COLUMN: On the perils of asking for naming help

Going to the public for input on naming anything from a product to a landmark is often well-intentioned but also ripe for backfiring.

Spectacularly, in some cases.

The most egregious incident I can think of is when a third party promoter held a naming contest for a new flavour of Mountain Dew, in a campaign known as ‘Dub the Dew’ back in 2012.

The concept was simple — people could go online, post their creative suggestions for this new flavour, and everyone could vote on the most popular entries.

Lets just say things didn’t exactly go as planned.

Internet trolls caught wind of the campaign and started submitting extremely offensive suggestions for this new flavour, one of which was ‘Hitler Did Nothing Wrong’.

The internet being the internet, that particular suggestion — and other similarly unpublishable ones — skyrocketed to the top of the poll, and Mountain Dew quickly realized they had an embarrassing public relations problem on their hands.

But there have also been lighter naming contests that provide a bit of levity.

Likely most famous one is the case of a British scientific research vessel, which solicited suggestions from the public and ended up with ‘Boaty McBoatface’.

Another British naming contest in Doncaster for two gritters — essentially a winter service vehicle – ended up with Gritsy-Bitsy-Teeny-Weeny-Yellow-Antislip-Machiney and David Plowie

You can’t make this stuff up.

However, now that I’ve thoroughly buried the lede, lets get to the point.

During Monday’s city council meeting, the topic of the former Tembec lands came up.

The 100 acres of property, which was purchased by the city last year at a $3 million price tag, was formerly a mill operation for Tembec that shut down in 2010.

The land is owned by the city, but is being leased out in parcels to businesses that wish to set up shop in that area. It’s an initiative that has been regularly touted by local elected officials as a key part of the city’s economic development strategy.

Staff is getting the ball rolling on planning lot configuration and an internal road network for the property, which is intended to run a corridor from the northeast side of the railway tracks through to the southwest side of the city.

With that in mind, city officials are contemplating a naming contest for that area of the city, now that Tembec has divested it’s interests from the area.

After all, it can’t be referred to as the former Tembec lands forever, can it?

Or maybe it can — there is a celebrity precedent for that.

Instead of a name, the industrial area could just be branded by a logo, or a symbol and the city could call it ‘The Lands Formerly Owned By Tembec’

But I digress.

The contest was pitched during the council meeting, which is intended to solicit creative names that recognize the area’s Indigenous history and culture, the city’s history and heritage or celebrating the natural beauty of the region.

While it wasn’t clear how suggestions would be collected, either through email, social media or an online poll, city staff would whittle down the entries to the most suitable five suggestions and bring them forward for council consideration.

Sponsorship was also bandied around, as a councillor pondered if the area could bring in revenue, similar to the naming rights of Western Financial Place for the city’s recreation facility. The idea was that an anchor business or tenet might be interested in providing their brand for naming rights to the business district.

However, at the end of the discussion, the consensus in council chambers was that it’s still too early to come up with a name for that section of town until there is further development.

Till then, feel free to brainstorm those creative name suggestions and maybe the public will eventually get a chance to have their say on what to christen that section of of the city.

Just as long as it’s more creative than ‘The Lands Formerly Owned By Tembec’.

Trevor Crawley is a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman

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