Tag Archives: Imagine Greater

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…Engage!

   Syfy engage

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!