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
NASA has turned to the internet for help in naming the newly discovered Trappist-1 exoplanets.
When the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) innocently queried the internet in search of a name for their new polar research ship, the web responded gleefully, and NERC got more of a response than they bargained for. They also got a name they hadn’t bargained for: Boaty McBoatface. Although their response was something along the lines of, “Ha, ha. Very funny. We’re naming the boat the RRS Sir David Attenborough,” it drew the world’s attention to the work done by NERC. (As a consolation prize of sorts, NERC bestowed the more awesome moniker on one of the ship’s remotely operated underwater vehicles.)
Now NASA, fresh off their own exciting announcement of the discovery of the seven earth-ish Trappist-1 exoplanets — and obviously having a sense of humor — has turned to the internet for naming assistance. They’ve asked people to suggest names on Twitter using #7NamesFor7NewPlanets. And guess what’s going on.
Obviously, people suggested names from Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, the Star Wars universe, and characters from Harry Potter. On a touching note, several people tweeted sets of seven NASA astronauts to be memorialized. And of course, ask a stupid question...