Wednesday, July 8

Rebranding Disaster: Sci Fi Becomes SyFy


After 16 years of branding, the SCI FI Channel has officially become SyFy as of yesterday. David Howe, president of SyFy, announced the change last March, but SCI FI Channel fans seemed reluctant to believe it until the change actually took place yesterday. Some suggested it was an early April Fool's joke.

So why did they change it?

"By changing the name to Syfy, which remains phonetically identical, the new brand broadens perceptions and embraces a wider range of current and future imagination-based entertainment beyond just the traditional sci-fi genre, including fantasy, supernatural, paranormal, reality, mystery, action and adventure." — Sci Fi Wire

Huh?

"Syfy allows us to build on our 16-year heritage of success with a new brand built on the power that fuels our genre: the imagination. Syfy ushers in a new era of unlimited imagination, exceptional experiences and greater entertainment that paves the way for us to truly become a global lifestyle brand." — David Howe

What?

"It also positions the brand for future growth by creating an ownable trademark that can travel easily with consumers across new media and nonlinear digital platforms, new international channels and extend into new business ventures." — Sci Fi Wire

Yeah?

“The name Sci Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that, as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular.” — Tim Brooks

Really?

"When we tested this new name, the thing that we got back from our 18-to-34 techno-savvy crowd, which is quite a lot of our audience, is actually this is how you’d text it. It made us feel much cooler, much more cutting-edge, much more hip, which was kind of bang-on what we wanted to achieve communication-wise.” — David Howe

No one is certain what 18-to-34 techno savvy crowd they tested, but former Sci Fi Channel fans have dubbed the name change the dumbest idea in television history. Comments left across the Web have ranged from disbelief to unrestrained anger.

What Are They Saying?

"Well, it's one step closer to "Spiffy.",

"This is a really stupid move and just goes to show you that the network has lost its way."

Syfy has emphasized its point that it's become a hollow mockery of everything its fans have known and loved.

Anyone else notice how “SyFy” looks like an abbreviation for syphilis?

Artistic misspellings are still hip, right? Isn’t that what the kids are doing on their internets?

Never mind two months of negative comments since the name was first floated. Howe is convinced, and says everyone else from NBC and SyFy is convinced too. In fact, despite saying the test market approved of the change, Howe claimed in another interview that they were totally prepared for the push back.

"We expected fans not to like it. The reaction from fans always same default reaction -- it's that we're going to abandon the genre." he said. "That isn't what its about."

So what is it really about?

Nobody seems to know. Most of the time, employees like Craig Engler, who manages the SyFy Twitter account, are too busy explaining what it isn't about to ever offer up a clear account of what it is about.

"No, we are not changing our programming mix … you pronounce it like 'sci-fi' … [it's not spelled wrong] Syfy is a made-up name, not a word, so it’s spelled correctly as is. Like Wii. Or Twitter …" — Craig Engler

Except, as the author behind the Warming Glow quickly pointed out, Twitter is an actual word. He even looked it up.

Of course, not knowing Twitter is a word seems minor in comparison to the notion that a rebranding campaign might boost interest in the opening of the Syfy Imagination Park in Rockefeller Center on July 12. On the contrary, the rebranding has buried it.

So in what can only be called an avalanche of negative public sentiment and press, the Sci Fi Channel has certainly been rebranded. Unfortunately, it has not been rebranded as Howe, Brooks, and Engler had hoped. But that stands to reason. Brands are not really names. Brands are better described as the relationship between consumers and a product, person, or even programming.

In this case, it seems to me that SyFy is establishing a new brand. And unfortunately, this new brand landing somewhere between silly and stupid or maybe just sad. There is so much wrong here, it will take a living case study to sort it all out.

That's right. This branding disaster is no moon. It's a space station. More tomorrow.

2 comments:

Veronika Freeman, dotcalm on 7/9/09, 6:50 AM said...

Wow - I'm a female and I don't like it at all!
Sci-Fi being an abbreviated version of Science Fiction meant something and sounded cool too...why mess with it?
I thought the brand was working - if they really needed to spend money on something I think creating better special effects in their movies would be what the majority of viewers would suggest (and appreciate).
I'll try to be open-minded and see how they use it in their commercials/programming.... but I have the feeling it's a mistake.

Rich on 7/9/09, 11:30 AM said...

Veronika,

You are not alone. Nobody seems to like it.

We pretty much guessed why they wanted to change the name (trademark issues, sort of), but why they don't just stick with that message is beyond us. They have given more reasons to rename the network than any rebranding campaign in history.

The brand worked. The new one is starting with a net deficit. We explored that point a little more today, but there is a bundle of mistakes being made daily.

All my best,
Rich

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