Elsevier Case Study


Positioning a time-honored global brand as a technology and analytics leader.

How does a global company, with its origins in 16th century publishing, harness the latent power of its brand to meet the challenge of profoundly disruptive technological change and help transform the enterprise around a new strategic vision?

Elsevier’s assignment to BrandingBusiness began as a much more contained but, nonetheless, extensive exercise in evaluating a vast portfolio of publications, imprints and databases and put in place an architecture framework and guidelines to manage and stem the unchecked growth of names and brands.

It soon became clear, however, that this effort could not be confined to the level of product brands alone. As a business, Elsevier was moving rapidly into digital information, analytics and decision support technologies for professionals in science and healthcare. In order to compete credibly with established technology-based giants such as Google, Amazon and Bloomberg, the value and role of the Elsevier brand itself, hidden behind a proliferation of brands and acquisitions, had to be assessed and considered in a broader strategy context.

In 1995 a headline in Forbes magazine posed a disturbing question in relation to Elsevier: “The Internet’s first casualty?”

Times were changing dramatically. The Elsevier name has been a constant and influential presence in the great narratives of science and medicine for more than 400 years. Inspired by the 17th century Dutch publishing house that gave a platform to an imprisoned Galileo, Elsevier began 137 years ago as a modern company, and the pre-eminent publisher of the world’s best scientific literature. Indeed, Elsevier has been an institutional catalyst of long standing for scientific exploration, discovery and achievement.

As a traditional publisher of thousands of prestigious scientific books and journals, the advent of the Internet posed challenges, and opportunities, to Elsevier.

Elsevier converted its publications from print to digital within a decade-and-a-half, then pivoted to focus on building and acquiring new technologies to harness the potential in the data, content, and networks they had built. The burgeoning ubiquity of freely-available information on the Internet, albeit of highly-questionable reliability, set a backdrop of heightened urgency for Elsevier to define and assert its value.

Global research utilizing the Brand Performance Platform™ revealed great underlying regard for the Elsevier brand, established over decades, as a “trusted partner” and “innovative leader” in the world of research and scientific discovery. Above and beyond its products and services, the emotional relationship is immutably with Elsevier in terms of trust and credibility – two critical factors in the world of science, particularly in the age of the internet.

Far from being a liability, the Elsevier brand, albeit draped with the legacy of its publishing past, proved to have the resilient power needed to move the company into a new, technology-based future.

The compelling truth of the Elsevier brand, validated with deep research, is the active role Elsevier plays, and has always played, in the verification and advancement of knowledge, regardless of medium. Elsevier empowers knowledge by bringing it to the world and making it usable; that knowledge, in turn, empowers its users to make new discoveries and better decisions. With this brand platform in place a comprehensive brand strategy and visual identity based on “Empowering Knowledge” was developed and implemented with the brand objective of casting Elsevier in a future context, not least for recruitment purposes, as a global leader in a newly-defined category of “Information Analytics.”

“Articulating the role that Elsevier plays in these broader challenges has energized our organization, which historically, was more comfortable with business analytics and data than brand aspirations. BrandingBusiness helped us approach branding with the same kind of methodical rigor with which we approach our business. The outcome is actually a renewed sense of purpose at Elsevier.”

Chrysanne Lowe - VP Strategic Communications and Brand, Elsevier

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