Friday, July 10, 2009

How To Destroy Brand Equity

A perfect example of how to destroy brand equity is playing out this month in the Entertainment arena. The SciFi Channel, with much flair and fanfare, has rolled out what it thought was a brilliant re-branding initiative.

They changed their name to SyFy and tagged it with a new slogan: "Imagine Greater"

If you are not a SciFi fan, you're probably scratching your head already. "Imagine what?" you might be saying. And SyFy... pronounced siffy? ...or what??

The marketing geniuses (and I use the term sarcastically in this case) decided with the name, SyFy, pronounced according to them the same way as SciFi, was a necessary change so they could "own" the name as a trademark for merchandising, etc.

They also believed it would allow them to widen their market.

As they put it:
By changing the name to Syfy, which remains phonetically identical, the new brand broadens perceptions and embraces a wider range of current and future imagination-based entertainment beyond just the traditional sci-fi genre, including fantasy, supernatural, paranormal, reality, mystery, action and adventure. It also positions the brand for future growth by creating an ownable trademark that can travel easily with consumers across new media and nonlinear digital platforms, new international channels and extend into new business ventures.

They further state that they are not "abandoning our legacy or our core audience" but rather the new name now "invites more people in and recognizes our broader range of programming with literally something for everyone."

Well, a large percentage of their core audience appears to disagree with them.

One commenter wrote:
I am glad to see that amidst this economic crisis a safe haven exists, employing people not worth a dime.

For the rest of the world, which generally is not into random leetspeak, the new name will sound more as if it was the Syphilis channel.
Once that buzz gets around, it's pretty difficult to imagine people walking around in SyFy t-shirts, or any other merchandising garb.

Other comments from "this IS pathetic" to "utterly ridiculous" flowed into their marketing website where they made the announcement -- some quite angry -- the vast majority negative. [link - opens in new window] In fact, it was difficult to find a positive response to the announcement.

The lesson in all of this?

One of the Top 20 Rebranding Mistakes in an article written by Rebrand is: Not leveraging existing brand equity and goodwill.
Dismissing brand equity when rebranding alienates established customers, while unnecessary overhauls can irreparably damage a brand’s perception. Consider the needs and mindset of the target market carefully before digging into the process. Sometimes a small evolution - or a new coat of paint - is all that’s needed to rejuvenate and make a brand relevant.

It remains to be seen whether the former SciFi -- now SyFy -- Channel will succeed in their rebranding efforts. I wish them luck, but have serious doubts. As many commentors have said, and I tend to agree, it really does sound like the short form for Syphilis. I won't be buying the hat.

No comments: