Boaty McBoatface – When PR Disasters Win (and Lose) The Internet
Crowdsourcing a brand name – it happens when a digital marketer wants to engage their audience and get them invested in their product. But it’s often a very, very bad idea. Boaty McBoatface, the suggested name for the $380 Million research ship has caused an internet sensation. Julia Maddock, the Communications Director for the research organisation NERC is delighted with all the attention the “Name Our Ship” competition has drawn. This popular vote has brought the organisation plenty of attention and is being seen as a PR win. NERC has embraced the attention and handled the associated PR very well. Not every organisation is brave enough to triumph in the face of silliness. Some handle it well, some not so much!
NASA Astronauts Work Out on the Colbert
NASA, in a bid for some PR and engagement, opened an online poll to allow the public to vote on the name for its Node 3 contribution to the International Space Station. It asked the public to choose between Earthrise, Legacy, Serenity and Venture. Steven Colbert jokingly asked his fans to vote for it to be called The Colbert. A groundswell of support erupted and NASA was forced to fight off a PR disaster for refusing to name the expensive piece of equipment after a talk show host. Eventually they chose to name it “Tranquillity” sparking political discourse and some controversy. As a compromise, NASA named its T-2, the weightlessness-proof treadmill the “Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill” – or Colbert for short.
Image Credit: Space.com
Queensland University of Technology proves it just doesn’t “get” its students
When QUT, the leading science and technology university in Queensland launched its cutting edge online student portal, it attempted to engage students by offering them the chance to name it. QUT has had a bit of a chequered past with branding – many moons ago it attempted to change its core URL to a .com in a bid to prove itself all about real world training. That was a big PR mistake too. So, it encouraged its best and brightest to come up with an edgy yet respectable name. A name that screamed tech-savvy while “being down with the kids”. They chose…wait for it… Bob. Log into Bob. The university quickly shut its students down and chose the safe and dull “QUT Virtual” as its portal name
Mountain Dew’s new flavour – Gushing Granny!
Mountain Dew asked its fans to name its new “apple flavoured” soft drink. It all went to pot when suggestions including “Hitler Did Nothing Wrong”, “Diabeetus” and “Gushing Granny” all gained popularity. The real trouble started when the naming competition on their site was hacked and the banner “Mtn Dew salutes the Israeli Mossad for demolishing 3 towers on 9/11!” and a “Rick Rolling” pop-up displayed to visitors.
Meet Mr Splashy Pants, Greenpeace’s Whale Fail
Greenpeace had the very best of intentions to let the world get to know more about protecting whales on migration. Name the migrating humpbacks! They threw it open to the world and got some lovely, meaningful names like Aiko, Aurora, Shanti and Manami…. But the winner, with 150,000 votes was Mr Splashy Pants. They ran with it. The internet loved them for it. They “get” their market and turned it to a massive victory. Goooo Greenpeace!
Image Credit: www.greenpeace.org
The Austin Garbage Dump
Crowdsource the brand name they said, it’ll be great for community engagement they said… at the public servant’s social media training afternoon…. The Texas capital decided that its garbage dump needed a sexier name and threw it open to the public to come up with one. The winner? In honour of the front man for Limp Bizkit, the public voted it be named The Fred Durst Society of the Humanities and Arts. Despite the star’s endorsement of the name, the City of Austin declined to run with it.
Crowdsourcing a brand name might seem like a good idea when it comes to gaining social engagement and brand recognition but unless you’re ready to run with the results, it’s likely to be an epic PR failure!