4 Reasons SNL’s Anniversary Rebrand Worked

We celebrate birthdays, wedding anniversaries, work anniversaries and other important personal milestones as a way of sharing and reflecting on where we’ve been and reaffirm our future, so it would make sense that businesses do the same.

Business anniversaries create great opportunities to communicate a brand’s story with the world – it’s a chance to share why the business began, where it’s been, what it does, what makes it different, and thank employees and consumers who’ve helped it reach this milestone. Whether it’s making it through the first decade or celebrating 100 years, communicating a major milestone with a rebrand can be very effective.

This weekend, NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” celebrated its 40th anniversary with an evening special and preceding red-carpet event, in addition to revamping the show’s logo and introduction several months in advance. Here’s four ways that SNL’s rebrand worked:

1. Make it a celebration event: NBC’s SNL did a good job of turning its 40th anniversary from just another date on the calendar into a much anticipated event and television special, leveraging an opportunity to share its story and celebrate the show’s success with the people who helped it get to where it is today. The three-hour special reminisced on the comedy series’ four-decade run, pulling out all the stops with some of the smartest humor on television and featuring more than 80 celebrity guests. What’s more, SNL invited viewers to help celebrate the milestone, deepening the brand value and promotes the show. Neilsen reports that the special drummed up 23.1 million viewers making it the most-watched prime-time entertainment special since May 2004, the night of the “Friends” season finale! The preceding red carpet special was seen by 11.1 million viewers, during which viewer were prompted to download the new SNL app on their mobile phones.

SNL 40th Anniversary Special

2. Reminisce and revive content: Leading-up to the anniversary, SNL gathered, reviewed, and catalogued the show’s footage from over its 40 years – the perfect opportunity to talk about why and how the show started, where it’s been, what its accomplished, and thank those who have helped it become what it is today. SNL gave us memories recounted by current and past cast members, providing long-time fans the nostalgic retrospective they wanted. We got a look at SNL audition tapes of cast members before they were on SNL, the role musical comedy has played on the show and clips of cast members breaking character by laughing. Previous hosts returned for the opening monologue, the long-standing tradition of audience member Q&A was hosted by Jerry Seinfeld, and Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake summarized 40 years of classic sketches in a choreographed song and dance number.

But, SNL also created new content proving the show’s most loved sketches and characters could stand the test of time. We saw the return of “Wayne’s World” and “Celebrity Jeopardy” featuring the best impressions, including Alex Trebek, Sean Connery, Justin Bieber, Christoph Waltz, Matthew McConaughey, Tony Bennett, and Burt Reynolds (a.k.a. Turd Ferguson). And there were some surprises, like when Betty White and Bradley Cooper made out at the end of soap opera spoof “The Californians.”


3. Create an anniversary logo: As SNL entered into its 40th season, it adopted a new special anniversary logo to mark the major milestone, seeking to elude a mixture of boldness, simplicity, classiness, and a little quirk. The 40th anniversary identity features a new animated, flexible logo that feels modern, but is still suggestive of New York’s flickering neon signage from the 1970s. Taking a cue from the city itself, the logo was also designed to play with levels and stacked architecture of New York City. The animation, reconfiguring and rearranging of the logo suggests the spontaneity and personality we’ve come to expect from SNL. While anniversary logos are traditionally designed for short term shelf life, SNL’s new logo can be easily edited for variation without the “40” add-on. It’s not a complete overhaul, but rather keeps elements from its past making a nod to the original logos between 1975 and 1978, and previous logo from 2006 to 2014. SNL also resigned its logo for its 25th and 35th anniversaries.

SNL40 Logo

4. Update opening reel: In addition to the new logo, SNL produced a new opening to further tell its story and evoke a feeling toward the show’s origins in New York City. Traditionally, SNL’s openings included a classic cityscape montage shot on the ground, but the 40th anniversary introduction examines the city from a new angle, coming in above at night in a helicopter capturing the twinkling lights and electricity of Broadway and Times Square maintaining the classic feeling of being alive. The logo treatment is carried over with life and lightness through transparency and flickering animation, tying in the retro feeling of 40 years past.

SNL flickering

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