A new brand identity aims to embody the pharma giant’s shift from pills like Advil and Viagra to the science of vaccines.
Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has unveiled its most significant brand refresh in about 70 years. It includes a new logo, dropping the blue pill shape for a double helix-inspired mark, which conjures the science that gave rise to the company’s COVID-19 vaccine. It’s the final step in a shift the company began in 2019, moving from a diverse collection of consumer brands to a more science-driven agenda creating prescription drugs and vaccines.
Over the past couple of years, the company has spun off both its consumer health and off-patent drugs divisions, shedding familiar brands like Advil, ChapStick, and Viagra. Today, Pfizer’s best known product is a COVID-19 vaccine, created in partnership with BioNTech SE. The new brand identity is meant to convey Pfizer’s transition to what CEO Albert Bourla has called, a “smaller, science-based company.”
The rebrand began almost two years ago but was shelved in March when it became clear the company’s full focus would be on developing a vaccine as soon as possible. (So, no, the rebrand didn’t take longer than the vaccine.) Before that, Pfizer held focus groups with thousands of patients, doctors, and employees around the world to inform the new look. It narrowed 200 different logo designs down to a final four before picking the winner, designed by Brooklyn-based studio Team.“As it became clear we had a highly effective vaccine that was going to be a game-changer, we moved very quickly to finalize this work because it was the last chapter in the book, not the first,” says chief corporate affairs officer Sally Susman.
In a statement, the company said its new logo visually represents Pfizer’s desire to honor its legacy while looking squarely into the future. The past is represented by “Pfizer” written in a familiar font, tightened up a bit but maintaining a similar look. The future is represented by what Pfizer calls the “ribbon helix,” a swirling mix of light and dark blue lines that bring to mind the gene-based technology behind the company’s COVID-19 vaccine—technology that could some day be used to treat cancer and other diseases.
“You don’t change your look just because you want to be different,” says Susman. “It doesn’t work and can appear superficial and shallow. But I’m confident in this change because we are a science company and we are pursuing breakthroughs, and the vaccine is just the most recent example.”
The logo won’t win any design awards. Even with the swirling mark, it still has the corporate look of a gray suit. (On the bright side, it doesn’t resemble an Urban Outfitters pop-up shop, or modular synth festival in Berlin.) But it does a better job of capturing Pfizer’s aspirations than the previous logo, which was shaped like a pill, and helps the company shed some of the less savory aspects of the pharma industry’s image, like opioids and erectile dysfunction pills.
Susman says it’s important to note that this is a corporate identity, not a brand identity. “Many companies don’t do a lot of corporate identity, they do product identities,” she says. “And I think right now people do really care about what companies stand for, that values matter, that they’re communicating with all stakeholders, a broad base of stakeholders. And for your customers, employees, and potential employees, having a narrative and a voice is really important.”
Pfizer is leaning hard into the narrative that it is a champion of science. In April, the company launched a “Science Will Win” ad campaign, as a cheerleading exercise for the vaccine race. Pfizer released its newest ad for the campaign to coincide with the identity refresh. The tagline has become the company’s own: “This is the way.”
“Science is bigger than any individual. It’s not a chest-beating campaign,” says Susman. “We’re humbled by the responses we receive. Every morning I get texts and emails from people describing their experience getting the vaccine or administering the vaccine, people crying, taking selfies, even praying while they’re being inoculated. It’s moving. ‘Science will win’ has become a mantra within Pfizer. We have masks and T-shirts that say ‘Science Will Win.’ We often sign off our Webex conference calls with Science Will Win. It’s lodged itself very deeply.”
This article first appeared in www.fastcompany.com