Re-branding a broadcasting giant

Nov 06, 2020

For over 90 years, CBS has been a stalwart of broadcasting, bringing families across the US news, entertainment and sports programming in one place. The brand has a loyal audience, particularly among the 50-plus age range, but with the rise of streaming presenting new challenges for broadcasters, CBS decided to undertake a complete brand refresh – debuting a whole new look and sound fit for 2020.

One of the most recognisable elements of the CBS brand has always been the iconic eye logo, which first appeared back in the 1950s alongside the slogan “keep your eye on this eye”. So effective was the image that the media company was dubbed the “Eye Network”, and the same symbol has been used ever since. However, due to the rise of sports, news, digital, and other units – each with their own variation of the trademark eye – the image had become saturated and confused, something Mike Benson, President and CMO, has called “logo soup”. This year was the perfect time to establish clarity and consistency, and begin forming connections with the younger audiences of today – so for the first time ever, all arms of the business will now use the same logo and typeface.


But it’s not just visual changes that were needed to appeal to younger viewers and establish a sense of unity – CBS’ audio branding needed overhauling too. The network partnered with creative studio Antfood to dig into their sonic history and unearth the “This is CBS” voiceover slogan – a much-loved phrase used on-air from the company’s launch right up until the early 90s. This was then translated into a five-note mnemonic melody to match the phrase’s distinct cadence – a melody which now introduces CBS content across all platforms. And crucially, the sonic logo will also be featured on CBS programming that airs on other platforms, including the ever-popular Netflix. In this clever move, the broadcaster has now placed CBS branding within the world’s biggest streaming service – ensuring audiences build familiarity with the brand, even when they’re watching elsewhere. 

CBS has also tuned in to the flexibility of audio, and plans to personalise the mnemonic for specific programs and events – whether that’s incorporating drums into action-packed reality show Survivor, or opting for a more rugged sound when showing football on the network. The brand is operating in an extremely crowded market, but touches like this make all the difference when appealing to both new and existing customers. Through repeated exposure, deeper emotional connections will be formed, and people’s experiences will become infinitely more meaningful.

Many brands are evaluating their audio strategy as devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home continue to gain popularity. And following Mastercard’s widely praised move into the sound space last year, it’s no surprise a global name like CBS has followed suit. Businesses are recognising that their audio identity is just as important as their visual identity – something PHMG is primed for. We help businesses everywhere establish their own unique sound in a world that’s ready to listen – and make sure it’s a sound that really sticks.