In 2007, USA Today ranked AOL 4th in a list of 25 things that shaped the internet. An early tech pioneer, they had provided premium internet service to millions in the late 90’s and early 00’s. For many, AOL was their first gateway to the World Wide Web.

But the media world had changed – from one-way broadcast to conversations that were fragmented, non-linear and niche. Stuck in an outdated model, AOL found itself suffering from a decline in subscriptions, revenue, morale and brand image. Following an unsuccessful eight-year merger with Time Warner, they planned to spin-off and become a separate public company.

Recognising its inflection point, AOL hired new management. Their goal was to create a company with a strong strategy and mission: to inform, entertain and connect the world with extraordinary content experiences.

“AOL is in a turnaround situation. It will take every ounce of blood, sweat and tears to make it successful.”

Tim Armstrong, CEO, AOL
Identity as a platform
AOL asked us to help them become a ‘media company for the 21st century’. First, it needed to signal that it was more than an access provider. It was a future-forward, creative and cultural force that delivered extraordinary content. It needed an identity that could act as a platform, so we created a simple, confident logotype revealed by ever-changing imagery.

“Our new identity is uniquely dynamic. We plan on standing behind the brand as we take the company into the next decade.”

Tim Armstrong, CEO, AOL
An internal and external reboot
Working closely with the leadership team, we helped define and translate their vision for the business. We developed a brand architecture with a clear sense of how past and future acquisitions connected to AOL. Internally, we helped build confidence in creativity and originality, and externally, we activated brand-led initiatives. These included MAKERS: Women Who Make America and AOLartists.com (930,000 unique visitors in the first 6 months), as well as the AOL Originals with Chuck Close and 25 for 25 grants programs.

“The Internet needs better quality content. This is an ambitious mission but we are hiring, developing and encouraging the best creative talent in the world.”

Tim Armstrong, CEO, AOL
Brand-led reinvention
Within the first year of the spinoff announcement, 40% of users described the AOL brand as ‘creative’. By the end of 2010, AOL was the only major brand to have a better ‘buzz’ score than major online brands such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo!, according to Brand Index. In 2012, AOL was dubbed by some “the hottest tech stock in 2012”.
The identity won prestigious awards from both AIGA and the Cannes Lions and was named ‘Best Identity of 2010’ by influential identity blog Under Consideration.

Today, AOL has successfully reinvented itself as a brand-led company that invests in experiences that align with its mission. Home to a world-class collection of premium brands, it creates original content that engages audiences on a local and global scale.