ViacomCBS has increasingly attempted to relate the company’s brand message to its mountain. From Bakish’s “company-on-the-ascent” remarks to the “Mountain of Entertainment” marketing campaign that’s been circulating for Paramount+ since last year’s Super Bowl, there has been no shortage of brand-building attempts based on the Paramount brand’s snowy, star-crowned summit. Even the company’s recent press releases are chock-full of mountaineering puns and wink-wink corporate language; think “reaching new heights,” or “dramatically scaling,” or “peak content.”
An enduring icon
Founded as the Paramount Pictures Corporation in 1914, the company and its mountain logo have survived more than 100 years of wars, mergers, acquisitions and splits. It’s been a part of the ViacomCBS family for almost 30 years, when a newer iteration of the studio and its parent company, Paramount Communications, was bought by Viacom in 1994.
The Paramount brand has since existed as a subsidiary, in some form, until its long-standing brand identity won out this week. Over the past couple of years since Viacom and CBS reunited under one hybrid name and corporate structure, there’s been a concerted effort to push the Paramount name in some facets of its wider operations.
“In terms of naming scenarios, renaming a company that already has an existing name and doing it when you’re not in the middle of merger-and-acquisition activity is fairly rare,” said Lea Chu, group director of naming at Siegel+Gale, an Omnicom-owned brand and design consultancy.
“You would need a really good reason to do that, you wouldn’t just do it on a whim. And I assume it must be related to their streaming service, Paramount+,” she said.
Last year, the company’s subscriber-supported streaming platform, CBS All Access, was rebranded as Paramount+ in a bid to tap into the “iconic and storied brand” that is “synonymous with quality, integrity and world-class storytelling,” Bakish said in a statement at the time of the rebrand.
The move came as the company formerly known as ViacomCBS was investing heavily in its streaming presence, which also includes services BET+ and Showtime; and it’s a gamble that, one year later, seems to be paying off.
During the same Tuesday afternoon investor presentation at which Bakish and Shari Redstone, non-executive chair of the board of directors, announced the company’s name change, it was revealed that Paramount+ ended last year with 32.8 million paying subscribers—7 million of whom signed up within the last three months of 2021 alone. That gives Paramount Global’s broad streaming business a significant boost as it competes with other heavy-hitting SVOD services like Netflix and Disney+.
Company-wide, Paramount plans to reach 100 million subscribers by 2024, Bakish said during the presentation.
By axing the older CBS All Access name, and subsequently establishing matching names for the revamped Paramount+ and its parent company, Paramount may have an easier time rolling out its flagship streaming service internationally where the studio’s mountain logo is more well-known than CBS’ eye, Chu suggested. “Global is really important for them,” she said.
Paramount+ is already available throughout Canada, Australia, Mexico and much of Central and South America, with ambitious plans to expand in 2022: launches in the European Union, Russia, India and southeastern Asian nations are all in the cards this year.
Paramount Global vs. Paramount Global
“I think they’re leveraging an equity for something that people have a strong affinity for,” said Mario Natarelli, managing partner at New York branding agency MBLM. In his estimation, despite the “clumsy” addition of a plus symbol to its primary streaming service—a branding bandwagon that Disney+, CNN+ and more have all jumped on—the company was wise to cash in on its Paramount connections.
“Remember, those visuals are the first things you’d see in the ‘olden days’ or the ‘before times,’” he joked of the movie studio visuals that almost always precede a film: Paramount’s star-ringed mountain, MGM’s roaring lion, Columbia Pictures’ torch-bearing woman. “The signature of those brands had incredible recall and power.”
Rather than drumming up consumer awareness, though, Natarelli believes the most significant hurdle ViacomCBS’ name-change faces may be a legal one.
“The legal challenge around naming, it’s a minefield of legal considerations and challenges,” he said, suggesting that Paramount “has probably already done the calculus that there are already going to be challenges.”
But for Paramount Global (the Hollywood media giant), the existence of Paramount Global (the supply chain company that’s been in business since 1976) appears to be a non-issue. While the latter owns the “ParamountGlobal.com” domain name, the conglomerate formerly known as ViacomCBS is already operating online under “Paramount.com,” and has made it clear that it’ll be going by the abridged name Paramount most of the time.
“When you see these short, very obvious names used for mega-brands, I think, ‘how on earth are the lawyers getting that done?” Natarelli said. Paramount’s new corporate identity has some precedents, such as a history of using the Paramount name and being in a totally different field than its packaging industry doppelgänger, which would likely be solid defenses in court, he continued.
But as history has shown, just because a company gets to a name first, doesn’t mean a bigger company with an army of expensive attorneys in tow won’t pull the trademark—or Google search dominance—out from under them. Just ask Meta, the Arizona-based PC supplier.
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