First the new Syfy channel leaders came out and said they were changing the name because “Sci Fi” was too limiting, and “Syfy” opened lots of doors for them. The world at large wondered how a misspelled homophone could create any options at all.
Then the president of Syfy was accused of not being honest about the origins of the name and had to respond, saying all sorts of random things in the process, such as:
In response to a question about why they selected the name he said,
“…we didn’t come up with a name that we liked any better than what we’ve gone with…”
So basically he suggests they selected the name because they ran out of good ideas, or perhaps didn’t have any to begin with.
He followed this by saying…
“Naming is an incredibly incredibly tough exercise.”
…and then almost immediately said…
“…the hardest and toughest thing to ever get to is a name that everybody likes…”
…which is exactly the wrong thing to try for in the first place. What you want is to find a name that some people love and some people hate. Something that creates an identity that people care about one way or the other. (I happen to think he may have accidentally found this, but his answer suggests that he doesn’t understand the basics of creating a workable identity. ALL great brands have people who hate them passionately.
Other tidbits he offered?
“it’s cool and contemporary”
Great. Cool and contemporary basically means that they have to do this all over again in a few years to stay cool and contemporary. Remember when we thought Michael Jackson would always be cool? If the King of Pop can’t do it why would we think anyone else could? Cool moves on, and for a brand to remain cool it must constantly adapt. Coolness is the most expensive and difficult image to maintain.
Yeah, the president of the channel may have earned a few points by being honest, but did nothing to suggest he really understands what he got out of the new brand. And… if you want more proof that Syfy isn’t doing a good job with the brand. Check out the New York Post article in which Landor’s executive director denies that Landor had anything to do with the name.
In an earlier post I suggested that Landor fell down on the job by not preparing Syfy execs adequately to launch this brand. I now believe that they’ve fallen down twice. First, they were not able to get anyone ready to talk about the brand (whether or not Landor developed it or not – they were consulted and should be able to do this for any brand they are asked about, not just ones from their own minds) and then again when they deny they had anything to do with development of the brand.
Since when does a respectable branding firm not come to the aid of a client in trouble?
“While we’d love to take credit for all the branding initiatives
our clients take on,” writes Ken Runkel, executive director of Landor
Associates, the branding firm hired by Sci Fi. “We just can’t.
“Yes, we worked with the SciFi Channel, and it hired us to consult
on the project. However, Syfy was a name generated internally and
pre-tested at the channel before our involvement,” he wrote.
Does every one of Stokefire’s clients take every bit of advice we deliver? Absolutely not. That doesn’t eliminate our responsibility to defend our client and help them prepare for the pressure of a controversial brand launch.
Landor should better. Syfy isn’t a horrible brand – it still has potential. The fact that Landor isn’t moving to get the Syfy execs ready for onslaught seems to indicate that something bad happened along the way.
Anyone have any insight into why Landor is just walking away from this one?