In January of 2016, ABC Family officially changed their name to Freeform. This is not the first, second, or even the third time the network has rebranded.
The network began in 1977 as the CBN Satellite Service and went through a rebranding in 1988 with the change to the CBN Family Channel. Two years later, in 1990, the name was changed to The Family Channel, and then in 1998, Fox Kids bought the channel and renamed the network Fox Family. The common theme with this network is it has always had the word family in its title. This trend continued in 2001 when Disney bought the network and changed the name to ABC Family, a name that has continued for the past 14 years.
In 2006, ABC Family began a new campaign ABC Family: A New Kind of Family with the launch of new shows like Secret Life of the American Teenager and Greek, shows that take a deeper look into the lives of the millennial target market.
The latest rebranding was announced in October of 2015 and started to be advertised during ABC Family’s “25 Days of Christmas.” Throughout December, the network launched the ABC Family is changing its name to #Freeform campaign, with promotional videos and statements from the stars of their most popular shows. The idea behind the rebrand is to adapt to a growing audience and appeal to a new audience.
Pros and Cons of the Rebrand
- The name change makes sense. The most popular shows on the network are moving away from “family friendly” and are tailored to the teenage group. Eliminating the word family from the title remedies the perception gap.
- The use of the stars of their most popular shows (Pretty Little Liars, The Fosters, Baby Daddy) to help promote the name change draws attention and helps show the change in a positive light.
- The logo is not the most appealing. The logo is pretty simple despite the possibilities associated with the name.
- Name choice confusion. A lot of people are confused with why the name Freeform was chosen. According to the network, Freeform means “what fuels the passion in your life,” which isn’t really the first thing you think of when you hear Freeform. While the marketing behind the name is a good idea, the name itself is not.
Usually, when a network rebrands it means they are not connecting with their audience, but this is not the case with the ABC Family to Freeform rebrand. The rebranding was done in order to expand the connection with the viewers, and they have done that by labeling a new target audience, the “becomers.” A “becomer” is anyone between the ages of 14-34, who are in the process of becoming a fully developed person. According to their description, this is the time when you are experiencing all the firsts in your life, from your first kiss to your first love to you first job to your first kid. You are in the process of becoming who you will be, and the shows on the network reflect this time period.
Rebranding can help businesses find their target audience and help them understand themselves a bit better. But if your company is considering a rebrand, take a few lessons from ABC.