Hulu rebrands with a new look and sound, striving for clarity amid streaming chaos
Hulu is trying to make the world of streaming video simpler with a rebrand, launching this week, that greets consumers with the words “Let’s Go.” It's a call for people to step into the video service as the starting point in what’s become a chaotic and confusing digital media landscape.
On Monday, Scott Donaton, head of creative at Hulu, offered Ad Age a look at the new design code at the company, which will be seen in all the places Hulu talks publicly—through ads, to brands, and to viewers on the app. The rebrand covers everything down to the sounds Hulu makes, which is an increasingly important key to brands’ identities. The sonic logos are quick-snippets of sound that chime when a consumer fires up an app or hits play on a show. (Some brands are famous for their sounds, like Netflix, Microsoft Windows and Intel.)
Donaton tells Ad Age that Hulu started the design update about a year ago, and called the project One Hulu. The basic goal was to bring some order to how the streamer markets itself, which, in the past, had been a little disjointed and confused. Hulu has so many products and features, that the marketing can go in too many directions. The company has had memorable campaigns like “Hulu doesn’t just have live sports” TV spots. Hulu markets its “no-ads” offering and also markets original programs like “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
“Hulu is first and foremost about its content and great storytelling, but it’s also very much about choice flexibility,” Donaton says. “It’s about the ability to get TV on your own terms, with ads, without ads, with live TV, with premium add-ons. It’s really telling that full story that Hulu is the starting place for all your TV needs.”
“We saw this real opportunity that’s actually become more confusing for consumers, to strengthen the story and the brand that we have,” Donaton says.
The redesign will be seen by consumers in the app, when it opens. There is a start screen that shows off what's inside Hulu, and a big “Let's Go” button. The idea is that Hulu can be the “starting point” for this scattershot landscape of digital offerings.
Hulu’s redesign comes as digital video heads into upfront and NewFront season, where rival media companies hit the market for brands’ ad dollars in the coming year, showing off new programming and features. Hulu is going into NewFronts, which will be held in May, for the first time under a new joint sales strategy with is parent company Disney. The new look gives Hulu a new voice when it speaks to advertisers, and also a distinct image separate from what Disney is doing with its streaming app.
At the same time, Hulu needs to state its purpose to consumers and marketers. One of its missions is advertising, since Disney+ is an ad-free experience. Hulu can also be a more open platform than Disney+, which is strictly Disney-owned shows and movies. Hulu has live TV options, add-on channels from other media companies, original shows and TV. It can be more of a streaming hub than just an app.
“We’re going to market in the Upfronts with Disney Ad Sales and the unified story,” Donaton says. “So, I think a lot of that will be the story of the combined power of The Walt Disney Co., but certainly we want the Hulu brand to be strong and clear and differentiated whenever that story is being told.”
Digital ad revenue is almost on par with TV ad sales at Disney. Just last month, the company announced that Hulu, ESPN+ and ABC.com grew 47% year over year last quarter $882 million. Meanwhile, Disney-owned ABC brought in $984 million, a 5% increase.
Hulu worked with London-based DixonBaxi on the marketing redesign. The new look is part of a broader update to Hulu’s app and user experience that has been ongoing for months and will continue.
There also is an ad campaign called “Time to Have Hulu,” produced by Hulu's internal agency Greenhouse. Hulu shot a 15-, 30- and 60-second for TV and digital video. There also are billboards.
Donaton talked about one of the central design themes in the marketing, which Hulu called “the Vessel,” a border that is seen in many of the ads encompassing the creative elements. There also is a thick border around the Hulu logo when the app launches. The idea of Hulu as a vessel is that it contains the world of streaming, where consumer are overwhelmed by choices. There is a world of devices like Roku, Apple TV and Fire TV, and the apps are spreading, with NBCUniversal’s Peacock, WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, Paramount+, Discovery+, Tubi, Pluto TV and more coming online every day.
“The marketing of our story is that there is so much choice out there that consumers are actually getting confused by it,” Donaton says. “It’s no longer a benefit, it creates a lot of confusion, and what we want is for people to clearly think about Hulu as their starting point.”