CRM McCRMface – Comms Breakdown or Genius?

26 Apr 2016

Getting public opinion is a great way of marketing a project you are working on or rating the effectiveness of a product or service you provide.

But like most things in business much care and attention needs to go into planning such a thing, as there can be a lot of risk attached to any public communications.

Take for example the recent online poll for the naming of the Natural Environment Research Council’s new polar research ship. After weeks of voting and online social media uproar, 124,109* people voted for the ship to be called ‘Boaty McBoatface’ – LOL!

What were NERC’s intentions when they made this naming open to the public?

It could be argued that if NERC wanted a serious response to the competition, would it not have been a better idea to email their followers with a private online survey? This could have ensured a more sombre reaction perhaps. However, it would have restricted the reach of the campaign…

…So instead they chose to do an online poll open to the public!?!

The internet can give a company the ability to easily reach out to a wider audience and fast. With the right message you can get a lot of traction very quickly, especially if it relates directly with a people’s emotions by being either amusing, political, charitable, or entertaining. Therefore, this competition easily took a turn for the better (as it got a huge amount of coverage) and worse (as people may have taken the silliness a little too far) when BBC radio presenter James Hand made the suggestion of ‘Boaty McBoatface’.

So was this a communication breakdown or pure marketing genius?

I can honestly say that when reading the countless articles about this poll’s results I had not heard of NERC. I had no idea about their polar mission and the fact that the ship was to be both built in the Northern town of Birkenhead, UK and is planned to be ‘the most advanced oceanographic research vessel fleet in the world’**.

It turns out this ship is going to have state-of the-art capabilities to give new insights into how fragile the polar environment is, and help us to understand better the effects of climate change and the global rising sea-levels. So, I think it’s pretty important socially and environmentally that we are aware of this mission!

Of course this poll has become a little silly and not all people would have had the level of interest in the actual mission as I have, but it feels like good coverage to me. At the end of the day, within the rules for the competition NERC stated that they had the final say to the naming of the research ship. Therefore lets face it, the competition was marketing gold, the popular phrase ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’ springs to mind.

So what can be learnt from Boaty McBoatface?

If you are going to launch a public campaign like NERC did, go bold or go home! Be aware of the risks involved when communicating on such a potentially grand scale and cover your back. Do not be afraid of the public. With the right idea you can stir up a huge amount of social energy which can point all sorts of traffic to your business.

Even if it seems silly at the time human nature is fun, compassionate and at times amusing; use this as a positive to feed traction within your marketing campaigns.

Hats off to NERC. They have planted a seed in the minds of thousands of people that they want to be part of the world of social media and care what the public think. This could prove incredibly powerful when their environmental results come in and they need public support in years to come politically.

Sources: * **