Quick: Which cable network invites you to "laugh more" and which one wants you to "stay hungry"?
If you said Comedy Central and Food Network, you'd be wrong (it's actually TV Land and Cooking Channel). But then again, it's hard to keep track of the cable world these days. After all, who would have guessed that chef Anthony Bourdain's gorging-and-globetrotting show would soon be not on Food Network or Travel Channel, but CNN?
As the cable landscape has changed dramatically, so too have networks' branding challenges. When there were just a handful of cable networks, it was easy to sort your news from your reality channels. But as choices proliferate and programming blurs, networks are increasingly introducing revamped slogans and logos to set them apart.
"There's a lower attribution of shows to networks than ever before, and because of this, networks' logos and taglines have become even more important," said Craig Woerz, co-managing partner and co-founder of Media Storm, a media and marketing agency.
Cable nets use new taglines and logos not only to attract new viewers and invigorate loyalists, but to send a message to advertisers and affiliates that there's been a shift in focus either on the programming side or the audience the network is attracting, said Sam Wilson, managing director of Wolff Olins.
That is , of course, if the branding resonates.
Lifetime's new logo, a bright pink circle with a swoosh-like design in the middle, has been a hot topic among marketing experts since its introduction May 2.
The circle evokes a Zen symbol, and some suggested it could be used for a yoga brand. "I don't know what Lifetime's logo is ; it looks like a yin-yang sign," said John Allen, a branding expert who runs Highbridge Consulting in Clinton, Conn.
Actually, the swirl in the middle is a stylized L. It replaces Lifetime the longtime logo that was simply the network's name in cursive. However, the new tagline, "Your life. Your time," does seem like it would feel equally at home at a yoga retreat as it does at the women's-focused cabler.
"We chose a logo that we feel we can grow with. If it felt right for us right now, it wasn't the one," said Nancy Dubuc, president at History and Lifetime networks. "We wanted to be able to grow into it."
E! Entertainment's new tagline, "Pop of Culture," is also raising questions.
"I don't know what that means," said Gary Lico, founder of CableU, which studies the cable industry.
The network's president, Suzanne Kolb, explained it this way: "Other networks may use a new tagline or logo to redefine their brand, but we are doing it to rally our audience around what we already stand for. We are your 'pop of culture.'"
To accompany the tagline, E! tweaked the logo design, which will continue to include its iconic exclamation point.
"A logo is beyond critical for brands, especially since there's no longer one single platform," Ms. Kolb said. "We need to be able to have a name and a mark out there that stands out and is clear on any platform."
TV Land also introduced a reimagined logo last month to complement the new tagline it began using late last year.
The logo and tagline, "Laugh More," are driven by TV Land's shift in programming, said President Larry Jones. The network, which was once a programming block during Nick at Night, became famous for airing classic TV shows such as "Bewitched" and "I Dream of Jeannie."
But with the premiere of "Hot in Cleveland" in 2010, things began to evolve. TV Land now has five original sitcoms as well as syndicated runs of more modern comedies such as "King of Queens."
"So much has changed, and revamping our logo and tagline is a direct cue to our audience that we are changing," Mr. Jones said.
At TV Land, its tagline is serving as a litmus test for its programming. "We want our audience to laugh more, so in any decision we make we ask ourselves does this do what we have promised? It gives us parameters for what we should be buying and creating."
BET and sibling network Centric will also introduce a campaign for their new slogans, "We Got You" and "What's Good," respectively, in the next two weeks.
While cable networks say the new logos and taglines are meant to reflect the "growing up" of their channels, branding expert Adam Hanft, founder and CEO of Hanft Projects, said radically altering branding could also signify weakness to advertisers.
Mr. Hanft calls these redesigns marketing ploys. "These are things marketers do because that 's what they are paid to do, but [advertisers] are increasingly making buys based on more granular numbers."