Crowd-sourcing Naming Fails

March 29, 2016

We love crowd-sourcing. It is a great platform for brands and individuals to fund or generate ideas for projects that might not ever happen if the platform didn’t exist. We have recently seen a trend of brands turning to crowd-sourcing for help in naming products or events, firstly by submitting ideas and then letting the population vote on their favourite. This process is a great way to build social engagement and brand recognition and to truly reflect customer preferences. But the internet is cruel and brands must remember that trolls are lurking around every corner. People will vote for anything, not always with the brand best interests at heart. Here are a couple of crowd-sourcing fails of late.

NERC #nameourship

The UK National Environment Research Council turned to crowd-sourcing to name its $300 million Antarctic polar survey vessel. The brief was refined and directional: “An inspirational name that reflects the ship’s importance and perhaps gives a nod to its role in science by referencing famous British scientists and explorers”. And the winning name, with over 21,000 votes: Boaty McBoatface. The competition is still running, you can still submit and vote for your favourite, we are looking forward to seeing if NERC choose the crowd favourtie.

Greenpeace Whale Fail

Environmental warriors Greenpeace in a bid to educate audiences about migrating whales, hosted a competition to name the humpbacks. Within the top ten there were some meaningful names, such as Aiko, Libertad, Mira, Aurora and Shanti. But the winning name, with over 119,000 votes, was Mister Splashy Pants. Greenpeace honoured the voting system and gracefully accepted the winning name, thanking audiences for making the competition so much fun.

The Austin Garbage Dump

While this naming competition happened over five years ago, the humour that came with it will never be forgotten. The city of Austin Texas put the search out for it’s citizens to rename its Solid Waste Services department, in hope of focusing the brand on more environmentally-friendly, sustainable practices. Apart from an unsurprising number of puns referencing waste, the winning entry was just as cheese: “Fred Durst Society of the Humanities and Arts”. The student that came up with the ingeniousus title, Kyle Hentges stated “We’re all cleaning up each other’s shit every day, and I thought naming the department after Durst would surround the unflattering service with some humour. We’re picking up garbage and he’s been producing it for 20 years, it made sense.” Unfortunately the creative name wasn’t used, instead the council going with boring old Austin Resource Recovery.

Although these naming strategies make for a good story, the moral of the exercise is crowdsourcing can be a great way to build social engagement and brand recognition, but if you aren’t ready to run with the crowd favourites crowd-sourcing can end up being an epic publicity failure.

Source: Greenpeace, NERC, TIME, Brandchannel, Austinist, Talk About Creative