.com, but it was changed to the name of a legacy newspaper that was losing subscribers in the digital age. We swapped “Philly” and “Radio” for “Inquirer” and “Audacy.”
The Maestro is strong on this topic and chimed in with this:
“Pantheon of all-time horrible rebrands. But, Phillydotcom was BY FAR the most valuable domain in Philly, both in terms of search and branding. Truly, commercially valuable. They changed it to Inquirer, which no one can spell. Radiodotcom similarly dumb, also changed to word no one can spell. But at least you could make the “it’s not radio when it’s podcasts” argument. HBO, maybe the second most valuable brand in premium content, just choosing to not use its name is corporate overthink at its finest. Tough call. I’d happily appear on a panel about this.”
We’ll have to get that panel together.
You can tell MAX was a good branding move, because they've had to keep HBO in the app's name to let people know what the heck it is.
I would humbly suggest "HBO Max" is cleaner branding than "Max: Stream HBO, TV, & Movies" pic.twitter.com/AamLSMXeqN
— Jonathan Lack (@JonathanLack) May 23, 2023