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Case: Harcourt General 1993


old logo

"General Cinema Corporation" was the classic case of an obsolete, misleading and thus a damaging identity. "Every new analyst we talked to, we had to explain who we're not" said Peter Farwell, VP Corporate Relations. In the 80s, General Cinema had become a holding company, a trader rather than an operator of companies.

But in 1993, management believed that changing the company's image, in the eyes of the financial community, was vital to achieving new, more-focused business objectives and a higher valuation. Their strategy was to become an operating company, focused primarily on publishing (building on its recent acquisition of Harcourt Brace). The "General Cinema" name was clearly off-strategy, and so was the holding-company reputation.   

The rebranding tools were a name change (adopting the highly regarded Harcourt publishing brand while retaining the still-appropriate "General,")  and a simple, confident wordmark (incorporating the merest suggestion of a containing shape).  The change itself, promoted in full-page ads, was intended to signal financial strength.

In 2000, Reed-Elsevier acquired Harcourt General for $4.5 billion.  Tony Spaeth



Lippincott & Margulies 


Submitted by: Tony Spaeth, 14/05/2007
Status: Estimated by Tony Spaeth
Category: General Financial
Country (HQ): United States





Strategic driver: 100%   
Change direction
  Redefine industry or core competence
 30%  x  Identifier tactics: Name change: Brand
Broaden scope/scale/visibility
  Remove limiting category association
 20%  x  Identifier tactics: Name change: Brand
    x  Identifier tactics: Logo change: Wordmark-dominant
Broaden scope/scale/visibility
  Elevate public profile
 20%  x  Identifier tactics: Name change: Brand
    x  Identifier tactics: Logo change: Wordmark-dominant
    x  Change event : Medium visibility: Launch event
Narrow the scope
  Express a more specific focus
 30%  x  Identifier tactics: Name change: Brand