We’ve reported before on the use of contests in naming. The maker of Crayola products, for instance, urged crayon enthusiasts to help rename an old color, and name suggestions poured in.
For the first time in its history, Boeing encouraged people around the world to name its newest airplane. In the process, the firm reaped a public relations windfall.
After tallying 500,000 votes in more than 160 countries, Boeing announced the winner at the Paris Air Show in June 2003: “Dreamliner” will be the name of the Boeing 7E7 aircraft.
The three other choices were eLiner, Global Cruiser and Stratoclimber. Consultants came up with a hundred potential names, and Boeing settled on those four. Through a marketing alliance with AOL Time Warner, people placed votes at a website devoted to the new jetliner.
The unusual contest was designed to generate some much-needed buzz for the new 250-seat plane – something that had been lacking since Boeing shelved plans for a fast, sleek and sexy sonic-cruiser in favor of the more conventional but super-fuel-efficient 7E7.
The hype happened. Boeing’s hometown newspapers in Seattle were all over the story, but so were Business Week, the wire services, radio stations – and media all over the globe. Breathless updates provided the play-by-play: “As of yesterday, more than 90,000 visitors to the site had voted, and Global Cruiser now has a slim lead…”
The use of special public relations events to promote companies is picking up steam. Boeing was smart to be among the first large firms out of the box to sponsor a global naming contest, thus generating global publicity. Watch how many others now follow their lead.
The grass-roots tactics actually are a new direction for Boeing, which traditionally focuses its sales and marketing efforts on airline executives. With this contest, the aerospace giant is taking its message straight to consumers in hopes they eventually will make their travel choices based on the brand of a jet in an airline’s fleet.
Aviation buffs will remember Boeing’s early passenger planes with names such as the Boeing Clipper, the Stratoliner, and the Stratocruiser. Its jet-age planes, starting with the 707, and most recently the 777, have only had 7-series designations.