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Posted on Fri 2nd Sep, 2016 in: Culture, Influence, Marketing, Public Relations, Reputation Management by Rebecca Armstrong

After issuing the first set of 25,000 cards out to its customers, start-up bank Mondo recently came up against a legal trademark dispute, forcing it to change its brand name. Naturally Mondo turned to its crowd - a loyal following of tech-savvy devotees - and invited customers to come up with new names for the brand on Twitter with the hashtag #NewMondo. After over 12,500 suggestions and 4,000 unique names within a reported 48 hours, last week CEO Tom Blomfield announced on YouTube that the bank's new name would be 'Monzo'. For Mondo the committee approach to brand crowdsourcing seems to have paid off, resulting in thousands of customers engaging in the creative exercise, media coverage and a new name that fits the legal and brand criteria. But should customer engagement and media coverage be a factor when it comes to the re-branding process? And is this type of engagement worth sidestepping the creative brand experts and their years of experience, training and insight? There's no doubt that crowdsourcing brand ideas - especially something as important as a company name - is risky. But brands are created to build a connection and reputation with a target audience - be it consumers, stakeholders or business - so if crowdsourcing can increase loyalty and engagement as a brand starts out or develops, surely it's a no-brainer? The answer is that it depends on the company, the audience and the end objectives. For Monzo, which has relied heavily on its community from the start, bringing its customers in to its brand decisions made sense. After all, it's Monzo's customers who raised £9 million to start the company in the first place. So as it looks to raise further funds and compete with challenger banks from Atom to Tandem, engagement is crucial. But crowdsourcing shouldn't just be about social media interactions, media coverage and the hope of going viral. Yes, it's a bonus if it happens but only when it's for the right reasons. For example some could argue that without 'Boaty McBoatface', which sent the Natural Environment Research Council's naming poll viral, the boat would never have got the recognition or awareness it did. But we've got to look at what it influenced. Whilst I enjoyed the name immensely, do people know more about the vessel and the research it's conducting as a result? Probably not. And whilst Boaty McBoatface was a harmless bit of fun, for some brands it can be much more damaging. Look at Mountain Dew. When it asked the public to name its new flavour back in 2012, the campaign was hijacked by message board 4chan, which made sure the name 'Hitler did nothing wrong' won the poll. A brand disaster and another reason marketing teams must have an understanding of the 'crowd' and trust that they will do the right thing before turning to crowdsourcing. Mondo managed the risk by setting clear guidelines; that the name must begin with 'M' to protect the company logo, that it should work across languages and cultures and must not be 'Banky McBankface'. And whilst it received suggestions including Mayonnaise and Macaroni, Mondo went with a one letter name change suggested by just five of the thousands of people who got involved - not necessarily chosen by the 'crowd' but a good solution which fit the brand and legal requirements and resulted in the engagement it has always been about. So, if you're thinking about crowdsourcing for your brand, or anything else for that matter, ask yourself:
  • Are we doing it for the right reasons?
  • Does it make sense for our brand to be collaborative?
  • Does our audience understand our brand enough to shape it for the future?
  • Will it result in better brand ideas?
If so, take a leaf out of Mondo's book and hopefully the customer engagement, interactions and media coverage will follow!

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