raefinlay: (Default)
[personal profile] raefinlay
Everyone seems to be up in arms over the SciFi Channel's decision to rebrand to "SyFy." Am I the only one who sees this move as pure genius?

(Granted, my knee-jerk reaction was, EW! And then came, Sacrilege!! But then I thought about it some more...)

Here's the deal: 1)They do not have a moral obligation to market themselves as science fiction, no matter how many warm fuzzy feelings you get when you think about the time you read your first Heinlein novel, 2) They are smarter about marketing than you and I. Trust me on this. They would not be making this move if they had not already tested the new brand thoroughly, and 3) It's not about "science fiction" at all. It's about mainstream, where the money and the untouched audience are.

If you ask non-scifisnobs (in other words: not us) what they're watching, they'll tell you: Lost! Supernatural! etc. These folks love Harry Potter and superhero movies. They go to the "action/adventure" section of Best Buy to pick up I, Robot and Minority Report. But, if you ask them if they enjoy science fiction and fantasy, the answer is HECK NO. They love science fiction, but they don't realize it. And if they do realize it, they'll never cop to it.

Science fiction is more popular than ever, but it's a stealth popularity. We live in a world where Cormac McCarthy can win a Pulitzer for writing something totally derivative just because it gets packaged with a different label. So now is the perfect time to rebrand and reach those folks who would NEVER watch SciFi, but might possibly watch SyFy.

I, for one, am delighted at the possibility of expanding our audience. It's good for all of us.

Date: 2009-03-17 01:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wistling.livejournal.com
One of my main objections is that they didn't check the linguistic implications of SyFy (in Polish; similarity to an STD). They should have hired a linguistics consultant, or if they had, found a more competent one who would have alerted them to the unintentional connotations.

But then, I'm a linguist who occasionally does work in branding, so I'm biased towards competence in branding.

Date: 2009-03-17 01:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] raecarson.livejournal.com
Ah, that's interesting. *learns something new*

It's also possible that they *do* know the linguistic connotations and went with it anyway. Wouldn't be the first time.

Date: 2009-03-17 01:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] magicnoire.livejournal.com
Actually, my problem with the name is that it sounds very, very corporate.

Date: 2009-03-17 01:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] raecarson.livejournal.com
It does? SyFy...SyFy... *says it over and over in head*

I don't feel a strong corporate vibe. Is it just a general impression? Or do you associate it with another word?

Even so, associating it with "corporate" instead of "genre" is good, for the same reason that Google does not call itself "SuperSearch" and Skype is not "Netphone."

Date: 2009-03-17 01:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] magicnoire.livejournal.com
I don't know. There's corporate like GE and then there's corporate like synergistic consulting. Maybe it was the new logo.

Date: 2009-03-17 01:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] raecarson.livejournal.com
Heh. It does look like something you'd find in a kid's room, with the bubbly letters.

I think it's supposed to be unintimidating. But I will always hold the Saturn symbol close to my heart!

Date: 2009-03-17 02:17 pm (UTC)
annathepiper: (Default)
From: [personal profile] annathepiper
I've seen the argument about rebranding themselves to grow the audience, yeah. I'd be less irritated by it if they hadn't chosen something that's clearly intended to sound like "sci-fi" still. It's like they're going "we're not really showing that icky science fiction stuff, except we are! See, SF fans? Wink wink nudge nudge!"

Why couldn't they have chosen some sort of brand that still reflects some core values of SF while not being a cutesy respelling, is what I'd like to know. Like oh, say, the 'Imagine' Network or something like that.

But really, what more irritates me is that press release perpetuating the stereotypes of SF being for "losers in their basements" and that "girls don't like that icky science fiction stuff". If they want to grow their audience, pissing off their original core audience is not the way to do it.

Date: 2009-03-17 02:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] raecarson.livejournal.com
Whoa...maybe you read a different press release? I didn't read anything about basement losers or a gender gap. Maybe there's something out there I haven't seen...

And I think you've hit the nail on the head. What you find irritating is exactly their strategy. I think they're trying to embrace both worlds at the same time.

Date: 2009-03-17 04:02 pm (UTC)
annathepiper: (Default)
From: [personal profile] annathepiper
Well, maybe less "press release" and more "article with a really irritating quote in it", I should say. Specifically, this article, with this particular irritating quote:

"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,” said TV historian Tim Brooks, who helped launch Sci Fi Channel when he worked at USA Network."

As someone who is not dysfunctional nor hiding out in a basement, not to mention not a boy, I'm quite vexed that the channel seems to feel like it needs to change its name to reach out to me. And that this quote conveys an attitude that being a geek is somehow "bad".

Way to reach out to your core audience there, people.

Date: 2009-03-17 04:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] raecarson.livejournal.com
Aaah, I see.

Yeah, that was a graceless thing to say.

He's right though. *ducks flying words* Sci Fi is definitely associated with basement dwellers of awkward socialization and poor hygiene. You and I know that it's an unfair stereotype, but that doesn't change the fact that this perception affects their bottom line.

