Tag Archives: sci-fi

Landor Distancing Self from Syfy Naming Credit?

Update 3/30/09 8:45 AM:  Blogtalkradio has landed an interview with former SyFy Radio host and SyFy Portal founder Michael Hinman (whose brand name was purchased from Sci Fi- and thus creating even more confusion on true origins of the new SyFy moniker). The interview also includes a chat with Mitchell Rubenstein, one of the founders of Sci Fi Channel.

Update 3/28/09: Dave Howe Responds Further, mentions tracking Twitter for Syfy feedback.

Confirming some internal chatter from some of my colleagues at Landor-

In a blog posting from Executive Director Ken Runkel, it looks like the Syfy naming controversy has taken an unexpected turn. Global Branding Agency Landor adds a twist to the latest by explaining in their blog that they are NOT behind the new name. Unconfirmed sources say that the credit (internally at least) has been given to Michael Engleman, VP Creative with developing the name. He was previously VP at CMT overseeing rebranding efforts at the network. The channel names “SFC” and “Beyond” were also considered and tested.

Here’s the screenshot of the Landor blog entry:

Interestingly, it’s been reported that NBC-U appears to have registered “SyfySucks.com” on January 30, via Corporation Services Company— which also holds new registration for Syfy.com

And for mobile phone readers, here’s the text:

“While we’d love to take credit for all the branding initiatives our clients take on, sometimes we just can’t. This is the case with the recent launch of Syfy, the new name for our client, the Sci Fi Channel.

As reported in last week’s New York Times, the Sci Fi Channel, a division of NBC Universal, introduced its new name and identity, Syfy, at upfront presentations in New York. The announcement got a lot of attention, and although the New York Times story seemingly gave Landor credit for the work—we can’t take it—because we didn’t do it.

Yes, we worked with the Sci Fi Channel, and it hired us to consult on the project. However, Syfy was a name generated internally and pre-tested at the channel before our involvement. Once Landor was involved, we explored new names as part of the process, but it was the Channel’s call to go with Syfy.”

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SyFy President Dave Howe on “The Decision”, Video Interview

Decision 2009 sounds sort of like a post election year runoff. Instead, it’s arguably the most talked about strategic on-air rebrand move in recent memory to garner interest (and in some cases fervor) from the public. The blogosphere and Twitteratti have lit up: Sci Fi Channel’s own blog has over a thousand comments (mostly negative) and over 1600 Diggs. When was the last time joe public cared so much about channel branding? I checked the traffic on my blog this morning and sure enough, visitor search terms to this blog for “SyFy”, “Channel Branding”, “Rebrand” were all up over 200% from prior to the announcement at Upfronts last week.

(Did you know SyFy means “sludge” and is a “social disease” in Polish? Don’t worry, Dave & Team have got it covered- more on that later! Didn’t think you’d be learning Polish today now did you?)

Landor’s tongue twisty re-name (apparently) has got people calling it Si-ffy, Sy-Fee, and other strange iterations. I myself miraculously got it on my first try. Go me. No matter what the ultimate result, there is no doubt there is a huge swell of interest in the brand. For the first time, in a long time (can there be a first time in a long time?) consumers are thinking (and talking) about TV branding again. And that in itself, is brilliant.

So now that takes us to SyFy President Dave Howe. Here’s recently found video of him at the 2009 Upfronts explaining more about the decision to rebrand in a down market, why to rebrand at all, as well as the channel’s feelings about the core audience.

SyFy President Dave Howe

SyFy President Dave Howe

He also answered the critics directly by responding to some questions posted on the wire. Here’s the short of it:

Do you know there are more than 1,000 comments on SCI FI Wire about the new name and that almost all of them are negative?

Howe: Yes, and we’ve read them all and welcome the feedback from our viewers, good and bad. We’re incredibly lucky to have so many people who feel passionate about our brand, even when they say things that are critical about us. And, of course, we didn’t expect everyone to like our new name. One of the things that’s a constant about any new brand or a brand that changes its name or logo is that the initial reaction will always be “Why?” or “That makes no sense.” (And, yes, we knew the phrasing would not be quite as polite as that!)

We’ve done a huge amount of research over the years about changing our name, and we knew that not everyone would welcome it. But we believe our new name, Syfy, gives us the best of both worlds. It builds off of our heritage but still creates a unique and ownable brand name that we can use to separate our shows from everyone else’s and opens our brand to new viewers. We think the long-term effect will be game-changing. Other brands that people didn’t like or didn’t get at first include Wii, Hulu, TiVo and even Amazon and Google! That’s great company to keep. And there’s another beloved brand we re-imagined a few years back that at first everyone didn’t trust us to get right, and that’s a show called Battlestar Galactica!

