Syfy. Right.

As some of you will already have seen, the Sci Fi Channel is planning on rebranding to become Syfy, in what they claim will let them own their own brand for once… Not at all the fact they want to become more generic and resent their geeky roots and all associated myths about science fiction fans.

Never mind the fact that the channel has had its best year ever, and the fact it’s a relatively specialised channel with a much broader appeal than it itself seems to want to believe. The press release itself reads like a branding corporate copywriting exercise, this is language I’m actually used to reading on occasion because of my job, but I also like to think I have a fair idea of when it’s a time and place to use it – it’s of NO use to put in the public domain to their fans and consumers, as it’s not coming from their world but from branding specialists (although if they were that special I’d question if they’d release this statement in the fashion they have).

“It creates an ownable and extendable brand for the future.” Basically means they’re creating something new, so they can put ANYTHING on their channel in the future. Repeats of law and order for the win. Ok it probably won’t be that bad.

Though actually:

“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.”

The key word I’m slightly freaked out by in there is reality, I like science fiction and escapism, I think reality is WELL covered by all other channels, reality tv shows, cooking shows, housing shows. I do not think there is a shortage, a lack, a drought of reality tv.

This beggars belief, they pretty much OWNED science fiction as a brand. The entirety of fiction lay at their fingertips for perusal, a specialised area (like each channel could or should be) but with growing interest and support across the board, I’ve never seen reviews so widespread and public as I have for Galactica. The idea of sci fi as being the realm of the nerd and basement dwelling oik is pretty much turned upside down by the easy watching of shows like Stargate and the high quality drama of Galactica.

The idea of making something ownable, means making something unique, but its just an illiterate form of what they had before, phonetically identical. Except the meaning is plain, we resent long time science fiction fans, they are not cool enough for us. They are not who we wish to provide entertainment for. Even though that picture is now no longer even true, someone over there, a team has done some research amongst some very trendy 20-30 something young professionals who probably don’t even watch tv regularly to find that yes indeed, they scorn and mock science fiction. They probably scorn and mock reading anything weightier than an Ikea catalogue too, so I wouldn’t exactly use them as the go to for advice.

There are significant problems out there sometimes with companies, when they do want to target demographics and they’re stuck with words that are truly negative to big chunks of the audience. Take a military museum, you want to get guys, girls, kids, everyone to go. The word museum switches people off, the word military and implication of war switches many women off for the idea of it being all about boys toys. There are ways around these things if the museum actually does more than just polishes old guns. When you have a problem with attendance then you need to look at fixing things.

But Sci Fi apparently had one of their most successful years ever, in the same year that the world financially was falling down around them, and in the aftermath of the writer’s strike.

Creating quality entertainment and having successful results apparently still wasn’t cool enough, they want to be more generic. I only hope the backlash across the internet (go internet you medium for whining on a global scale) actually does have some impact when they realise that this rebrand doesn’t open their options, it insults their main demographic, whilst almost certainly failing to go far enough to dupe the uber cool kids into thinking it’s a channel better suited for them.

Sci Fi had already made itself clearly more than just science fiction, if they really want them to be broader, a name that sounds the same (defeating much hope of word of mouth improvements) doesn’t really say we’re doing everything now, it just sounds apologetic for its roots.

Their excuses within their branding document suggest the name works better with sub-brands, Syfy Games, Syfy Films and Syfy Kids. I don’t honestly see anything wrong with replacing Syfy with Sci Fi in any of those positions, the Sci Fi brand is well established, and it doesn’t seem to visibly offer much improvement.

As a designer I’m curious about how the rebrand visually will look when it gets rolled out in July, currently its odd little 3D environment is a bit peculiar and lacking, but will wait and see.

The less said about the tagline the better though. I really can’t think of anything worth commenting on it. Sci Fi’s old identity had no tagline, it needed none. Telling science fiction fans to use your imagination is a bit like reminding humanity to take a breath every now and again. And greater? Greater than the threat of reality tv shows? My word. How awesome.

Links & Rants
Den of Geek’s Rant
Penny Arcade are similarly enthused
Brand New’s musings on the rebrand
Sci Fi
Syfy

8 thoughts on “Syfy. Right.

  1. MORE RANTS!

    But yeah, agreed, syfy is a fucking terrible brand idea, in addition to being terrible english. Maybe someone else can grab SciFi and start their own channel? Bwha.

  2. I really can agree that they did need an “update” but it seems like the one they went with was not the best option and I’m sure their art department is feeling the same way…

  3. Aye, nothing wrong with refreshing their look and identity, and I can certainly understand their thinking and some of the things they wanted to achieve with this change. But it’s very much a wanting to have their cake and eat it scenario. They don’t want to alienate (sorry) any science fiction fans, but also want everyone who isn’t a science fiction fan to suddenly appreciate them. As much as I like the saturn identity itself, I can see that as actually being sacrificial, science fiction by its definition isn’t aliens and spaceships, Jurassic Park is science fiction.

    The thing that keeps springing to my mind is the story of Dave which just completely changed everything, and worked brilliantly. I think Sci Fi would have to go that far to escape its science fiction trappings. But then this isn’t the same situation at all as Dave which was one of many minor repeats channels.

  4. You know what they should do? Pay less attention to rebranding their image, and maybe make some actual quality content. What do they have thats good? BSG and Stargate. The Twilight Zone sometimes. Reruns of trek.

    When was the last time you watched a GOOD sci-fi original movie? Have you EVER seen a good sci-fi original movie?

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