When we marketers think about a branding initiative, our eyes light up at the notion of limitless creative possibilities. New names, shiny new logos, and innovative new designs bring joy to our creative little hearts. But to use these creative assets to power your brand, you must first get the strategy right. In this post, we share a few highlights of our recent strategic branding program and a few lessons learned along the way. We’re pretty proud of this work, and even managed to snag an industry award for the effort, which feels great.
What’s in a Name?
In the fall of 2018, Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) began to explore how to update our brand to better reflect the value we bring to our stakeholders — customers, prospects, partners, employees and more. We define “brand” as more than a logo or a name — it’s the promise we make, keep, and reflect through all the ways we engage with our community.
The name Copyright Clearance Center accurately describes our primary value: clearing copyright permissions requests. Over time, however, our expertise in creating and managing complex rights and permissions data sets has informed our work in advanced licensing, content workflow, and data solutions. That brings us to the branding challenges we faced in 2018:
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- Naming: Would a new entity name more accurately reflect our company’s evolution and the unique value we bring to customers? How is our company’s broader strategic plan reflected in our brand strategy?
- Visual Identity: How do our visuals — the logo, typefaces, color palette, imagery, and other supporting design elements — convey who we are and what we do today?
- Narrative: How can we improve our communications to better convey how we connect market needs to our unique value story?
Wherever our strategic branding path took us, we knew that the devil would be in the operational details. As we look back, here are a few things we figured out that our fellow marketers may appreciate.
- Listen to the entire community. The input that informed our brand strategy was gathered across a broad range of stakeholders, including employees, prospects, partners, customers, analysts and more. What became clear was that the loudest voices advocating for a radical re-naming of the entire company didn’t necessarily reflect where we needed to be. The more we listened to all voices in our community of partners, customers, and prospects, the more we realized that a refresh of the brand, not a new brand, was in order.
- Choose strong partners. Our selections of HATCH the Agency as our strategic partner and B&E Creative as our design partner were game changing. Hatch had worked with a range of organizations from tech to academia to consumer products and brought a unique skill set and branding wisdom, pushing us beyond our comfort zones and helping us see the path forward. Later, when we were ready to move ahead with design and implementation, we engaged B&E Creative, who blew us away with boundless creativity and super smart thinking about process and logistics.
- Share the responsibility. We relied on an internal steering committee of senior leadership to guide us from start to finish. They collaborated with us to consider the challenges of evolving a brand and helped us wrestle with difficult concepts to generate workable and effective outcomes. And because the brand is something our marketing team shepherds but is the responsibility of everyone in the company, we gave every CCC colleague a performance goal to support the branding program. It was like having 500 brand ambassadors on the team!
- Go slow to go fast. The pressure was on for some time to update the branding, so the team was excited to move forward quickly. We had a host of operational challenges to address, and we also needed to keep our existing marketing activities moving, so we paced ourselves. We took the advice of CCC CEO Tracey Armstrong — “go slow to go fast” — and over a period of two years, we gathered community input, built the strategy, defined the rollout, and delivered the first phase of the refreshed branding. By taking the path of the tortoise, not the hare, we’re confident we produced the right result.
- Stay focused on what matters. With hundreds of small decisions to make and thousands of assets to update, distraction was a daily visitor. To stay focused, we framed each decision around the need to better reflect the value we deliver and checked in with our advisors when we needed help.
Choosing a Path Forward
After conversations with customers, prospects, partners, influencers, and analysts, we came to a few key decisions:
- Naming: Rebranding vs. new branding. Our full legal name – Copyright Clearance Center – may not fully describe our entire suite of services, but it has massive brand equity in our global community of news, trade, and STM publishers as well as research organizations who use our license for complementary rights to reuse subscribed content. Since most customers tend to refer to us as just “CCC,” we thought: why not embrace that simple acronym and build around that? Going forward, our main operations are branded as CCC, with our subsidiary corporate licensing organization in Europe and Japan, RightsDirect, maintaining its name.
- Visual Identity: Evolve, don’t change. Our former pale color palette didn’t convey the energy and innovation we’re known for. We opted to evolve our visuals by updating the core colors and significantly expanding the range of secondary colors. Our previous logo, comprised of three spheres, became the genesis for a new range of related visuals, allowing us to roll out new material over time without creating massive visual dissonance between old and new. The new letterforms for CCC put colorful emphasis on the first letter c, for copyright, and bring movement and energy throughout the visual experience.
- Narrative: Innovation as the through line. While copyright remains at the heart of what we do, we invested time up front to better articulate our strengths as well as our services. We created a refreshed narrative to emphasize how our pioneering work in voluntary collective licensing is the engine that has helped us grow into a technology innovator.
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The CCC refreshed rebranding initiative is an important element of our strategic plan. The shorter CCC name, updated visuals and stronger story make it easier to showcase our value. We’re confident this effort will support us as CCC continues to evolve and innovate.