Kraft Foods (Australia) announced today that it would change the name of its new Vegemite-cream cheese blend product in the light of overwhelming negative customer response on blogs and other social media sites. After just three or so days, iSnack2.0 is no more.
Okay, for those of you who were unaware of this contretemps, have never tasted Vegemite or even heard of it other than in a song lyric by Men At Work, a little background.
Vegemite, is according to the official Kraft Foods Australia's Vegemite web site, a spread made out of the yeast extract left over from the manufacture of beer.
I can't really describe its taste, even though I ate it often years ago when I lived in the UK and my Australian friends there insisted that I try it for breakfast on my toast. Let's just say that individual experiences on Vegemite's taste-bud attractiveness vary and for many people, it is an acquired taste.. Before you eat it for the first time, Australian's will likely tell you that it is one of "richest sources of B group vitamins."
Anyway, Vegemite found its way into grocery markets in Australia in 1923, after a nation-wide contest to select its name. While it took some time, Vegemite has become an Australian national food staple and icon.
In June of this year, Kraft Foods Australia announced that a creamier version of Vegemite would hit the store shelves. According to this story in AusBusiness Review,
"Kraft decided to make a new product after conducting a census of 300,000 Australians and New Zealanders to find out how they use Vegemite, Talbot told The Associated Press on Monday.
'We received a wish list of what Australians would like and decided to create a new version to complement the original,' he said.
The end result is a Vegemite mixed with cream cheese for a smoother, more spreadable consistency. Talbot said the new product was given to 600 homes for testing and came back with overwhelmingly positive results."
So far, so good.
Kraft, being clever, decided to hold a contest to name the new Vegemite product. It put its new product in stores with the label "Name Me" on its jars and solicited names from the public.
On 27 September, Kraft announced the new name: iSnack2.0.
Let's just say the name did not immediately resonate with the Australian populace. Social networks (as well as many columnists in newspapers), in fact, went into rage mode immediately.
You can read a small sample here.
Kraft, obviously surprised by the level and intensity of outrage, said soon after that,
"There’s a distinct possibility that we'll be critically evaluating the name."
Today, Kraft dropped the axe. Now it has to decide what to do with the 500,000 jars of iSnack2.0 it has ready to go to grocery shelves. I suggest hoarding them, and then selling them on eBay as collectors items, like New Coke cans. Or maybe send one to each of its marketing people (or to business school MBA programs across the planet) as a reminder to try next time to be less clever by half.
Kraft is also having to fend off, as Coca-Cola did, that the whole fiasco was just a publicity stunt.
Kraft is currently in the process of trying to buy Cadbury in the UK in an unsolicited bid. Some free advice: if you succeed, don't change the name.
Starbucks Coffee rolled out a new instant coffee yesterday across the US, and at least this review in the New York Daily News, its welcome has been less than stellar as well.
An iSnack2.0 redux?
Kraft has not as yet said what it will do next. Maybe it should leave it as "Name Me."
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.