How Complex Networks Reimagined Its Brand

It's come a long way since the magazine launched in 2002

Complex Networks
Complex Networks' brand redesign reintroduces the company as an entertainment network.

Key insight:

Complex Networks redesigned its logo, website and mission statement to better reflect its diversified media business and to show how the company has evolved since it launched as a magazine covering hip-hop and sneakers at the beginning of this century.

Execs realized at the end of last year that with arms in events, video series and commerce, the brand needed a refresh. The new look goes live today.

“We wanted to use the brand identity as a way to return to our roots,” said Jonathan Hunt, evp, marketing and audience development at Complex Networks, “but really reflect the current state of the business that has experienced a lot of growth and diversification even over the last couple of years.”

The company has evolved extensively since the magazine launched in 2002.

It’s the company’s first defining branding effort since it became “Complex Networks” when Verizon and Hearst jointly acquired it in 2016. And the refresh was “long overdue,” Hunt said.

“It had to start at this point of self realization in terms of how we want to be perceived and communicated out in the marketplace,” he added.

As is the case with most media organizations, Complex Networks is tasked with succinctly defining what it is to consumers and advertisers, particularly as its businesses evolve beyond just print and digital media.

Under Verizon and Hearst, Complex Networks has built key franchises including Hot Ones, a video series featuring celebrities trying increasingly hot chicken wings over casual conversation. That series alone has attracted more than 2 billion lifetime views across platforms and (without providing exact figures) has grown into an eight-figure hot sauce business.

The company also ventured into events and grew ComplexCon, bringing together pop culture fans and music headliners for a two-day festival. The event last year attracted more than 85,000 visitors. Plans on whether the company will hold this year’s event despite the Covid-19 pandemic have not yet been announced.

The company’s reimagined look centers around the new logo, which features a horizontal mark and a sharp serif for the word “networks” so it “feels differentiated from the box logo we see from Complex brands,” Complex executive creative director Wyeth Hansen told Adweek.

“It’s keeping the tone and the voice of Complex while also making it tidier, more forward-looking,” Hansen said.

The website, which is still at the same domain, also got a refresh to reflect the new branding.

With the new branding effort, the company was gearing up to reintroduce itself at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in June. But since the festival was canceled last month due to the global pandemic, the company is rolling out its refresh now, in an advertising industry with an undetermined future.

Still, that hasn’t changed how Complex Networks’ executives see the business evolving, as it continues investing beyond print and digital media into revenue streams like linear, OTT and branded content as well as commerce.

“We are no longer just a media company; we have a business that is reflective of an entertainment network,” Hunt said.

@SaraJerde Sara Jerde is publishing editor at Adweek, where she covers traditional and digital publishers’ business models. She also oversees political coverage ahead of the 2020 election.