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Richard Laermer Headshot

Sy Fy: The Latest Mess From Another Stupid Branding Company

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On Tuesday morning, the Sci Fi channel became Sy Fy, which you can be assured will be back as Sci Fi not long after that. Just about everyone who has heard about this wondered "What branding company is sleeping with who over there?" You cannot pretend to like this moniker. There are reasons for this change--and none make sense. I don't know why they did it, but as one who's watched thousands of companies make change for no reason, here are some guesses:

1. They needed a slogan and they'd run out of creativity (the New York Times called their new name an experimental laxative; that's pretty creative). Sci Fi conjured up the gag "Imagine Greater" because they want to be like Apple ("Think Different"). With a mindless slogan on their hands, they used sleight of hand and imagined a greater-than-dumb trademark name for the network so people would mock it rather than their ludicrous tagline.

2. Just like Headline News is now HLN, Learning Channel became TLC, American Movie Classics fell into AMC, Game Show Network calls itself GSN, or Outdoor Channel morphed into VS., it's bad form now to have more than a few letters in your name. Sy Fy is fewer than Sci Fi. The History Channel even changed to just History last year; it would have been THC were it not been for similarities to the ingredient in pot. OXYGEN would have been OXY yet it sounds like oxycodone and better still, Bill Mays owns the prefix outright! This massive shortening routine got even more bizarre when E! Channel's E! True Hollywood Story is now tossed off as THS!

Then there is truTV, which is Court TV's newish name. Weird. I just found out it has no content from the late Truman Capote. As for Spike, does Spike Lee know that it will be Spi soon?

3. Change is not good all the time; people get antsy all the time. Sci Fi wants to program more than science-fiction shows. So, like Grandma used to say: Nu? There are subtle ways to manage this--for instance tell people, "We're still Sci Fi but we have expanded into newer dimensions!" The concept of expansion without screaming is foreign to corporate monoliths (Sy part of the NBC Universal "family").

4. A branding company sauntered in and told the suits it's time to grow with the times. That happens a lot, and quite needlessly. Slick branders speak a hi-toned language to make Senior VPs, all of whom are worried about their jobs, go "Man we gotta do this now!" I harken back to truTV, which has fared horribly since the change. You don't know this because no one watches it--tru is a trailer trash version of reality TV. Or, as they pointed out: it's "Not Reality. It's Actuality." Both of these networks think its audience is the lowest of common denominators. And oh yeah, the former Court TV laid off over 150 people last week. That, my friends, is tru(e).

5. Sy Sims is funding the rebrand. That explains Sy. As for the Fy suffix, one of the Sci Fi chiefs was in the military and doesn't know how to spell Semper Fi. That's all I got.

I told my closest pal about Sy Fy and he said he wished he could have been in the room when the decision was made. Since he's not in marketing, I wondered why. "So I could have seen the look on the faces of people who heard the top person say 'Great idea'."

Just because someone wants to do something 'different' or 'greater than' what existed before, you could in fact be the sane person at your company and step in with the loudest voice on record and suggest that aybe we should reconsider. Or better yet: "Do we need to change this much?" Even if the business isn't skyrocketing this second, there is that one reality: a brand that's known the world over!

Or remind the doofuses how far orange icon Tropicana fell after tossing a well-loved carton design away early this year, after which it lost valuable market share. When asked why 2009 was a downer, a spokesperson pointed to the change of carton: "Draw a line from there."

Once again, it doesn't take anyone's help to make you look stupid.