The History of Rebranding Failures: The SyFy Channel

For many people, the SyFy Channel might just be one of those channels you surf by, always skipping it…but on occasion, something interesting might be on. And for that person, the one that is unfamiliar with the channel, they might think to themselves: What an odd way to spell sci-fi.

For those handful of people that may not know what “sci-fi” (and poor, poor things they are) is, it’s the well-known and almost-always used abbreviation for science fiction. And the SyFy Channel is the only network on cable television that airs only science-fiction programs.

We can learn a pretty harsh rebranding lesson from the SyFy Channel. When they were first put on the air, they were the Sci-Fi Channel. They had a neat little logo with a planet with rings (assumed to be Saturn) and everything. The network was never insanely popular, but it did okay. Eventually, some of their original programming really started to take off.

So it seemed odd to many of the network’s fans when they changed the name of the network from The Sci-Fi Channel to SyFy.

NBC Universal Logos

This was a bad branding idea on several accounts. First, “syfy” is a sort of slang term for syphilis in many parts of the world. A little basic research might have uncovered this and caused them to rethink things.

Still, there were valid reasons for the change, according to network executives. Mainly, they could not trademark the term “sci-fi” but with SyFy, they had an acronym that was all theirs. Secondly, they wanted to seem modern in a time where everyone texted. And according to feedback from polls, the new name was how most people would text “sci-fi.”

Want to see how it turned out? Just Google “new Sci-Fi logo” or “SyFy logo.” You’ll quickly see that to say the reaction was negative is something of an understatement. To this day, the logo is ridiculed and made fun of.

And the network has stuck with it.

Any thoughts and opinions on this sort of action? Is it necessary or was this SyFy’s attempt at trying to do too much without properly preparing?

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