The legend of Boaty McBoatface: Lessons in brand management from a colossal failure

Boaty McBoatface could have been a billion-dollar brand that re-invigorated science education, but now its epic failure is a lesson for the rest of us.

In March 2016, the British Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) decided to crowdsource the name of its new $300 million arctic explorer vessel. It hoped the public would suggest something like 'Shackleton' or 'Endeavor', but the moment someone suggested the name 'Boaty McBoatface', it went viral and shot to the top of the poll. The NERC had the right idea in harnessing the power of crowds, explains Henry Timms, executive director of the 92nd Street Y in New York, but it lacked the skills needed to pull it off. Instead of turning Boaty McBoatface into an opportunity to revive science education and merchandise Boaty, it shut the idea down, canceled the competition and named the ship 'Sir David Attenborough'. "There’s a set of very clear skills in how you go about harnessing the crowd. And you look around the world right now, any corporation, any nonprofit, any leader who wants to come out on top needs to think a lot more carefully about how they negotiate with the crowd," says Timms. Here, he shares the four key components of successful crowdsourcing and brand building, and explains how Lego used those methods to pull itself out of near-bankruptcy and up to new heights. Henry Timms is the co-author of New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World-and How to Make It Work for You

Technology & Innovation

David Attenborough Narrates an Animated Adventure Series For Kids

Don't work with children or animals? Sir David Attenborough laughs in the face of danger.

Animated Attenborough. (Image: CBeebies 'Storytime' app, illustrated by Will Rose)

Sir David Attenborough’s adventures are being retold. His time in nature exploring the nooks and crannies of wildlife will now be featured on Storytime, an app with 2.4 million downloads, that is designed for toddlers. With Attenborough’s narration, the Storytime app run by CBeebies (a BBC television network for the under six age group) aims to help young children learn how to read on their iOS and Android screens.

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