My hope is that someday science fiction and fantasy can be openly mainstream.

Date: 2009-03-17 04:12 pm (UTC)
annathepiper: (Default)
From: [personal profile] annathepiper
I don't disagree with the core premise. Hell, I live in Seattle, Geek Capital of the World, and I work in the computer industry, which is wall to wall geeks... and even here, I hear "nerd" bandied around as an insult. It's really irritating.

However, there are way better ways to go about reaching outside the core fanbase than a cutesy name change. Not to mention that I think it's kind of insulting to the audience they're trying to reach out to--sort of a "oh hey we're trying to get you to watch science fiction, only we're going to not call it science fiction, we're going to call it SyFy!" It's still the same stuff.

If I were in charge of such an outreach, I'd try to arrange something along the lines of encouraging people to see that science fiction can appeal to everybody. But then, hey, I'm not in marketing. ;P :)

Date: 2009-03-18 01:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] robinskij.livejournal.com
I think they are indeed trying to embrace both worlds, but I think it's going to fail; that there is now, whether accurate or not, a perception of betrayal among their core viewers; but unless they seriously improve their programming, they aren't going to win over any of the mainstream; the only reason any of us geeks still watch is out of habit, I think. Heh.

We shall see.

It's the same thing all the cable channels are doing and I think it's a big mistake and exactly the opposite of what they should do to survive. They are all trying to be Wal-mart. Those days of TV are over. There is never going to be a consistent 23 share Nielson rating and they need to figure out how to live with that...niche marketing is the way to go. When you are up against the Walmart, you don't try to compete with what they offer; you offer what they don't. Products they don't, service they don't, *something* - you have to get create to survive.

That's just my opinion on it. ~ hello, btw, I came over from an flister we have in common. *waves*

Date: 2009-03-18 02:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] raecarson.livejournal.com
*waves!*

Great points. I go back and forth on the niche marketing thing. It's definitely NOT working for science fiction publications, especially magazines. And if the future of science fiction is a watered down mainstream version, then the SyFy dudes are making the right choice.

But I've often wondered if, in the days of Hulu and satellite tv, those niche markets have a much better chance of finding their, yanno, niches. I think your not-Walmart analogy is a good one.

Thanks for your thoughts!

Date: 2009-03-19 07:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] robinskij.livejournal.com
Mind if I friend you?

Date: 2009-03-19 07:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] raecarson.livejournal.com
I would like that. :)

Date: 2009-03-17 03:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] miketo.livejournal.com
Meta-commentary: I have yet to find a marketroid who didn't get visibly orgasmic at the thought of doing rebranding. Rebranding is done rarely because there is a lot of money and market recognition tied up in a brand name. Getting the chance to create a new brand makes marketroids drool. Sadly, most marketroids have been smelling their own farts for so long that their genius rebranding efforts make people laugh. (Exhibit 1: rebranding the game platform code-named "Revolution" to "Wii".)

Date: 2009-03-17 07:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jmeadows.livejournal.com
You said Wii.

*giggle*

Date: 2009-03-18 01:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] robinskij.livejournal.com
You have an absolute truth there, speaking from someone who was in the advertising world in another life. Heh.

As I said on another journal, when the suits eventually figure out how big of a fail this one was, there's going to be firings aplenty. Heh. That's my prediction. I could be wrong of course.

Date: 2009-03-17 03:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dragonmyst.livejournal.com
I think its a stupid name honestly. I am not a huge fan of tv to begin with though. :P

SyFy just looks silly to me.

Date: 2009-03-18 02:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] raecarson.livejournal.com
It *is* a stupid name. But I think it might work anyway. "Google" is incredibly stupid, after all.

Date: 2009-03-17 03:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] allichaton.livejournal.com
My issue isn't with the fact that they're rebranding -- I am all for expanding the market and attracting the mainstream. My problem is the same as [livejournal.com profile] annathepiper's, it's the cutesy-ness of the name they chose, and the feeling of, "Hey, SciFi fans, we're still the same! Hey, mainstream fans, we're totally not!", trying to have their cake and eat it too. If they'd chosen a different name completely (I really like the "Imagine network" suggestion), I wouldn't have an issue.

Also, as a friend of mine pointed out, the pronunciation of SyFy is a little iffy. My brain isn't quite sure how it wants to pronounce it (sigh-fee? siffy?), but I keep stumbling over it when I see it in print.

Date: 2009-03-18 02:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] raecarson.livejournal.com
Ha! It looks like "siffy" to me too.

Date: 2009-03-17 03:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] barbarienne.livejournal.com
The real problem is that they've chosen to completely abandon any pretense of actually selling Science Fiction. They've been moving toward lowest-common-denominator schlock for years now, and this is just the final step.

Fine, says I, if that's what you want to sell, you go right ahead and sell it. But then why call it something that is intended to sound like "sci fi"? Just call it something else altogether. Divorce yourselves from pretense and just get on with the business of selling shit to the gullible.

