Sep 15, 2020
How ViacomCBS created a brand for the streaming era.
For more than 100 years, the Paramount Pictures brand identity—the name, the mountain, the halo of stars—has signaled a world-class entertainment experience. Now, a digital-first reinterpretation created for ViacomCBS’ streaming service builds on the innovative legacy of the Paramount brand and carries it into the streaming era.
The Paramount+ streaming service will launch in early 2021 as a rebrand of the company’s current streaming service, CBS All Access. It will feature content from ViacomCBS’ portfolio of broadcast, news, sports, and its popular entertainment brands, like MTV, BET, Comedy Central, CBS, Nickelodeon, and Smithsonian Channel. Additionally, the service will feature movies from Paramount Pictures. ViacomCBS will also bring Paramount+ to international markets with an initial debut in Australia, Latin America and the Nordics.
“The Paramount brand is known and loved all around the world, and is synonymous with great entertainment. It’s always brought people together, which makes it a perfect fit for a streaming service that’s uniquely positioned to do the same,” says Josh Line, chief brand officer, ViacomCBS. “The Paramount+ streaming service will elevate ViacomCBS’ iconic family of brands.”
According to Domenic DiMeglio, EVP, head of operations and chief marketing officer for ViacomCBS Digital, the Paramount name will lift expectations of entertainment, content range, and quality—and build interest in the service’s originals.
“We recognize that we’re asking people to pull out their credit card and subscribe to our service. The Paramount brand, which audiences strongly associate with creativity and great storytelling, helps signal it’s worth the price,” says DiMeglio. “Being able to say something is a Paramount+ Original will give it instant credibility in the eyes of consumer: ‘Oh, that’s associated with the Paramount brand, that’s going to be quality content.’”
Some of the originals announced include Lioness, a spy drama created by Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan, a new edition of Behind The Music, a revival of BET’s The Game, and The Real Criminal Minds, a docuseries based on the hit CBS Television series. Paramount+ will also feature The Offer, a scripted series based on Oscar-winning producer Al Ruddy’s experiences making The Godfather. The 10-episode limited event is written and executive produced by Oscar and Emmy-nominated Michael Tolkin. Ruddy will also serve as executive producer alongside Emmy-winning producer Leslie Greif, who will also serve as a writer on the series.
"The Paramount brand is known and loved all around the world, and is synonymous with great entertainment. It’s always brought people together, which makes it a perfect fit for a streaming service that’s uniquely positioned to do the same."
Chief Brand Officer, ViacomCBS
The brand has been proven to resonate with consumers around the world. According to internal brand research, Paramount has near-universal brand recognition and high affinity. For example, according to survey results, 99% of people in Spain, 98% of people in the U.K., 96% of people in the U.S., and 90% of people in Mexico are aware of Paramount. In the U.S., Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Spain, the U.K., and Australia, well over 90% of people said they had a positive view of the brand.
A Future-Forward, Digital-First Design
For the Paramount+ logo, ViacomCBS wanted to leverage the recognizable elements of the Paramount Pictures logo while ensuring it would come across clearly on digital platforms.
“The goal was to ensure we would still have that recognition and the benefits and equity of the legacy Paramount brand but update it so it can stand on its own to represent the new service. It was important that the new logo be reductive enough to work across digital platforms and applications to carry the Paramount identity forward into the streaming space,” says Tammy Henault, SVP of consumer marketing for ViacomCBS Digital.
The DNA of the Paramount logo is made up of four main elements: The stars, mountain, script, and color. Each of these elements was retained and modernized for Paramount+.
The number of stars was reduced to 13—a star for each letter used when spelling "Paramount Plus." The size of the stars has been increased slightly to come across more clearly on phone apps, push notifications, and other digital applications, according to Sarah LaBrache, who serves as the SVP of creative marketing for Viacom CBS Digital.
Other changes that were made when considering digital applications of the logo, included the detailing on the mountain, or even the spacing between the classic Paramount script. LaBrache explained that keeping the mountain similar to the one in the curtain raiser video, which plays as the introduction before every Paramount Pictures film, was important, so designers traced the outline of the mountain and altered the shadows in order to create the most optimized version.
“We created a shadow that holds true to that original Paramount heritage, and that also reads clearly at various sizes across all applications,” says LaBrache.
As for the bright Paramount+ blue, it is a defining shade that’s an evolution of the blues of CBS All Access, ViacomCBS, and Paramount Pictures. Blue is also America’s favorite color, and hasn’t been used by streaming competitors.
The “plus” in Paramount+ is an indication that the service’s vast content library will extend well beyond Paramount Pictures’ roster of films to include content from the entire ViacomCBS portfolio of brands. It also serves to indicate how the service will carry the legacy brand forward into the streaming space, as consumers are familiar with the suffix being used in other services.
“No other pure-play SVOD service offers championship-level live sports from the NFL to SEC football, to UEFA Champions League, March Madness, and the Masters. Plus, it includes one of the most trusted brands in news with CBS News. That combination of live sports, breaking news, and what we call in the description as ‘a mountain of entertainment’ really differentiates us in the space,” says DiMeglio. “We have stretched the Paramount brand to really reflect the unique, broad-based offering that we're bringing to market.”
Building on a Mountain of Brand History
William Wadsworth Hodkinson, co-founder of Paramount Pictures, decided on the name Paramount in 1927 after seeing it on the side of an apartment building, says Andrea Kalas, SVP of archives for Paramount Pictures. As for the famous mountain logo, Hodkinson drafted it himself while sitting at his desk. Kalas said that the stars were included in the doodle, but the meaning behind them has always been a subject of lore in the industry. (Some have said the 24 stars in the initial logo were meant to represent the first 24 actors tied to the studio. The current logo features 22 stars.)
Under the guidance of Adolph Zukor, the company went from a handful of nickelodeons to worldwide distribution of motion pictures in a short 10 years thanks to the innovation of exhibiting a film with a known star—Sarah Bernhardt in Queen Elizabeth (1912). The pioneering spirit of the studio continued throughout its history, with forays into the future of entertainment that included the renaming of Desilu Studios to Paramount Television in 1967, following the company’s merger with Gulf+Western. Paramount Television was behind some of television’s biggest hits like I Love Lucy, Happy Days, and Star Trek. Early in Paramount’s history, the company opened a string of Paramount theaters across America—many of which still exist today. Later, the studio entered the at-home video market in 1970. In the ‘80s, Paramount also purchased a string of local TV stations.
Meanwhile, its identity became synonymous with premium content thanks to movies like Sunset Boulevard (1950), War of the Worlds (1953), The Ten Commandments (1956), The Godfather (1972), Forrest Gump (1994) and Titanic (1997), Selma (2014), and the Indiana Jones franchise. At one time the studio used the tagline: “If it’s a Paramount movie, it’s the best show in town.”
So, when the metaphorical curtain rises in 2021, the future of entertainment that has defined the trajectory of Paramount Pictures over the decades will live on through a streaming service.
“Paramount has always been at the forefront of storytelling,” says Line. “It’s only fitting that the Paramount name will now also be associated with premium content for a streaming audience.”