Over the course of the pandemic, companies like Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca have become household names. But pharma giants that didn’t produce COVID-19 vaccines or therapeutics may similarly be hoping to seize some of that momentum.

Sanofi fell behind the mRNA vaccine makers in the COVID-19 race, though it expects to complete the Phase III trial for its vaccine candidate in the first quarter of the year. 

Last week, the company unveiled its new brand and logo, unifying all of its brands under one umbrella. It’s the culmination of several years of change under new leadership.

MM+M spoke with Christopher Williams, Sanofi head of corporate communications and brand, about how the rebrand aims to reflect that change. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

MM+M: What was the motivation for unifying all Sanofi brands under one revamped brand?

Williams: We have a wonderful, interesting history, but it’s complex. We grew through a lot of mergers and acquisitions, and that resulted in a somewhat fragmented identity.

When we did the work to develop this new brand, we spoke to external stakeholders and asked them to give us their perceptions of not only Sanofi, but also Sanofi Genzyme and Sanofi Pasteur. We asked them what their perceptions were of some of our competitors, and we asked them to tell us what they expect when it comes to corporate branding and what it should do.

The clear message we heard, externally, was simplicity. Make it easy for people to understand what you do, what you stand for, what your story is. We couldn’t do that with a fragmented brand identity. We think we can do that with this new unified identity.

Lastly, there’s efficiency. With one clear corporate brand, our investment as a company goes into that corporate brand or into products, and that’s where it should be. That creates efficiency and savings for us over the long term.

What did the process of unifying those brands look like?

We started with the discussion about purpose: What’s the purpose that unites all of us, regardless of business unit or location around the world? We identified our common purpose and gave language to it, and we changed our brand architecture to better reflect that we are one company.

We have had these legacy brands, Sanofi Pasteur and Sanofi Genzyme, that were attached to two of our business units. We made the decision, and we didn’t make it lightly, to retire those brands — but we wanted to make sure that as we moved into this new era for the company that we honored that legacy. We didn’t change the name of the company, but we changed our visual identity.

How are the logo and the identity related?

The logo has some echo of the original Sanofi logo from 1973. We worked pretty hard to try to differentiate ourselves from the rest of the industry, and we tried to do that in a couple of ways.

One was the color choice. If you look at where other pharma companies cluster on a color wheel, you’ll see lots of blue and you see some red — Johnson & Johnson, Takeda and Lilly are in the red cluster. So we wanted to be a little different from our competitors in that sense.

It’s also all lower-case letters, where we’re not shouting at anybody. We wanted to be approachable and a little more humble, and that was a decision that we made with the lower-case and softer curves on the logo.

Lastly, the “S” is incomplete. That’s our way of communicating that we’re a work in progress, that we’re an emerging company and we’ll continue to work hard to chase miracles of science. That’s a journey we go on, and it’s a journey that’s not complete.

During the pandemic, several pharma names and brands have become very well-known among the broader public. Has that happened for Sanofi?

I don’t have any research to show what people think about a single Sanofi brand, but I do think it’s another reason for us to have a single, clear, unified brand. People don’t know the name of the COVID-19 vaccine they got; they know which company made it. I think that’s an important transformation we’ve seen over the last couple years, one that really puts the importance of the corporate brand front and center.

It’s not just true of pharma brands. We all got to know Netflix in a way we didn’t know it before the pandemic. These brands are important to us in a way that maybe they weren’t two years ago.

The goal is to be able to tell a clearer story and to adapt to how people think about and view pharma companies. There’s no question in my mind that having one clear story and one clear brand makes it a lot easier for people to understand us.