Category Archives: Sci-fi Geekdom

What’s the Buzz about Buzz Marketing?

Buzz Marketing is not a new marketing technique for getting the word out about your product or service. Simply put, buzz marketing is the practice of having volunteers try what you are selling, then having them create a “buzz” about it by chatting about their experience with the people they interact with in their daily lives. With the addition of the internet and social media, creating exciting buzz campaigns can be sensational or engaging.

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This type of marketing is a word-of-mouth technique on steroids, and sometimes great campaigns go viral and the buzz-maker’s opinions become very influential. According to University of Pennsylvania’s Marketing Professor Jerry Wind, “People recognize the power of word-of-mouth in convincing, influencing, affecting consumer behavior, since it has more credibility than traditional advertising. But, it’s a fairly recent development for companies to try to create a structure around the practice, to harness and direct the way that word-of-mouth spreads — and to attempt to measure its effect on sales once the ‘campaign’ is complete”.

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When depending on people to engage with potential consumers by talking about, posting opinions about or blogging for companies to influence purchasing behaviors, ethics may become an issue for some. The Ford Focus Buzz Marketing campaign discussed as a fine example of buzz marketing included giving volunteers a “free” Ford Focus for 6 months in exchange for the promise to engage with potential consumers. I believe that Ford walked a fine line between what is ethical and not with their Focus campaign.

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According to Automotive News, “the 2014 Fiesta campaign will recruit 100 people in May and give them a new Fiesta for a year to create digital content about the vehicle, including tweets, blogs, photos and videos to be shared via social media. Ford calls these people influencers. But this time, the influencers — not Ford’s ad agency, WPP’s Team Detroit — will generate all ideas and content used in traditional advertising”. This strategy depends on the belief that consumer behavior is shaped and influenced by peers and other consumers.

What was the result of this campaign? According to Gearoid McKendrick at UCD Dublin, the campaign received 6.5 million YouTube views, 6,500 follower on Twitter and 3 million Twitter impressions. There were 540,000 views on Flickr, over 15,000 fans on Facebook and almost 1 million Google search results for ‘The Fiesta Movement’. 27,000 blog posts were created and pre –launch awareness of the Fiesta rose to 37% among 16 – 24 year-olds. Most importantly Ford received 50,000 requests for information about the Fiesta in the first 6 days of sale. 97% of these leads did not own a Ford car. Very impactful!

With these tactics in mind, one of the best buzz marketing campaigns out there today is the Syfy channel’s Igniters campaign. This oft-laughed-at, science-fiction-based television channel has grown and expanded into a massive imagination based interactive conglomerate. Syfy now includes all manner of engagement: Interactive TV programming, interactive websites, mobile apps, videos, games, blogs, social media sites which pushes the limits of imagination, science, tech, art & design and creativity. The Igniters campaign seeks and finds early adopters, influencers and the coolest of the coolest fans of Syfy who they all igniters.

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According to the Syfy website, in conjunction with marketing firm PSFK, in order to become an  Igniter, one must be passionate in three areas:

  • FINDING THE NEW: Insatiable need to constantly be in-the-know about the latest and greatest everything, from nutrition and diet to electronics
  • DOING THE NEXT: Must-have mentality drives them to try, do and buy the next big thing such as new stores, styles, drinks and food
  • SHOWING THE REST: Vocal in telling everyone about their latest finds. Because they’re at the forefront, people listen to what they have to say, whether it’s financial matters to car buying

People who are chosen to be Syfy Igniters are not paid promoters, but influential advocates for the Syfy brand. According to the Syfy Igniters website, Syfy hopes that “by opening doors to new ideas, and opening eyes to thrilling new perspectives, Igniters will make the unbelievable…believable”.

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Igniters influence viewer/consumer behavior by posting opinions, promoting programming ideas, sparking trends, blogging and engaging with other Syfy fans. Since its debut in 2012, Syfy reports that Igniter’s “insatiable need to be in the know and to tell others about it” has created an undeniable buzz within the Syfy community and beyond. This direct engagement solidifies the relationship between brand and consumer, and today the campaign is strong and vibrant, just like the Igniters. An effective buzz marketing campaign indeed.

