It’s happening: The unofficial network for guys is turning into Spike, a general entertainment network for “The Ones to Watch.”
Even though Spike flipped the switch on its network rebrand rather suddenly at this year’s upfront presentation, its overall brand transition has been in the works for almost two years now.
At its March 3 upfront, Spike TV dropped the “TV,” introduced a new logo and tagline, and dedicated itself even moreso to original programming that men and women could equally enjoy.
— SPIKE (@spike) March 3, 2015
Back when Spike TV launched in 2003, the young, male-skewed network targeted an underserved audience who was leaving television in favor of video games, according to Spike’s SVP of marketing and brand creative, Terry Minogue. So for its first decade or so, Spike was a place where those demographics could find programming that related to them.
“Spike was sort of the loud guy in the bar,” said Minogue, who says that while its branding served its purpose in its time, it became “a bit too exclusive for men. It had a place at the time with really high brand awareness, but that male audience has shifted.”
Now, 12 years later, the network has found that what once was the place to “Get More Action” needed a turnaround. “You look at the old spike branding and it feels right for that audience,” said Minogue, “but as we evolved, we definitely needed a new look.”
So Spike began emphasizing programming to its lineup that encouraged co-viewing, according to Minogue, such as Bar Rescue and Ink Master, and the channel saw a huge uptick in female viewers. With more scripted shows coming to the lineup this year, the transition is heading away from guy-friendly reality toward general entertainment.
The goal is to become “broad with edge,” said Minogue, “trying to make the brand much more female friendly and accessible, but also keeping that edge.”
Spike currently has big original projects in the works, such as Thursday’s debut of Lip Sync Battle, Ben Kingsley’s Tut, Max Brooks’ Emergency Broadcast, Jillian Michael’s Sweat Ink, Pierce Brosnan’s Crusaders and Gary Oldman’s Deep Web.
A lot of this rebrand is programming-driven, launching in time for a Lip Sync Battle marketing blitz and this summer’s big debut of Tut.
“We want to bring those Spike guys along for the ride but open up the aperture,” said Minogue. “Lip Sync Battle does not seem like a show that might be on Spike TV, which is why we wanted to start with that.”
And under Spike’s new tagline, “The Ones to Watch,” it fits perfectly.
Referring largely to the personalities on its own air, “The Ones to Watch” encompasses everyone from Jon Taffer to Dave Navarro, Jillian Michaels to King Tut.
But then it’s also about Spike’s audience, a group within the adults 18-49 demographic who Minogue says “are not being afraid to appear unconventional. They consider themselves creative, not afraid to take a different path.”
“We want to go in a place more general entertainment and broader, but we still want to stand for something.”
Creatively, Spike enlisted the help of Fallon, Blue Marlin, Troika, Man Made Music and Juniper Jones for the brand identity, logo, tagline and execution.
The logo, which drops the “TV” of Spike TV in favor of a more multiplatform brand name of Spike, reflects the new direction of “broad with edge.” Losing the gold color of the old logo and sticking with stark contrasts of black and white, the new Spike logo is a bold typeface with a strike through the middle.
“We like ‘look again’ quality of the logo,” said Minogue. “It speaks to the message of the brand itself – think of Spike in a new way. We’re not what you expect anymore.”
The multiplatform idea plays out in its on-air look as well, with Juniper Jones creating new graphics that mimic mobile devices.
Animations target millennials familiar with tablets and phones – notably the swiping motion of those mobile platforms. “We started with digital to see how this works on the iPad or on the iPhone,” said Kevin Robinson, founder and executive creative director at Juniper Jones, adding that one of their rules was “no design for design’s sake.” Everything had to be simple, scalable and easily understood.
Juniper Jones also says the broadening of the network to them meant making it more approachable. So, for example, viewers will far less of Bar Rescue’s Jon Taffer imagery with his arms crossed and far more of Taffer lifting up his drink in cheers.
“We want to let footage live first,” said Robinson. “So how do we make sure that everything we use has a more authentic feel?”
With shows like the upcoming Lip Sync Battle, that job is made slightly simpler. The Tonight Show spinoff reflects an upbeat, all-inclusive side to Spike where everyone is invited to join in.
Everyone, that is, with some edge.