Rebranding ain’t pretty business, folks

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jabbathehuttrotjDid you hear the one about how Pizza Hut is going to change its name to simply “The Hut?”

Well, it isn’t true. At least, it isn’t the whole truth: The company has been test-marketing a secondary brand, dropping the word “Pizza” from its logo in some cases as it expands its menu and tries to appeal to a younger, more mobile generation. Mobile as in mobile phones. As in texting.

When will executives be able to embrace technology without being so totally in awe of it that it must define everything they do?

It’s that same thought process behind the decision of NBC Universal’s Sci Fi Channel to change its name to Syfy starting July 7. They, too, stand on the precipice of a brave, new world of rebranding.

“While continuing to embrace our legacy and our core audience, we needed to cultivate a distinct point of view with a name that we could own that invites more people in and reflects our broader range of programming,” Sci Fi Channel president Dave Howe said in the original announcement. “Syfy allows us to build on our 16 year heritage of success with a new brand built on the power that fuels our genre: the Imagination. Syfy ushers in a new era of unlimited imagination, exceptional experiences and greater entertainment that paves the way for us to truly become a global lifestyle brand.”

nup_132198_0003The rebranding, announced in March, has led to more head-scratching than the last two Pirates of the Caribbean movies — combined. Instead of focusing their resources on, say, improving the quality of their content and avoiding James Bond and Mork & Mindy marathons (it’s true), the suits have decided to change up the packaging and hope their channel will be cool again.

News flash: Science fiction isn’t supposed to be “cool.” That’s kind of the point.

But the network’s new “Imagine Greater” advertising campaign is well under way, along with promotion of the new series Warehouse 13 and new season of Eureka. Executives at the network tout the former as a “highly anticipated new series” and the latter as their “most watched scripted series.” But really, they’re just two more programs that, when they achieve any amount of mainstream appeal, will be canceled because the cast deserves too much money. And then the head honchos will feel the need to rebrand. Again.

With decisions like these, it’s really no wonder NBC didn’t stand a chance when it came to holding onto Doctor Who or snagging its spinoff, Torchwood. While some may say they belong on BBC America anyway, Who really classed up Sci Fi for a while, and the channel was Americans’ introduction to the relaunched classic. It was actual science fiction, not a lame “reality” show like Ghost Hunters or Scare Tactics.

“Imagine Greater.” That’s what we’re supposed to do while we watch reruns of successes and failures, plus increasingly lame attempts at “original” programming. It will take great imagination to pretend their lineup is anything else.

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