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Rebrand Sci Fi to Syfy: Bonehead Move

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Once again, brand-oriented marketing is flushing money down the toilet. This time it's so ridiculous it defies belief: NBC is renaming the Sci Fi channel "Syfy." In other words, they're replacing a name that describes the product they sell with a nickname for venereal disease. The NBC sales team must be tearing their hair out.


The reasoning behind this gratuitous renaming is typical of what passes for thinking among the marketing nomenclatura. According to NBC execs, as paraphrased in the Times, the change is desirable because:

  1. Sci Fi is so generic that it cannot be trademarked, while "Syfy" can.
  2. The new name is similar enough to the Sci Fi brand to convey continuity.
  3. The Sci Fi name didn't capture the full landscape of fantasy entertainment.
  4. A shorter, more memorable name is more readily attached to new businesses.
Let's take these points one at a time.
  • Point #1: Who cares if Sci Fi can't be trademarked? Is anyone going to buy stuff just because it's got "SyFy" stuck on it? Of course not.
  • Point #2: If continuity is a good thing, why do the renaming in the first place? Why monkey with a name that clearly works?
  • Point #3: Uhhh.... Doesn't this directly conflict with point #2? And aren't scifi and fantasy overlapping genres that appeal to the same audience?
  • Point #4: Six letters to four letters. Freakin' brilliant. And the new name may be more memorable but, in this case, that may not be a good thing.
Here's how I see it: NBC has taken a name that means "here's where you watch sci fi on television" and replaced it with "here's what I caught when I forgot the condom."

Needless to say, NBC "tested" the new name with a focus group (aka bogus research). One NBC exec proudly told the Times that one participant stated: "If I were texting, this is how I would spell it." What the exec failed to realize is that the same participant would undoubtedly have added "WTF??? ROFLMAO!!!" immediately after.

Lest you think otherwise, this re-branding is a big money affair -- a major expense that will add directly to the cost of sales -- in a market where advertising is getting increasingly hard to sell.

NBC hired two (count 'em, 2) ad agencies to give birth to this monstrosity and apparently wasted hundreds of hours of management bandwidth discussing it. So we're talking about spending millions of dollars, even before they actually launch the silly thing.

And all for a name that will only make it more difficult for the sales team to sell advertising.

Incredible. Simply incredible.

MORE (3/18):
I can't resist commenting on the idiotic tag line: "Imagine Greater."

Just so you know, the original tag line for the Sci Fi channel is "Imagine." That's a pretty good tag, if only because everyone knows what it means. And the idea that you should imagine something fits into the idea of broadcasting imaginative shows.

But what in the name of Sam Hill is "Imagine Greater" supposed to mean? Are we supposed to imagine the word "Greater" floating in the air above our heads? Or maybe "Greater" is some kind of alien who we're supposed to imagine?

Maybe they're trying to get us to imagine something greater than, well..., than what? Than the programmes the channel currently broadcasts? Or maybe we're supposed to use our imagination more effectively? Seriously, what is that tag supposed to mean????

At best, the tag is the kind of corporate weasel-speak that's likely to alienate the channel's core audience, especially the vast swath of wage slaves who have to listen to this kind of gobbledegook from their clueless masters.

And what's crazy about it all is that the rebranding will do nothing -- nada -- to make it easier for NBC to sell ads on a channel that's about to lose the only hit show they've ever had (Battlestar Galactica). Or, to put it in Galactica lingo: they're totally fracked.

The idea that NBC executives would waste their time in this kind of naval-gazing rebranding BS, right when the channel is about to drive over a content-free cliff, is a sad testament to the way that marketing groups think about business.

I'll tell you what I'd like to imagine greater. I'd like to imagine that somebody would have the greater idea of firing the people who thought up this turkey.