Ah, blogging. I read the story of the rebranding of the Sci Fi channel to a new name and identity, “SyFy”, a week ago. My immediate reaction was to write something blistering. Then I thought about it. Then I read that many others had gotten in front of me with blistering comments. On one site, I saw more than 1000 negative comments about the new name.
First, let’s see the old identity:
Yeah, I can see why they wanted a change. And now, the new one:
The official story is that “Sci Fi” as a name is in the public domain, and cannot be trademarked. The back story is that this is a channel that has been limping along for years, with spotty programing and so-so viewership.
My immediate reaction was that this solution was a cop out. Why spend money and energy to create a bogus spelling and new logo and use the change as an excuse to get attention? “SyFy” isn’t an obvious pronunciation (many viewers observe that it is closer to a venereal disease than a cable channel), and changing the spelling doesn’t necessarily equate with new or different programing. Plus, nobody likes new names. It’s human nature to resist change.
The good news? This is a gorgeous, modern wordmark. I love it. The bad news? The dreadful, derivative, vague tagline (how can Sci Fi not be totally aware of the new, and better, Comcast tagline, “Dream Big”?), and the confusing messaging. I mean, really, how seriously can you take a statement like this:
Why does everyone think they need a tagline these days? Probably because their overall identity and positioning doesn’t do the job. So everything seems to hang on the slender framework of a tagline. And worse, marketers want to lock-up the tagline to the logo.
Here is the truth. Sci Fi did not change its logo and create the tagline for its viewers. Sci Fi broke the story during its up front, which is all about wooing agencies. The real audience here is the media community. These are the people who buy the advertising time. Sci Fi was (and still is) known as having a mostly male, mostly geeky audience. Not the coolest demographic. The channel was described recently as “campy and unambitious” in a New York Times article about the last episode of Battlestar Galactica. It doesn’t take much these days to be jettisoned from a media plan, and perceptions like these don’t help.
What bothers me is that the strategy seems to be at odds with the reality, or at least the messaging. Instead of a crisp summary of how the network has evolved, we are forced to read fluff like:
Syfy more clearly captures the mainstream appeal of the world’s biggest entertainment category, and reflects the network’s ongoing strategy to create programming that’s more accessible and relatable to new audiences. Syfy will continue to celebrate the traditional roots of the genre, while opening the brand to accommodate a broader range of imagination-based entertainment.
This is not what I call a reason to believe. No brand can hang itself on a statement like that!
My overall grade? Strategy: C+ Logo: A Tagline: F