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Of course, ethics should always play a part in who influences who and how. Since this campaign does not monetarily compensate their Igniters, and it is the pure joy of the power of influence that drives these brand advocates, opinions and ideas should be looked at from that point of view. Brand advocates do not usually post anything negative, so the people engaging with Igniters should keep that in mind. Is the Syfy Igniters campaign ethical? Yes, I believe it is, as long as there is full disclosure on who they are and what their objectives are, everyone involved will be happy.

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A Name To Call Our Own: Syfy

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Since the Sci Fi Channel was born in 1992, many people were mistakenly referring to the Sci Fi Channel with different spellings and configurations: SciFi Channel, Sci-Fi Channel, SCIFI Channel and on and on it went. The brand name Sci Fi was confusing because the network was using a GENRE (Science-Fiction) for a brand name and did not have an original brand name of its own. As reported in the New York Times: “We couldn’t own Sci Fi; it’s a genre,” said Bonnie Hammer, the former president of Sci Fi who became the president of NBC Universal Cable Entertainment and Universal Cable Productions. “But we can own Syfy”.

The seemingly weird spelling of the new brand caught many off-guard: Syfy with a Capital S and a small yfy = one-word branding. There were those who scoffed, ridiculed and out-right laughed at the rebranding decision. The Business Insider Strategy Webpage called the rebranding to Syfy a “disaster”, claiming that around the world, the spelling Syfy is slang for syphilis (an STD).

The Syfy Channel did take it on the chin from loyal viewers and hard-core sci-fi fans. Sci Fi president, Dave Howe (and Bonnie Hammer’s successor) defended the rebranding and said in an interview with Fast Company:

“We were very strategic about how we positioned it, how we communicated, how we made sure our audience didn’t think that this was just another excuse to abandon the genre. We were very specific about why we were doing it and about  why we were about creating a brand that was extendable into new platforms. Then we had a whole roster of sci- fi/fantasy shows that reassured people that actually we were going to be a bigger and better sci-fi/fantasy network as opposed to one that was going sci-fi light.”

Michael Engleman, Executive Vice President and Marketing/Global Brand Strategist for Syfy explained that the Sci Fi Channel rebranding needed during an interview with Boston.com:

“We wanted to create a brand that was broader, more relatable. In a lot of ways our branding was catching up to what we were doing with our programming. We were already pushing the boundaries of the traditional definitions of nonfiction with shows like Eureka and Ghost Hunters.’ So how could we recalibrate our brand to be still firmly rooted in the genre of  science fiction but attach ourselves to this much larger idea, which is the idea of imagination? How do you create a name, how do you create a brand that will open doors to audiences that wouldn’t identify themselves as science fiction fans”?

VP Craig Engler discussed in an interview with Tor.com that the brand had three key reasons for a change:

1. We needed a brand that’s portable and can work in places like Netflix, iTunes and on DVRs. In those environments we can find ourselves competing for space on a text-based menu system where “sci-fi” and “Sci Fi” are indistinguishable.

2. We needed a brand that can support new businesses

3. We needed a brand that’s seen as inclusive to potential new viewers, and a brand that reflects the broad range of imagination-based entertainment you’ll find on our network.

To help with the rebranding task, the executives of Sci Fi channel went to Proud Creative, the self-described creatively-led multidisciplinary design studio based in London. Their website boasts being known for “delivering appropriate and memorable solutions”.

In collaboration with ManvsMachine Studio, Proud Creative listened to what the Sci Fi channel wanted “an ownable and distinguishable brand identity; retaining the positive associations from the genre of science fiction, whilst appealing to a broader audience and embracing the benefits of imagination”.

Well, it looks like Proud Creative did just what the executives asked for and helped deliver a memorable logo and new branding that encompassed their genre, audience and ideas of imagination with Syfy.

The name change also came with a new tagline “Imagine Greater”, instead of the Saturn-like planet logo of the Sci Fi Channel. This new slogan encompasses all that the brand thinks of as imagination boasts the Syfy website: the full landscape of fantasy entertainment, the paranormal, the supernatural, action, adventure and superheroes.

