Branding gone wrong - SciFi to SyFy

In my new role in the marketing department at the Boy Scouts of America I find myself in the middle of conversations about branding.  I find these conversations extremely interesting and have been reading through blogs and books about the subject.

In my web travels yesterday I was pointed to a story about branding and jumped over to The Chief Storyteller blog and saw a headline that said “SciFi Channel Changing its Name–I Don’t Understand Why“.

Catchy title.  I had to read it.

Apparently, the SciFi Channel has changed their named to SyFy….their reason? According to TV Week:

“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,” said TV historian Tim Brooks, who helped launch Sci Fi Channel when he worked at USA Network.

So…they wanted to NOT be associated with geeks and antisocial boys?  OK…how about start another channel not focused on Science Fiction!!

They decided to change their name to SyFy…OK.  How did that go over with a focus group?  Again..according to TV Week:

“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,” Mr. Howe said. “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.”

Ugh.  It made them feel much cooler.    That’s what you want your brand to do…make YOU feel cooler.

The SyFy press release is a doozy too. Here’s an excerpt (from The Chief Storyteller Blog):

By changing the name to Syfy, which remains phonetically identical, the new brand broadens perceptions and embraces a wider and more diverse range of imagination-based entertainment including fantasy, paranormal, reality, mystery, action and adventure, as well as science fiction. It also positions the brand for future growth by creating an ownable trademark that can travel easily with consumers across new media and non-linear digital platforms, new international channels and extend into new business ventures.

Oh…ok.  So it sounds the same.  And its ownable and trademarkeable.  Gotcha.

Note to SyFy PR firm: ownable and trademarkable aren’t real words….my spell checker is spilling little red lines all over the screen now.  Want to hear something funny?  When I right click on these two words to get suggested fixes from my spell check, I get the following:

  • ownable -> tenable
  • trademarkeable -> unremarkable

Anyone want to bet on what happens to this ‘brand’ over the next few years?

If I’m surfing the TV and see SyFy i’ll wonder “what is that” and keep going.  If I see “SciFi”….I may keep going but at least I know its the Science Fiction channel. Anyone want to start a new science fiction TV brand and show the SyFy folks how well their branding efforts are going to pay off?

Branding is about creating an experience.  It is about creating something memorable for your clients, customers, loyal followers and critics….all SyFy has done is create something memorable for their critics now.

I’m not that knowledgable about branding, but I know bad branding when I see it. Take a look at the related articles below for more info on the topic.

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