There are 33 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Two similar disasters worth enjoying:

    When David Bowie announced that, on one final tour, he would sing for one last time the most popular of his old songs. He rescinded the offer after the outright winner was The Laughing Gnome.

    And when Manchester City looked to name a stand in their new ground after a former player. Fans of other clubs ensured that the winning suggestion was to name it after former striker Colin Bell: The Bell End.

  2. Eloi Casali 18 Apr 2016

    So you want to engage consumers, but only if they engage on your terms. Tell me more about how real your brand is.

  3. Nick Harman 18 Apr 2016

    The perils of asking Joe Public’s opinion existed long before the interweb. Seems we never learn that it’s the idiots that always mobilise on social media not the smart people, who are usually too busy.

  4. Curvingthunder 18 Apr 2016

    Is it your suggestion that NERC’s brand was humiliated, Mark? Pomp and ceremony of yesteryear is clearly in the rear view mirror. I suspect you wrote this with tongue in cheek. Really, how terrible is it to break from the serious tradition ship naming as you described?

    As part of its term in service, Boaty McBoatface will be a traveling example of the perils of social engagement and methodology concerns. Your depiction of
    this real story is much more enjoyable and engaging than day-to-day etiquette. A departure from tradition with humour isn’t toxic.

  5. Harley Mathieson 19 Apr 2016

    I’d suggest that Boaty McBoatface is a triumph! Can’t imagine many column inches for ‘boring but expensive scientific research vessel named after mainly unknown scientific researcher’. But if some kids happen to read on after having a giggle and start to appreciate that polar exploration and research probably isn’t boring at all then it’s job done as far as I’m concerned. And never mind Hitler Did Nothing Wrong, personally, I can’t wait for a nice cold refreshing glass of Gushing Granny…

  6. Stampwood 19 Apr 2016

    Could it be that during the working life of this ship that the tradition of stuffy names for ships evolves. Britain can lead the world by naming this research vessel Boaty McBoatface. It will be memorable wherever it goes and is already having far more impact as a direct result of having a memorable name.

  7. Michelle 19 Apr 2016

    I think Boaty McBoatface is a great name, Many, many boats and vessels of the sea have humorous, or pun names. I think it is endearing and who says serious messages can not be delivered with a touch of comedy, just look at Comic Relief. Boaty McBoatface also humanises the vessel and will help the organisation to engage with a wider audience than the scientific community.

  8. As I get older I find myself increasingly starting responses with “is it me but…”
    I’m with Nick Harman ( comments below) all the way.
    Point of order on the name though the vessel in question is a ship so if I were at NERC I could disqualify “Boaty” on a technical issue, although replacing “Boaty” with “Shippy” gets interesting as well! There are times when we should all do what we get paid for and make decisions rather than spreading the blame or credit around under the veil of social interaction!!

  9. Tim Haveron Jones 19 Apr 2016

    It’s a little OTT to suggest that failing to go through with Boaty’s name would leave NERC facing a “tidal wave of negative PR and consumer disappointment”. To begin with, nobody seriously expects them to use that suggestion and any media coverage they will get when they ultimately pick a name will be (a) neutral to positive and (b) infinitely heavier than any column inches they would have got without the vote. Further, does “consumer” opinion matter to NERC? Which of their “consumers” will be disappointed?

    I would also point out that you don’t need to crowd-source to end up with a daft product name. Just ask the folk who came up with Findus Battered Cod Pieces in the 1970s.

  10. Professor_Yaffle 19 Apr 2016

    What this actually proves is that social media is about capturing people’s imagination. Now it’s up to NERC to turn that fact to their advantage.

  11. johndodds 19 Apr 2016

    Your point is valid but you’ve lead with a bad example. Unlike other debacles, nobody is attacking the “brand” here. Way back when there were fewer than 20,000 votes cast, it was clear that they had been savvy enough to make the vote non-bnding and that the public reaction was just a bit of fun.