This new brand is memorable and could be trademarked, a giant advantage over the old Sci Fi name that could not be trademarked due to is broad genre attachment, and trademarking can lead to other associative branded Syfy Ventures (like Syfy Games or Syfy Kids).

When researching how and when the Syfy one-word name spelling was first thought of, then Sci Fi VP Craig Engler discussed in the same interview with Tor.com that the origin of “Syfy” went as far as a year back, when a new hire Michael Engleman was brainstorming one bleary-eyed night:

“We specifically began considering Syfy about a year ago, when Michael Engleman joined the network as our new VP of Creative. It was a great time for us to get the perspective of someone new, and Michael happens to be a creative genius, which helps enormously”.

In Michael’s own words in an interview with Up-Load.com:

“I knew how important our roots are, and knew where we wanted to go in the future, and I asked myself a simple question. What if we could change the name without ever changing the name? Five minutes later, with a ballpoint pen and a piece of scrap paper, Syfy was born”.

A creative genius indeed. The Syfy rebranding is a success. And now it is on to bigger and better things. The “Imagine Greater” slogan and what it means to encompass all things imaginative from using social media to choosing programming diversity for a broader audience and a bigger marketshare for the Syfy Channel will be discussed further in my next blog.

I’ll be back, Geeks!

Syfy: Not Just For Geeks Anymore

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The programming and offerings at Syfy has changed throughout the years, but was always, and still is, based on imagination (hence their tagline “Imagine Greater”).

In 1992, the newly formed and originally named Sci Fi Channel had a programming mix that included genre movies, classic science-fiction TV-shows and a spattering of monster movies.

Soon the programming changed to meet the customer’s needs and budget of the network at that time. A snapshot of programming milestones is displayed below and gleaned from the innermind.com website:

1992: The original Sci Fi Channel aired for 24 hours, with infomercials 3-7 a.m.to fill air-time.

1993-1994: Infomercials was dropped, which was a move forward for the new network, with 1-3 a.m. block a repeat of the 8-10 p.m. block. Modern sci-fi TV shows added, like Quantum Leap and a science-fiction trends show called Sci-Fi Buzz was created.

1995: The original Sci Fi website was created called the “Dominion” now called syfy.com (which is fantastic), as well as the Science Fiction weekly on-line magazine and the Sci Fi magazine for geeks looking to read about sci-fi. The 1st annual Twilight Zone marathon for the New Year began (with much delight for the viewers).

1996-2000: Anime dubbed in English was added, with original programming showing up in the line-up. Horror was becoming a regular featured genre.

2001-2008: These were big growing years for the Sci Fi Channel… Sci Fi Pictures is created to make original B-movie films that let the viewer escape into fantasy or fun-bizarre non-reality experiences, and with titles like Dinocroc,Frankenfish and Mansquito how can you not have fun?

Delving into disaster movies of the peculiar variety were also made, like Polar Storm and Deep Shock, along with horror movies like Rock Monster and Boogeyman, along with a handful of alien and space danger movies. Successful mini-series productions by Steven Spielberg called Taken won an Emmy for best mini-series, and Battlestar Galatica went on to become a 4-year-long running series. Paranormal programming was added with the popular show Ghost Hunters, as well as non-sci-fi programs like WWE wrestling (who signed a multi-year deal).

2009: Sci Fi Channel rebranded to be named Syfy  to encompass a broader view of imaginative programming. Original shows like Warehouse 13 and Haven were produced to add to their original series already popularized like Eureka and Stargate SG-1.

2010-2013: Face Off, what is considered a competition “reality” show, tops the charts as one of the most popular Syfy shows, adding to the list of unscripted programs like Destination Truth and Fact or Faked. Defiance becomes a much-watched show about post-alien invasion Earth, a common theme taken to the extreme.

According to the Syfy website:

“We’ve always defined “sci-fi” a lot more broadly than most people. For us “sci-fi” includes a broad range of imagination-based entertainment, including science fiction but also fantasy, the paranormal, adventure, horror and larger than life personalities, among others.”

