Naming a product or service is a significant part of its success in the marketplace. Because of the importance and longevity of the name, companies spend sizable budgets on hiring the best agencies to create brand names that are marketable and memorable. But sometimes, companies choose another path.
Crowdsourcing – the act of obtaining information or input into a particular task or project by enlisting the services of a large number of people, either paid or unpaid, typically via the Internet – was officially coined in a 2006 Wired Magazine article and added to The Oxford English Dictionary in 2013. Many companies have used this method of obtaining information to reduce costs, learn from their target audience, and encourage new, fresh ideas. Established consumer brands such as Coca-Cola, Doritos, and Budweiser have successfully crowdsourced marketing campaigns, going as far as having consumers create advertisements for the Super Bowl.
While there have been several success stories, crowdsourcing certainly has its downside. When asking the online community for their thoughts, little regulation and quality can be significantly diminished. Brands are learning, from theirs or others’ mistakes, what and how they can successfully crowdsource. While consumers’ input has shown to be very useful in generating new flavors or genuine reactions to their products, they might not be as helpful in name ideation:
Mountain Dew has to Apologize for “Losing to the Internet: When the soft drink Brand Mountain Dew ran their ‘Dub the Dew’ contest in 2012, things certainly could have gone better. The online poll ended up being topped by names as ridiculous as “Diabeetus” and simply “Soda,” but it also took a dark turn with plenty more offensive suggestions as well. Eventually, the poll was shut down, and Mountain Dew apologized.
Boaty McBoatface: The Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) took the Internet to name their new polar research vessel. The Internet came up with “Boaty McBoatface.” An obtuse choice, to be sure, but NERC decided they were better served to be in on the joke instead of fighting it. Ultimately naming the ship the RSS David Attenborough (which was at least a choice that received a fair number of votes in the same poll) after the famous British broadcaster and naturalist, NERC did end up issuing a consolation prize of sorts by naming “a smaller autonomous underwater vehicle” Boaty McBoatface.
Australia Rebels Against one of its National Treasures, Vegemite: When Kraft Foods rolled out a new version of their beloved Australian spread, Vegemite, they decided to let the fans name their product. “The winner, as coined by an Australian web developer who, by his admission, had his tongue planted firmly in his cheek: iSnack 2.0.” The team at Vegemite seemed oblivious to the joke, though, with the head of corporate affairs at Kraft saying, “Vegemite iSnack2.0 was chosen based on its personal call to action, relevance to snacking, and clear identification of a new and different Vegemite to the original.” After a significant amount of backlash, Kraft finally ended up conducting another customer poll (this time with names controlled by Kraft themselves), and the name was changed to ‘Cheesybite.’
While it is important to create a buzz and get consumers excited about upcoming products or services, Brand naming is best reserved for experts who have built methodologies that guarantee a world-class name that will drive the accomplishment of the overall Brand from launch to legacy.