    Whether by luck or by design, they have gained a huge amount of publicity for a ship I’d never have heard about. As for the “humiliated brand”, I still couldn’t tell you what exploratory body is behind it and I’m sure most people couldn’t either but we’ll all be drawn towards it when they next choose to publicise it.

  12. Larry Taylor 19 Apr 2016

    Boaty McBoatface is possibly one of the biggest WINS for research science EVER. More than ever we need accessible, lovable, interesting and humble science. Imagine the cost of attracting this much attention for the NERC. Imagine creating a campaign that allowed citizens to care and laugh about serious science. Imagine people actually listened to climate change science without doubt and fear. Or vaccinations, or homeopathy, or genetic engineering. This should a be turning point for all serious scientists. Embrace Boaty with both latex gloved hands. And thank the public for caring about science again. Greenpeace were right to name Mr. Splashy Pants for all these reasons and for the anthropomorphic pay-back of a creature doomed to hunting and possible extinction.

  13. Anthony Kambourian 19 Apr 2016

    Eh? do i feel like we’ve stepped back in time and it’s 1960’s NewYorkDon Draper talking

  14. Mark Batchelor 19 Apr 2016

    I don’t believe that NERC has suffered from this exercise. It was clear from the outset that it was a poll for suggestions, and the final poll winner would not be the guaranteed final name chosen. Most people who read about this or participated recognised the fun element that was generated from the suggestions and the irreverent humour it represented, as it generated wave after wave of votes.

    I do agree that giving free reign to ‘public participation’ is always fraught with dangers if not managed and responded to appropriately. However, in this instance the prompt and relaxed response from NERC acknowledging the ‘fun’ that the name ‘Boaty’ and others caused highlighted their understanding and acceptance that when you invite participation online and through social media, you have to accommodate the unexpected.

    Given the media exposure and the highlighting of the UK investing in researching the polar regions, the oceans, and our environment, I think very few will begrudge NERC if they don’t go with ‘Boaty McBoatface’. However, this whole exercise and NERC’s willingness to respond in good humour has opened the doors to build a highly meaningful dialogue about the environmental issues that shape our world and our individual responsibilities as a school child, a student, parent, professional, campaigner, policymaker, or scientist.

  15. 2 points:
    1) Almost peed my pants at this “…opening up the delightful possibility that, in the not so distant future, Mister Splashy Pants will be swimming alongside Boaty McBoatface somewhere off eastern Antarctica.”
    2) If no one, or the majority, have either never heard of your brand or don’t care about your brand, then any kind of engagement is going to require caveats and barriers to farcical outcomes.
    Product namings or anything that’s going to stick with you (potentially) for a while, shouldn’t be left to strangers. If the NERC had only opened up voting to its members (if it is indeed a membership organization)… maybe the outcome would have been more aligned with their brand. #JustSayin

  16. Steve Antony Williams 19 Apr 2016

    Who cares? Marketing “gurus” deserve what they get, it’s a profession of scum, up there with estate agents, recruitment consultants and the media.

  17. AdamFairclough 19 Apr 2016

    They have nothing to be embarrassed about. And it’s not a ‘branding disaster’. It reflects British eccentricity and could work hugely in their favour. I think you’ve misunderstood this situation.

  18. JamieRyan 20 Apr 2016

    124,109 votes sounds pretty engaged to me. I’d like to see how many people would actually care about this story or vessel if it was going to be called something serious…

  19. Dom Graham 20 Apr 2016

    Could it be the case that by embracing this name (and I don’t believe you can say that the impetus behind this name was the same as Mountain Dew’s horror show) they can own any ‘negative’ PR? It might actually endear people to what they actually do – people may have an interest in what happens after the naming because it’s fairly jovial. The way you could spin this would be with a follow up campaign about ‘the adventures’ of Boaty McBoatface on its travels.