The programming seen today reflects this attitude. I believe that with the broad idea of what sci-fi is, Syfy has tapped into a large and involved fan base that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, anytime soon. I personally love sci-fi, B-movies (the weirder the better i.e Sharknado-combining disaster with monster sharks or Sharktopus-combining a shark and octopus), paranormal, horror, classic TV with a twist (think Creature Double-Feature – a childhood favorite show) and creative competitions.

As long as Syfy keep cranking out programming that reflects both love for the old and new in the sci-fi scope of what they define it as, they will continue to show that they are not just for geeks anymore (there really is something for everyone), and I am confident that they will have continued success.

 

To Go Where No Man Has Gone Before?

To Go Where No Man Has Gone Before?

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Syfy is an outlet I go to and watch when I want to take my mind off of real life. Since its debut on my cable network as the Sci Fi Channel in 1992, I was hooked. The USA Network (a partnership venture at that time between Universal and Paramount Studios) picked up the new channel, which seemed like the perfect match for my geek needs. 

 The original programming included classic science-fiction movies and television shows, like Dracula, the Twilight Zone and Star Trek. The two studios had many shows and movies in their vaults collecting dust which the conceptual designers, Mitchell Rubenstein and his wife Laurie Silvers, believed would find a home with a niche group of fans, like myself, who loved science-fiction, monster movies and the bizarre.

Over the last 20 years, Syfy went through many transformations: changes of ownership, modification of programming and most importantly, a new image through branding. Over the next few weeks, I am going to delve deeper into the each of these categories Syfy dealt with in a new blog posting.

In this first blog, I am going to discuss the changes of ownership Syfy went through to become what it is today. In 1989, a communications lawyer named Mitchell Rubenstein decided to start a cable-TV network. He was not a science-fiction fan, nor was his lawyer wife Laurie Silvers.  They were all about business and the bottom line. Through their research and his vast amount of connections and business prowess, the network idea was pitched as the Sci Fi Channel, but according to the Orlando Sentinel, many challenges were ahead for the new network become a success:

  1. Can Rubenstein get cable operators to carry the Sci Fi Channel?
  2. Can the new Sci Fi Channel get enough advertising support?
  3. Was there enough Science-fiction movies and shows out there to fill a 24-hour network?

The answer to all these questions was a resounding YES! It took only three years to get the USA Network to buy out the network from Rubenstein and Silvers for 8 million dollars.

I believe that the science-fiction based network was a good idea, and so did millions of other people. Once USA Network starting broadcasting the Sci Fi Channel, it “set out to push the limits of possibility and imagination on television”, according to the current Syfy Channel website, which it did do. Between 1994 and 2004, the ownership of the Sci Fi Channel changed hands several times with a myriad of new owners: Viacom, Seagram’s, MCA, Matsushita, Barry Diller (head of USA Universal at that time), Vivendi Universal, GE’s NBC, and then finally settling with NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation, where it stands today.

Comcast Corporation is a huge company with many holdings and diversities. According to the Comcast Corporate website, “Comcast’s Initial Public Offering (IPO) was on June 29, 1972. On that date 430,000 shares of CMCSA were issued at $7 per share. On November 18, 2002, Comcast and AT&T Broadband combined to form the new Comcast Corporation.”

Today stocks are worth $46.06 per share. Syfy may be a small part of the huge Comcast conglomerate, but I believe that it has helped boost profits for shareholders. Today the NBCUniversal website boats that ‘Syfy is a media destination for imagination-based entertainment. With year-round acclaimed original series, events, blockbuster movies, classic science fiction and fantasy programming, a dynamic Web site (www.Syfy.com), and a portfolio of adjacent businesses (Syfy Ventures), Syfy is a passport to limitless possibilities.

Originally launched in 1992 as SCI FI Channel, and currently in more than 99 million homes, Syfy is a network of NBCUniversal, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies. (Syfy. Imagine greater.)” And I agree…the network has become a booming success. Next week I will discuss the programming changes within Syfy in order to capture and grow a larger audience.

Until then…live long and prosper, sci-fi geeks!

Syfy…Engage!

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In 2009, the Sci Fi Channel underwent a chancy rebranding to encompass more genres than science fiction, space and monster movies. The new name Syfy was a one-word brand that could extend into new platforms and demographics. Today, nearly five years later, Syfy has incorporated action-adventure, mystery, fantasy, supernatural, paranormal, monster/disaster movies, unscripted reality shows and the WWE with the classic sci-fi genre essentials.

