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Evolve, Don’t Change: Threading the Rebranding Needle

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When we marketers think of a brand 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 propel your brand, you must first define the right strategy. In this article, we share some highlights from our recent branding program and some lessons learned along the way. We are quite proud of this work and even managed to land an industry award for this effort, which is great.

What’s in a name?

In fall 2018, the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) began exploring 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 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 core value: the removal of copyright clearance 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. This brings us to the brand challenges we faced in 2018:

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  • Appellation: Would a new entity name more accurately reflect the evolution of our business and the unique value we bring to our customers? How is our broader business strategic plan reflected in our brand strategy?
  • Visual identity: How do our visuals – the logo, fonts, color scheme, images and other supporting design elements – convey who we are and what we do today?
  • Story: How can we improve our communications to better convey how we connect market needs to our unique value story?

Lessons learned

Wherever our brand strategy took us, we knew the devil would be in the operational details. Looking back, here are a few things we found that our fellow marketers might appreciate.

  1. Listening to the whole community. Feedback that informed our brand strategy was gathered from a wide range of stakeholders including employees, prospects, partners, customers, analysts, and more. What became clear was that the loudest voices advocating for a drastic company-wide name change did not necessarily reflect where we needed to be. The more we listened to all the voices of our community of partners, customers and prospects, the more we realized that a brand refresh, not a new brand, was in order.
  2. Choose strong partners. Our selections of HATCH the Agency as strategic partner and B&E Creative as design partner were game changers. Hatch has worked with a range of organizations from technology to academia to consumer products and brought a unique skill set and brand wisdom, pushing us beyond our comfort zones and helping to see the way forward. Later, when we were ready to move forward with design and implementation, we engaged B&E Creative, who blew us away with boundless creativity and super smart thinking about process and logistics.
  3. Share the responsibility. We relied on an internal steering committee of senior executives to guide us from start to finish. They partnered with us to examine the challenges of evolving a brand and helped us grapple with difficult concepts to drive actionable and effective results. And because branding is something that our marketing team manages but is the responsibility of everyone in the company, we gave each CCC colleague a performance goal to support the branding program. It was like having 500 brand ambassadors on the team!
  4. Go slow to go fast. The pressure had been on for some time to update the branding, so the team was excited to move quickly. We had a host of operational challenges to overcome and also needed to keep our existing marketing activities moving, so we kept pace. We took CCC CEO Tracey Armstrong’s advice – “go slow to go fast” – and over a two-year period we gathered community feedback, developed strategy, defined rollout, and delivered the first updated branding phase. By taking the path of the tortoise and not the hare, we are convinced that we have obtained the right result.
  5. Stay focused on what matters. With hundreds of little decisions to make and thousands of assets to update, distraction was a daily visitor. To stay focused, we framed every decision around the need to better reflect the value we deliver and reached out to our advisors when we needed help.

Choose a path to follow

After conversations with customers, prospects, partners, influencers, and analysts, we made a few key decisions:

  • Denomination: Rebranding vs new brand image. Our full legal name – Copyright Clearance Center – may not fully describe our full range of services, but it has considerable brand equity in our global community of news, trade and STM publishers, as well as research organizations that use our license for additional rights to reuse subscribed content. Since most customers tend to simply call us “CCC”, we thought: why not adopt this simple acronym and build around it? Going forward, our core businesses will be branded CCC, while our corporate licensing subsidiary in Europe and Japan, RightsDirect, will retain its name.
  • Visual Identity: Evolve, don’t change. Our old pale color palette didn’t convey the energy and innovation we’re known for. We have chosen to evolve our visuals by updating the basic colors and significantly expanding the range of secondary colors. Our old logo, consisting of three spheres, became the genesis for a new range of related visuals, allowing us to roll out new elements over time without creating massive visual dissonance between old and new. New letterforms for CCC put a colorful accent on the first letter c, for copyright, and bring movement and energy throughout the visual experience.
  • Narrative: Innovation as a guideline. While copyright remains at the heart of what we do, we have invested time from the start to better articulate our strengths as well as our services. We’ve created an updated story to highlight how our pioneering work in voluntary collective licensing is the engine that has helped us become a technology innovator.

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CCC’s rebranding initiative is an important part of our strategic plan. The shorter CCC name, updated visuals, and stronger story make it easier to showcase our value. We are confident that this effort will sustain us as CCC continues to evolve and innovate.