  20. Andrew Speed 20 Apr 2016

    What about the possibilities of funding research – globally with the Boaty McBoatface Brand? Kids will buy into it and then gain an interest in science, blimey even TV would commission a series..merchandise etc. NERC need a reality and sense of humour injection, get rid of the snobbery and embrace it. After all aren’t some of the people who voted potentially new patrons and a great source of donations…then again what do I know?

  21. Al King 21 Apr 2016

    Bit of a storm in a tea cup this one. Just because you crowd source names doesn’t mean you have to use them. You pick one that’s on brand and appropriate. The rest is just social babble and good PR.

  22. hackenslash 21 Apr 2016

    It’s interesting that you classify any of these as branding disasters, when every single instance constitutes a wave of publicity for these brands. What marketing firm do you work for again? I want to be sure I give my marketing business to somebody who has a clue.

    Here’s a robust defence of Boaty McBoatface:

  23. Berenice Mann 25 Apr 2016

    I agree with some of the other comments below – this is a win for NERC – they are not a consumer facing organisation – who of the non-science public had even heard of them before this great piece of FREE publicity? Now people will want to know what Boaty gets up to – if the result = more public engagement with science then job done, well done James Hand and good luck to NERC!

  24. Bertie1972 25 Apr 2016

    I think you have missed the point on this, in fact, your description of ‘the sarcastic, brand-hating bastards that populate the planet ‘ in this instance is also completely off. There are a lot of people that would be happy to see an almost cartoon like name, not unlike all of the animals and machines that now populate children’s TV with happy, fun names and faces, grace an otherwise invisible, dull and unheard of vessel. The idea of using the name as fundraising mentioned above is a brilliant idea. Perhaps you have spent too much time in cynical brand marketing and lost sight of the fact that people don’t always want worthy marketing and sometimes just want some happiness in the world.

  25. The Ed 6 May 2016

    Couldn’t agree more. But perhaps some people secretly prefer to be a little snooty and keep out the plebs.

  26. Hi Mark, I love your articles, but I have to disagree with your title “Boaty McBoatface proves the public would rather humiliate your brand than engage with it” – I would have to say it proves nothing of the kind. What IMHO it does prove is that so many corporate bosses and marketing heads are so up tight and take their brands and products so damn seriously that they have completely lost touch with ‘the person on the street’.

    Most of us do not live in this rather odd 1950’s style TV interpretation of how the world looks. Most people are just out there going about their business and trying to enjoy themselves, whilst trying not to take things too seriously, unless they actually are really serious. They don’t really care if they drink Coke or Pepsi or wash with Dove or Zest. Of course, we all have our ‘preferences’ which can change, but at the end of the day, brands just don’t feature anywhere near as highly in peoples lives as brand managers think. That is why brand marketing is so important and why some get it right and some get it wrong.

    Personally I think their biggest mistake was not to call it Boaty McBoatface, it bet more people would follow its travels if they did.

  27. Simon Taylor 10 Jun 2016

    Yeah, I know I’m late commenting on this but…..well, no but, just. I’m late. Live with it. Fun renamings are nothing exclusive to Crowdsourcing – they’re just more visible now. When I was a student many millennia ago at Sheffield Polytechnic the Student Union thought that they should rename some of their Union rooms. The building was already the Nelson Mandela Building and there were various other buildings and rooms named after other political and social giants(The Steve Biko Suite for example) and so they presumably thought that tradition would be maintained by the politically savvy and aware student body. As a result of this stunning lack of awareness the Television room in the Student Union was officially christened the Yosemite Sam room…..

  28. Jason Chastain 16 Aug 2017

    Thanks for sharing these, Ritson. I haven’t laughed that hard all year. I happen to find trolls incredibly inventive when seeking to drop the smack on a brand, and the “Hitler did nothing wrong” still has me dying with laughter.

  29. jesse gilbert 15 Feb 2018

    Lol. Hehehehe

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