The Venereal Disease Channel Imaginatizes Greatastically
People have been asking me to weigh in on the whole “SciFi Channel changing its name to Syfy” thing, so here’s me weighing in: Meh. It seems like pointless fiddling for the sake of pointless fiddling to me, but if it makes them happy, then, you know. Have fun with it, guys. I like a fair amount of the programming, so I’ll watch it whatever they call it.
That said, I think they might have picked a better name. Apparently one of the motivating factors to change the name from “scifi” to a phase-changing-vowel-filled homonym was to have a name that was trademarkable and extensible, and it seems no one else in the world actually uses the word “syfy” for anything. Well, except Poland, where the word is used to identify crusty, scabby sexually transmitted diseases, and no, this is not a joke. No one there is going to use the word to associate with their product, any more than someone here might try to market, say, Chlamydia™ brand adhesive bandages.
Note to SciFi Channel: when your new brand identity means “venereal disease” in any language, it’s the sort of thing that — excuse the term — gets around.
You would think NBC Universal’s brand people might have caught this (heh) ahead of time. They do have people for this. And maybe they did catch it, but figured, heck, who knows Polish? Aside from 40 million Poles? Problem is, this is one of those things that Those Perverse Internets, and the equally-perverse people involved in them (not coincidentally SciFi Channel’s primary viewing demographic) will find out almost immediately and then proceed to have a big ol’ jolly field day with. As they did, and are doing.
Look: When your core audience looks at your new branding and exclaims “Hey! It’s the Venereal Disease Channel!” from the day you announce it until the day, a few years later, when you find slink away from it and try to pretend it never happened, you may have chosen your brand identity poorly. Yes, “Syfy” is brand extensible. But then, the Polish “syfy” is extensible too, in its way, although not in a way most people would want. So, yes, this is a problem. Glad it’s not my problem.
To be honest, however, the incipient “Syfy” branding doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the new brand’s tagline: “Imagine Greater.” I mean: really? “Imagine Greater”? What, were complete sentences too dear down at the marketing shop? I know there’s a recession on, but maybe they could have checked in the couch cushions for loose change. Or if they were simply intending to break grammar into pieces, for jazzy, kicky effect, why not go all the way? “Imagine Greater” is settling for the bronze when “Imaginate Greatably” is within one’s grasp. And, hey, it’s brand extendable.
“Syfy” tells me the branding people involved here don’t know how to read Polish, and you know what, that’s fine. But “Imagine Greater” suggests they don’t know how to read English, either, and that’s not. Seriously, SciFi Channel: you paid someone for “Imagine Greater”? Hell. I wouldn’t have given that to you for free. Clearly I need either to get into marketing, or run away from it as fast as I possibly can.