Kraft iSnack 2.0 not a PR disaster yet.

Interviewed by the Sydney Morning Herald’s Julian Lee yesterday for today’s edition, and despite all the Social Media mudslinging, I couldn’t bring myself to conclude that Kraft’s naming and recanting of its Vegemite brand evolution as iSnack 2.0, is currently a PR disaster. As Kraft’s Simon Talbot told me this a.m., they hear and recognise that the name was a donkey  (NOTE 07/10: Kraft Public Affairs has asked me to clarify that Simon never actually said this: I agree, this was me editorialising) and that they’re gonna change it. To me, that’s responsive PR at its theoretical best! And with 3million jars of the new product sold already, consumers actually love the dip inside the jar. This suggests the business case will stack up and be the proof of the pudding, as it were. This was my reading of the situ for both Julian Lee and Simon Talbot:     

As they’ve been ‘in’ SocMed for about 30 months, and done a lot of research, Kraft’s team is savvy.
I believe the online PR and marcomms team at Kraft get Social Media.
I said this is no PR disaster, yet.
Am weary of those e-gomaniac/e-xperts who decry everything (even bore myself when I do it)
I think Kraft’s naming engagement mechanic was good.
I think they’re practicising effective PR; ie dialogue, response and re-engagement.
I believe they’re consciously walking the controversy management line. NOTE: SIMON T DISSUADES ME FROM THIS NOTION
I do think it’s v clever to get 2/3 PR bites at the launch cherry for the brand evolution.
Historically “letting the people decide” plays out like a vote winner.
And no, I don’t think this will be a PR disaster for the sub or parent brand in the long term.
I asked Simon another two questions:
Truthfully, did you accurately gauge the level, nature and spread (pardon the pun) of e-commentary and response to your first chosen name?
What’s the rough value/worth from the associated PR coverage (digital and trad media) to date?

He answered the first by reiterating the name was a donkey, (this was Gerry McC paraphrasing) and answered the second saying that the Wall St Journal and BBC were keen on this as a developing story; advertising equivalent measurers, standby! I trust Simon will advise me if he gets a handle on the evaluation equation.

11 thoughts on “Kraft iSnack 2.0 not a PR disaster yet.

  1. Despite the sucess or failure of the product the naming of ‘new vegemite’ will be a marketing case study for many years to come. What’s fascinating about this is that all of the attention has been on the name, not on the product. Kraft have been masterful in the focus they have brought to the name, distracting from the product qualities themselves. Is it any good, what’s its shelf life, what is the fat/sugar/salt content, how’s the taste? Just small issues really and if the same approach had been taken with marketing the P76 in the ’70s we would all be driving Leyland iCars now.


  2. From a PR and a brand management point of view, I believe that creating such a stir with the ‘iSnack2.0’ name makes the consumer hold dearer the original Aussie Vegemite brand. At least now the ‘experts’ can measure how much brand equity in the Vegemite brand still exists.

    Whether or not the new taste or product will be scrapped is another issue…


  3. I agree Gerry that by responding so quickly to the public outcry that Kraft minimised damage to the brand and in fact capitalised on the interest in the story, thus generating a ripple effect of on and offline publicity.

    I can offer no excuse for the misjudgement in picking the iSnack 2.0 name (I don’t think anyone could), suffice to say that in true crowdsourcing style the public should have had the deciding vote from a shortlist of handpicked names. Of course, this is now the case.

    The product will sell heaps and while the brand has suffered more humiliation than most, I reckon they’ll come out of this okay.

    One of the key lessons for brands is that in today’s social age, if you’ve made a mistake, suck it up and get on with life. Kraft did this, and they’ll be all the better for it.

    Here’s my take on the story


  4. Good post Gerry. Well balanced perspective. This will be a case study for many months and years to come, good or bad. The decision to pull the brand was correct, but you do wonder why they chose that name in the first place. The consumer spoke, Kraft listened, Kraft responded, consumers continue to speak, and when the new name is selected, I am sure there will be more conversation. The good news is that consumers are passionate, and if a brand listens, good will come from it, even if at the time it doesn’t feel that way.


  5. Ta Graham and Trev – I’m still pondering if the brand name really was so bad; especially given the ironic backlash from the 2.0community who follow some of the most facile, inane and infantile brand names ever – “Twitter”, “Tweetbeep”; “TwitBin”; “Bebo”, “YouMeo”; “Reddit” etc


  6. my take is that the whole thing from the get-go has been a beautiful PR stunt aimed squarely at Gen Y consumers. Kraft concocted a name to exploit their conceit and knew social media would carry the story to the four corners of the earth. it’s a great example of why social media is more about the basic psychology of effective PR than anything else


  7. Certainly smells like a stunt. It’s hard to believe Kraft would not have realised the name was lame. Agree with Sven. It was so lame that techy blogger types could not resist giving it a bagging. It combines 2 product naming ‘conventions’ that draw groans from the tech community everytime it is done. Slapping an ‘i’ infront or ‘2.0’ after is widley considered lame/lazy cop out rubbish. To put both is to double the lameness. To add it to a spread – triple lame.

    Agree it’s not a disaster for Kraft though. Following up and letting customers vote works well. The list they provided was pretty uninspiring. Cheesybite! It’s about as imaginative as ‘Spray and Wipe’. Also suprised they didn’t leave iSnack2.0 in there as an option for voting. Suspect it may have actually got a few votes. May have even been a crowd willing to defend it’s lame arse.

    Crowd sourcing the competion winners from the start would have been a much braver move.


  8. Gerry, despite the “official” claims I still think this was a well orchestrated three-pronged publicity campaign.

    1. Name it – create buzz in social media for salty/cheesy snack paste and spread the buzz to traditional media

    Sales = 2+ million units

    2. iSnack 2.0 – fake a PR disaster and create limited edition “collectible” variant (exchanges on eBay)

    Publicity = $ thou$and$

    3. Cheesybite – make the brand appear all humble and give the new sub-brand back to the consumer

    Sales = TBC but probably millions of units per annum

    Gerry, I agree with you – I think Kraft does “get” social media. An example from the archives (2008) :

    And remember the paradox in all this that Kraft is a major US company that makes an iconic “Aussie” brand.

    Local acts of self-depreciation might be good for Kraft’s local brand associations. It’s an Aussie thing.


  9. Hey Gerry,

    This whole story is getting WAY MORE COVERAGE because of the name… (obviously)

    True viral marketing.

    “Vegemite Plus” or something as boring would have been lame…

    The real kicker is – they could absolutely MILK it for even more if they ran another competition… to change the name AGAIN.

    I wonder how it’d go down if they said something like:

    “As used by surgeons on Hey Hey it’s Saturday”…

    I think it’s an awesome piece of media manipulation – now EVERYONE knows about it (and Kraft got most of this exposure for FREE).

    Someone will be getting a bonus for sure…


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