When crowd sourcing goes wrong

25Mar09

You can imagine the marketing team at NASA sitting round a table thinking how can we get more people involved and excited about space (aside: anyone remember similar plot in the Simpsons). Either way, this creative bunch decided, ‘what better way than to ask the crowd what shall we name our new room in the space station?’

Genius.

…or so they thought.

What should have turned into a considered and thought provoking discussion with possibilities suggested by NASA including Serenity, Legacy and Venture turned into little more than a farce.

What happened was that comedian Stephen Colbert persuaded 230,539 of his Colbert Report viewers to vote instead on his last name. The result, he easily defeated the next closest contender by 40,000 votes. Nearly 1.2 million votes were cast overall.

What should NASA do now, overrule the crowd and pick their own name (which could cause more resentment) or stick with it? It’s a tough call… but not one that is unique.

I remember several years ago when Manchester City football club asked the crowd to help them name their new stand – there was a list of choices for people to pick. What they didn’t anticipate was that the vote would be hijacked by their main rivals (Manchester United) with disastrous and comedic results. In case you were wondering the new stand is called the Bell End (after Colin Bell).

What is the learning from this?

Never trust the crowd hasn’t got a sick sense of humour?

Or – be weary about what you ask, ask you may have to live the consequences.

Disclaimer: Edelman run the PR for Manchester City)
Disclaimer 2: I support Manchester United but have not been asked to work on the MCFC account.



One Response to “When crowd sourcing goes wrong”

  1. Similarly, one of Clay Shirky’s recent examples on the drawbacks of crowdsourcing is Obama’s website allowing people to choose the first main issue to address when he took office. They overlooked iraq, medicare and the economy; choosing the legalisation of medical marijuana instead….


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