May 19, 2009

Why SyFy?


SyFy Logo

By now you must have heard of the Sci Fi channel’s decision to re-brand. As of July 7th, 2009 the Sci Fi Channel will be named the SyFy Channel. In addition, the slogan “Imagine Greater” will be added to the new name and logo (shown above). Rebranding is most obviously done when companies merge or if a brand develops negative connotations. So why is the Sci Fi Channel rebranding? From what I can tell there are four reasons for the name change.

  • To stand out among other cable channels. Every brand strives to distinguish itself from others in the industry by communicating its value add, using unique marketing techniques, and choosing a dynamic name that reflects the company’s core attributes and its niche. Other popular cable channels have short, snappy names like: Bravo!, Sleuth, Versus, Discovery, and Starz. The Home and Garden channel makes its name catchy by making it the initialism “HGTV.” The name “SyFy” is NBC Universal’s way of moving the channel from a genre to a definable brand.
  • Out-grew the Science Fiction genre. What images and associations pop up when you hear “Sci Fi”? I, for one, think of aliens, futuristic plots, outer space, and Ray Bradbury. The Sci Fi Channel, however, offers more than just science fiction shows. The show “Moonlight”, for example, is a vampire version of Magnum P.I. and “Joan of Arcardia” is a drama about a teenage prophet. Clearly the channel’s current name does not reflect the breadth of its programming; renaming and rebranding was definitely in order to rectify this discrepancy.
  • From rent to own. This is probably the most obvious and clear reason for the name change. The name “Sci Fi” is too general to trademark, therefore, the Sci Fi Channel does not own its name. Trademarking a name and logo is essentially solidifying a brand, allowing it to be recognized legally by all others and protecting it from being used in ways contrary to the owners’ wishes. When developing a brand it’s important to control when, where, and how the name and logo are used. Having this control allows brand managers to ensure a clear and consistent brand identity.
  • Attract a wider audience. Lastly, those in charge at the Sci Fi Channel must be hoping that this name change prompts channel surfers to check out the “new” channel and hopefully stay a while.
  • This last reason, wanting to attract more viewers, is what seems to be drumming up criticism from the Sci Fi Channel’s fan base. Their complaints and opposition to the new name illustrates to me how aligned market research and marketing can be. I don’t have a problem with the name “SyFy” and I think there are plenty of good reasons prompting this change. However, I do question their approach to name validation research. I don’t know the details of their research, but it seems to me that they overlooked their community (and the Sci Fi Channel has a large and loyal community). The forum for Battlestar Galactica alone has over 23 thousand topics and over 2 million replies! Such an active and involved community is a huge asset to the rebranding process. Involving the fan base in the process by allowing them to exclusively evaluate name candidates and provide feedback allows this critical constituency to feel ownership of the new brand. This is where market research and marketing become a tag team. An involved brand community does a great job at promoting a brand and fending off criticism; all without ever being asked or paid. In a related discussion on “All Things Considered” about stealth advertising, Josh Warner, an executive at Feed Co. emphasized the connection between a brand and its community, “Your marketing — if you’re successful — is going to be done by your audience.” It’s where you’re getting return on investment that can really explode through the roof.”

    Contributed by Evelyn Chapin

    One Comment

    1. Diva   August 4, 2009 10:14 am / Reply

      I was confused when I tuned in and didn’t see the familiar logo. Something changed and I cringed at the new name and what the hell is that blurb at the bottom?

      PLEASE, I know you can do better than that. The original logo and spelling was a comfort because I knew I was home.

      Please drop the new logo and blurb into a black hole as soon as possible.

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