According to Craig Engler, Syfy has also integrated social media marketing and viewer engagement into not just something the brand does, but as a part of the brand itself, as a part of who they are. The results are a broader audience, diverse programming and an expanded brand presence, with Syfy viewed in more than 98 million homes.

The success Syfy is enjoying today didn’t happen overnight. According to Dave Howe during an interview with CoCreate:

“We were very specific about how we positioned it (Syfy), how we communicated and how we made sure our audience didn’t think this was just another excuse to abandon the genre.”

Understanding their audience, the psychographics behind why they are watching, viewer behavior, their consumption of media and the way they can accept imaginative ideas was key to identifying and pinpointing untapped markets.

The genre of science-fiction is largely seen as a geeky-white guy thing, but Syfy research showed that women, Hispanics, African-Americans and the under 21 crowds were just ripe for the picking. Show like Being Human, Face Off and Defiance (a video-game/TV show hybrid) has taken hold of these demographics.

According to an AdWeek report, Nielsen showed that this is the current audience and reach:

  • Syfy is in 98 million homes. (Nielsen)
  • Syfy is the best place to reach Igniters. (Simmons)
  • The gender skew of the channel is 56% male and 44% female. (Nielsen)
  • 47% of Syfy’s audience is A25-54; 42% falls into the A18-49 demographic. (Nielsen)
  • Syfy’s original programs rank in the Top 10 in their respective timeslots. (Nielsen)
  • Among 18-34s, Syfy posted double-digit gains for both men (17%) and women (21%) in Q1 2012 compared to Q1 2011. (Nielsen)
  • Syfy has been a Top 10 network for 17 years consecutively. (Nielsen)

In order to capture the essence of Syfy, the slogan “Imagine Greater” was created to identify Syfy as “a media destination for imaginationbased entertainment.” Many interactive strategies for communicating and distributing content online emerged on multiplatforms, including:

Syfy Sync– Live two-screen app which uses audio content recognition to allow viewers to access exclusive content at various points in Syfy shows and socialize it instantly

Syfy House of Imagination – Interactive website and film

Syfy Everywhere – which provides viewers exclusives and full episodes of their favorite shows anytime, anywhere from any device, and will soon be released on Xbox.

Syfy Ventures – which serves as the business development and enterprise unit for Syfy with three key goals:

(1) develop immersive trans media experiences

(2) create robust new revenue streams

(3) launch targeted products and services that exemplify its “Imagine Greater” tagline worldwide.

Syfy’s rapidly expanding portfolio includes four major business lines:

  • Gaming
  • Kids
  • Online & Mobile
  • Consumer Products

From these lines emerge five consumer sub-brands:

In order to expand the brand and keep the brand fresh, a smart campaign aptly named “Igniters” was created. Igniters targets artistic, highly imaginative consumers that not only sparks trends but have a say in “driving consumer behavior for new products and brands by sharing it instantly through social media and portable, everywhere access”, stated a Syfy press release, adding that Igniters are very active in social media, in touch with fans and the base of the Syfy audience, and are innovators who can influence others.

It went on to say:

“Through a custom study conducted in partnership with PSFK, Syfy demonstrates how and why this consumer is more powerful today than ever, creating a new marketplace – The Imagination Economy.

According to Syfy, PSFK and Simmons, Igniters are those who:

  • FIND THE NEW: Insatiable need to constantly be in-the-know about the latest and greatest everything.
  • DO THE NEXT: Must-have mentality drives them to try, do and buy the next big thing.
  • SHOW THE REST: Vocal in telling everyone about their latest finds. Because they’re at the forefront, people listen to what they have to say.

This campaign will not only expand the Syfy brand beyond imagination, but drive the marketplace it created, and I think that’s the idea!

With all this going for Syfy, I believe that viewer engagement, social media activity (Syfy Social provides unique social experiences 52 weeks a year via Facebook, Twitter and other social media) and the creativity of the human mind will keep Syfy, and fans alike, around for generations.

So, let’s make it so!