They could have called it a million other things that would be equally trademarkable and yet not cast shit on the venerable genre we all love. But no, instead they decided to go with Whores-R-Us and then add insult to injury by acting as if the WWE is science fiction and Mansquito is high literature.

I desperately hope that they crash and burn.

Date: 2009-03-17 03:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] raecarson.livejournal.com
I desperately hope that they crash and burn.

O.O

I sure don't. I wish them every success.

And I think calling them whores, while true, is no aspersion at all. Every company everywhere is a whore for something, because marketing, by definition, is finding out what people want and giving it to them. If the audience wants "shit," and they don't give it to them, then they are total and complete fracking losers.

Date: 2009-03-18 02:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] barbarienne.livejournal.com
Look, I have nothing against whores. They provide a valuable service, after a fashion, and if they do their job honestly, then I don't have much to complain about (well, I have a little to complain about, but it's soooo off topic).

But don't put on your fishnet stockings and miniskirt and then act like it's a space suit and you're a freaking astronaut.

(Yes, yes, Charlie: "unless they pay extra.")

Date: 2009-03-18 05:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ccfinlay.livejournal.com
(Yes, yes, Charlie: "unless they pay extra.")

*cough* I've heard that it's not that much extra if you're a regular and they can defer the costs over time but I honestly wouldn't know

Date: 2009-03-17 07:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kmkibble75.livejournal.com
I'm with you in regard to them showing WWE junk, but in regard to mansquito... well, it's not like they ever promised good science fiction.
From: [identity profile] thesaucernews.livejournal.com
It's all well and good if they want to rebrand. But they are, still, marketing themselves as science fiction. They're like TNN calling themselves "The National Network" but still showing the same programming (TNN later got its shit together and became "Spike TV", becoming a perfect example of both how you do not, and do, rebranding.)

"SyFy" == "SciFi". The similarity between spelling and phonetics is obviously indended to maintain the concept in the viewers' mind while changing the word. Granted, they can trademark the latter and not the former. But in my mind, the only thing "SyFy" accomplishes is making me think "SciFi" even harder.

Now there is a point to be made about science fiction having, actually, become mainstream (or more mainstream) as the mainstream becomes more science-fictional in nature. Videophones are no longer science-fiction, or robots, or genetic engineering. There are quite a few dramas on television (mostly the forensic shows like the CSIs) which play around with SF elements without necessarily embracing the genre (I'd almost consider them to be mundane SF). I don't think it's even necessary to redefine the brand sci-fi because it is already redefining itself.

I've always thought "sci fi" was one of the most marketable portmanteaus ever. It's brilliant, short, repetitive, it rhymes. It's like the Coca-Cola script or the Nike swoosh. Everyone knows what it is. "SyFy" just seems like it weakens the existing brand without necessarily adding anything, to me. I dunno.

Date: 2009-03-17 07:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jmeadows.livejournal.com
It sounds stupid to me, but if that's what they want to use now, that's fine. I'm not their mommy.

But they've been Sci-Fi since I was an itty kid watching commercials for a new cable channel, with a big Saturn picture and "It's coming" flashing across the TV. I wasn't sure what it was, but I knew it excited me.

I don't think "SyFy" will have the same effect. If it's not meant to...okay.

Date: 2009-03-17 07:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kmkibble75.livejournal.com
I see your reasoning, but... in order for the stealthiness factor of the change to come in to play, then the target audience has to be unbelievably stupid. And if there's one thing I know about society at large, it's that...

okay, maybe you're right.

I lyke syence

Date: 2009-03-18 09:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] loismoon.livejournal.com
To me, SyFy just sounds like SciFi light. Or maybe I mean Sci Fi Lite. Possibly it is the beginning of a move to put syence back into our lyves after the Bush yeers...gotta sneek it in whyn (this makes the same sound if you live in So Georgia) no one is looking. Syence is a beyutiful thang.

Re: I lyke syence

Date: 2009-03-18 01:44 pm (UTC)

Re: I lyke syence

Date: 2009-03-18 02:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] barbarienne.livejournal.com
You mean Sci Fi Lyte.

Date: 2009-03-18 04:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] crimini.livejournal.com
It's a big head scratcher to me.

Syfy -- unlike the generic entertainment category "sci-fi" - firmly establishes a uniquely ownable trademark that is portable across all non-linear digital platforms and beyond, from Hulu to iTunes. --press release

If the above statement is true, why not rebrand with a completely different word/name? Someone had a good idea, but didn't go far enough.

I do agree that if their goal is to be a "brand" that goes beyond TV programming and encompasses cross-platform multimedia, then "SciFi" is too limiting. But the phonetic "syfy" doesn't break away from "SciFi" enough to make it a totally new rebranding. And it also doesn't make me think "Imagine Greater" either.

"Google" may have sounded like a nonsense word with no apparent connection to a search engine/database/etc., but it wasn't connected to anything either and so it wasn't tied down to a pre-conceived idea/concept/thing. Which is perhaps a reason why it worked itself into our vernacular.
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