Do you know what “syfy” means in Polish?

Howe: Yes, we were enlightened early on in the process that in Polish, “syfy” means everything from sludge, gross objects, articles without value, devices not performing according to specification, even a social disease! What a colorful language! Because we knew this ahead of time, we had already made the decision to keep the SCI FI name in Poland. But other international territories were overwhelmingly in favor of Syfy, and we’ll be implementing our new brand in all other countries.

Why did you change your name in the first place? What’s wrong with sci-fi?

Howe: There’s nothing wrong with sci-fi, and we’ve had 16 great years as the SCI FI Channel. We love sci-fi, which is why we’ve said we have no intention of abandoning our roots or our core audience. We intend to continue to develop and produce great sci-fi shows like the two upcoming series we recently greenlit, Stargate Universe in the fall and Caprica, the prequel to Battlestar Galactica, coming early next year. Plus we’re bringing back Eureka in July, Sanctuary in the fall and launching a brand-new sci-fi show, Warehouse 13, in July. We’re still the biggest producer of sci-fi shows in all of TV, and we intend to stay number one.

Why do you hate your core fan base? Don’t you know we helped make your network a success? Why don’t you want to be associated with us anymore?

Howe: This is a total misperception, and none of us at the channel have ever said this. As I’ve tried to stress in the first question, we love the sci-fi genre, and we love our passionate fans. And that’s why we continue to create shows we hope you’ll enjoy. And it’s why we’re always at Comic-Con every year, bringing all of our stars to meet the fans and speak on panels.

It’s worth repeating what I said in the press release for our brand evolution: “While continuing to embrace our legacy and our core audience, we needed to cultivate a distinct point of view with a name that we could own that invites more people in and reflects our broader range of programming.”

Then why did you say, “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”?

Howe: We didn’t say this! This was a quote by a TV historian named Tim Brooks, speaking to TV Week, which has been mistakenly attributed to us by some people. That is not our view, and we wholeheartedly disagree with what Brooks had to say. He does not work for the network, and he hasn’t for more than 10 years.

Did you do any research about the new name with sci-fi fans?

Howe: Yes, we did extensive research with our core audience. Here are three quotes from sci-fi fans that are a good summary of what we heard:

“SCI FI sounds very generic, sounds basic. Syfy sounds cool, cutting edge, … the cool thing you want to be associated with.”

“It tells me that they are going to have different kinds of shows that are not just science fiction.”

So after watching and reading the interview, what do you think? Send me an email or comment below!

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Sci Fi Channel to “Imagine Greater” and Rebrand as SyFy

Sci-Fi Channel has announced its new name to advertisers at its upfront in New York. The new moniker?

The new tagline: “Imagine Greater”. A 90-second “brand anthem” commercial is being produced by London agency 4 Creative. Another UK agency, Proud Creative, is working on other components of the brand assignment.

Dave Howe, Sci Fi President, explains, “We really do want to own the imagination space. We want to get the credit for the range of content that we already have on our air and that we’ll be doing more of in the future. 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… We’ll get the heritage and the track record of success, and we’ll build off of that to build a broader, more open and accessible and relatable and human-friendly brand.”

Tim Brooks, who helped launch the network 16 years ago, adds “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… We spent a lot of time in the ’90s trying to distance the network from science fiction”.

Sci Fi twitterati and the blogosphere have already lit up. Check out the Twitter-chat and you’ll find some passionate reviews thus far. On a more positive note, Sci Fi is coming off the best year in its history. In primetime it ranked 13th in total viewers among ad-supported cable networks in 2008. It’s a top-10 network in both adults 18 to 49 (up 4%) and adults 25 to 54 (up 6%).

Those who are working directly on the super-secret branding assignment tell me that the best is yet to come (read: innovative & creative STUNTERY soon to come).

The network plans to make the changeover on July 7th. Branding consultancy Landor was commissioned to develop the new name, with SyFy being chosen after 300 different possibilities were presented. International Sci Fi channels will transition to the new name over the next six to 12 months.

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Atmospheric Branding Idents for Sci Fi

A behind-the-scenes glimpse from London-based dixonbaxi’s ongoing work with Sci Fi Movies. The spots were produced in conjunction with Chris Hewitt and Ben Lukas Boysen. The channel idents are an extension of the overall brand redesign of the channel. The idents can be seen here:

:10 Sci Fi Ident 1

:60 Sci Fi Ident: “Anything Can Happen”

On a related note: February 16, 2009 dixonbaxi’s rebrand of digital channel Five US as Five USA officially launches. Repositioning that aims to reflect the “energy, pulse and guts” of American cities, with premieres of The Beast and 30 Rock.

The he(art) and business of motion graphics

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