Rebranding comedy: New York studio’s identity for IFC

A comedy network that champions authentic and unique series’ like Portlandia and Comedy Bang! Bang!, America’s IFC heralds its content as being “Always on. Slightly off.” New York-based studio, Gretel, were asked to rebrand the niche comedy network to make a clear break from the brand’s legacy as the Independent Film Channel and raise some awareness about their new, expanded slate.

Challenging the codes and conventions of broadcast storytelling, the network feature indie productions alongside fan-favourite films and revived cult tv shows, while also providing coverage of events like South By Southwest. Gretel begin by explaining that “we started with a thorough brand audit. We met with everyone: Marketing, On-Air, Off-Air, Digital, Social, Scheduling, Research, Programming… everyone. Each team knew their brand; even if it was on an intangible, emotional, instinctual level. There was a clear sense in every department of what felt like IFC and what didn’t. Our challenge was codifying that nebulous IFC-ness into brand tenets, guidelines and language.”

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Turning a concept into a context, “thinking of IFC as a venue became a through-line: billing talent, promoting the acts, curating the movie selection and being careful never to steal the spotlight from the headliners. This core idea informed all aspects of the design, from the logo to the endpage layouts, even the typography. Honing the ‘Slightly Off’ brand voice led to re-thinking the use of language on the network as a whole; from title cards to promo structures.”

Borrowing from the realm of the internet, “a stamp system for organizing and branding content, insider language, top 5 lists, meme-like IDs; slicing our content through different filters keeps our promotion sticky, unconventional, Slightly Off. A crisp, clear graphic language lets the voice shine through. Hundreds of movies, 6 Original comedies, 3 colors, 2 typefaces, and one singing couch: IFC.”

When articulating the refreshed brand, “sharpening the ‘Slightly Off’ IFC voice was our first challenge. Specifically, imbuing the brand with a personality that didn’t compete with the content. Eventually we boiled it down to 3 key tenets: We’re Direct, We’re Big Fans, and We’re Connected.

One big takeaway from our brand audit was the traction that the digital and social teams were pulling. The IFC Blog, Facebook pages and twitter feeds were a hit with fans. The way content was parceled out in bite-sized chunks; lists, memes, quotes, it all felt fresh. It informed everything from the new voice to how we structured promos and IDs.”

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Becoming a curated space for all things funny across each platform, “Slightly Off means we always look for the unexpected take. We speak plainly and call out things that don’t necessarily need calling out. We’re constantly listing, sorting, naming, quoting. We know TV isn’t just on TV anymore, we make promos out of Tweets, point viewers to Netflix and tip them off to comedians they might like…even if they’re not on our air.”

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