Why Max doesn’t need HBO’s name recognition—behind the rebrand

Although Spagnoletto’s market data suggested a negative connotation for the HBO name with certain audiences, the overall risk of starting from scratch with Max may outweigh the reward, said Matt Voda, CEO of marketing analytics company OptiMine.

“The risk is that they create more confusion and they create a need to have to invest a lot more to create a brand around something new that nobody knows about,” said Voda. 

While compelling additions to the streamer is a good thing, potentially making it confusing for consumers to access the platform when it swaps app logos or changes access points on CTV platforms would be difficult to overcome, said Voda. The CEO added that while Max is reacting to the same difficult market conditions as its competitive streamers by bidding for new subscribers with a beefed-up offering, “I don’t think it had to trigger a rebrand to do it.”

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However, some think the pivot to a broad, unbranded platform could pay off for Max. Timothy Calkins, brand consultant and professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, said the streamer’s top priority has become ranking high enough with consumers so not to get chopped when subscription budgets tighten.

While Calkins said HBO will remain a critical element in Max’s appeal, which the streamer will capitalize on with an HBO tab in its menu, it’s crucial for Warner Bros. Discovery to broaden the appeal of its service to stay competitive in the streaming wars.

“The HBO brand is hugely important, it’s a powerful brand, it’s got great history behind it and it does stand for something distinctive,” said Calkins. “Protecting that brand is incredibly important, and this move recognizes that if you broaden out HBO and make it apply to everything, you weaken that brand.”