Intra McIntranet: the perils of intranet naming competitions
We’ve blogged before on the case for and against giving your intranet a name. A great way to engage users and promote adoption of a new intranet or ESN is to include employees in the naming process, with a competition. By getting them involved early you enable users to get involved in the intranet development process, build support and engagement, and get a name that really chimes with your company culture and values.
Or so the theory goes.
But as the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) recently found out, asking the public for help in naming a key brand asset isn’t without its pitfalls.
They invited the public to suggest names for its new 128m long, £200m research vessel, which will study the ice sheets, marine life and ocean currents of Antarctica. The Name Our Ship website soon crashed, with an overwhelming response in favour of… Boaty McBoatface. At the time of writing over 25,000 votes ahead of its nearest rival. The second place choice, RRS Henry Worsley, only gained 3,000 votes. Other strong contenders included “Usain Boat”, “Pingu”, and “RRS Tits McGee”.
And it’s not just the Brits who will seize an opportunity to prick the pomposity of these engagement efforts. In 2012 Slovak lawmakers overrode the public’s vote to rename a pedestrian bridge after the actor Chuck Norris, while in Austin, Texas, people tried to name the city’s waste management service after Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst.
When attempting a crowdsourced name content, your biggest risk isn’t of people suggesting mockable monikers, but rather that you’ll get a lot of sub-par entries. Branding is a difficult and complex process, and maybe it’s asking too much of a lay audience to come up with something good. The vast majority of entries will, we warn you, be absolute mince.
A central part of the problem is that your end users aren’t branding experts. Unless you work for a branding agency, in which case you’re quids in. If you ask a bunch of accountants to come up with a single word that conveys the possibilities the intranet offers while making it resonate in the context of your own organisational culture, you can hardly be surprised if they come back with a list of the usual suspects that don’t really mean anything at all (in our unscientific analysis, at least three quarters of intranets are called Insite, Hub, Pulse or iConnect/Connect)
A bevvy of rubbish entries leaves you with a couple of options; to stick with a crap sobriquet in the name of democracy, or – like NERC – disregard the popular vote, potentially damaging user engagement and sending a message that management don’t value staff input after all.
Many organisations have had success in building engagement with their intranet with an intranet naming competition. Oxfam America called their intranet Padare which means “Community Space” in Zimbabwean language Shona; this was suggested by someone in their South Africa office, and neatly encapsulates their message and international focus.
The Boaty McBoatface incident has, nonetheless, demonstrated the potential of competitions to engage people; it’s got tens of thousands of people who ordinarily wouldn’t have given a second thought to polar marine research interested.
But it’s also highlighted some of the risks competitions can bring up. If you’re going to attempt a competition, here’s some ways to minimise the risk:
- Think about the game design of the competition. You could minimise the risk of failure but running it as two separate phases – the first to solicit ideas, the second putting these to the public vote. This gives you the opportunity to filter out poor or embarrassing suggestions.
- Have a fallback; ensure you have an alternative name lined up in case your contest doesn’t deliver anything suitable
- Prime a handful of people to drop in some strong suggestions
- Make sure you promote your competition in all parts of the business
- Check proposed names carefully. Are there cultural connotations? (send it to people in other territories and ask). Can people pronounce it? Are there trademark issues?
Have you run an intranet naming competition? How did it go? What advice would you give others who are considering it? Let us know in the comments.