Over the last decade, CenturyLink has grown extensively through acquisition. Through the purchase of companies like Embarq, Qwest and Savvis, the formerly telephone-centric organization has expanded its service offerings and moved into new markets. Today, it’s the third-largest telecommunications company in the U.S. Over the course of the acquisitions, CenturyLink needed to redefine its brand in order to unify, reflect the present-day reality of the organization, and position itself for future growth.
Balancing the equity of multiple brands is frequently a delicate consideration, especially when it comes to naming. When CenturyTel—as CenturyLink was then known—acquired Embarq, some CenturyTel executives were in favor of keeping the existing name, while there was strong support among Embarq leadership to move forward with their own legacy brand.
Research confirmed that the “tel” in CenturyTel had an antiquated connotation. The notion of linking emerged as a reoccurring and positive theme. Linking to information, linking to entertainment, linking to friends and family—it’s an idea everyone could rally around.
Naming and brand architecture strategy continued to be a consideration with Qwest and Savvis, a technology solutions company. Qwest was the larger entity and held more brand awareness, but research revealed that carrying the CenturyLink name forward would further all the positive associations around linking and send a strong signal to the market that the company would continue to link them to the things they need. With Savvis, the strategy was to maintain more separation for the first few years, to leverage the equity in that brand by rolling it up to CenturyLink. Today, Savvis is known as CenturyLink Technology Solutions.
The naming strategy connected to the brand promise: Improving lives through stronger connections. The brand promise, in turn, informed CenturyLink’s new tagline: “Linking you to what’s next”—which spoke to the company’s commitment to providing customers across the country with advanced communication products.
The notion of linking that became central to the brand positioning informed the visual expression. It’s reflected in the hub-and-spoke-like formation, known as the “pathways” visual, that serves as CenturyLink’s symbol as well as its central design element. CenturyLink further carried the motif over to its employee engagement portal, which was called Pathways. The portal helped align employees who were coming together from different organizations, with different brand commitments and values. The portal served as a place where employees could go to learn more about culture, corporate leadership and each other, new product offerings, business initiatives and more.
Externally, CenturyLink introduced its new brand to the world with the “Stronger Connected” advertising campaign, which ran across mediums including TV, radio and print. In addition to tying directly to the brand platform, the ads conveyed the benefits of CenturyLink’s newly expanded geographical reach and service offerings.
The team helped CenturyLink to further realize its new brand through the environmental branding of hundreds of locations nationwide. The locations ranged from stores and kiosks to office buildings to stadiums (most notably CenturyLink Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks). The nature of the work ranged from developing new store fixtures and secondary graphics to coordinating the removal of legacy signs and installation of new ones. The stadium work was among the most extensive, encompassing banners, primary identification signs, wayfinding signs, parking signage, directional signage, coordination with city and state entities on interstate signage, and the redesign of all entryways. Here, CenturyLink continued to draw on Monigle’s naming expertise, working together to develop a unique identifier for each stadium that incorporated the CenturyLink name.
CenturyLink, as a company and brand, has continued its trajectory of growth in recent years, folding several new acquisitions into its branding strategy including SEAL Consulting, AppFog, Tier3 and others. And, in late 2017, it finalized the acquisition of Level 3 Communications, which creates a leading global network services company with estimated pro forma revenue of $24 billion.
Through the acquisition of Qwest, CenturyLink catapulted to a national presence among telecom providers.
CenturyLink’s workforce serves customers in 37 states.
Of any state where CenturyLink has presence, Colorado has the highest level of saturation; the company’s services are available to nearly all of the state’s 5.6 million residents.
CenturyLink is the second-largest U.S. telecommunications provider to global enterprise customers, with customers all over the world.