iFailure 2.0

Today we consider a case study of either brilliant product awareness or one of the worst examples of new product governance / risk assessment that has been seen in recent times.

We are erring on the latter because if it was the intention to go for the former it was a seriously weird way about doing it.

What are we talking about?

We are talking about the 2010 launch of a variation on the Australian staple, Vegemite and its soon to be derided cousin.

Firstly for those that may not be aware, Vegemite is a dark brown, salty, slightly bitter and malty Australian food paste made from yeast extract. It is a spread for sandwiches, toast, crumpets and cracker biscuits and filling for pastries. It is similar but not as intensely flavoured as British Marmite and is less sweet than the New Zealand version of Marmite.

At this point it doesn’t really sound like the content for the usual McLeod Governance Honestly Lay Bare update does it?

Well wait – there is more!

In September 2009, Kraft Foods – the makers of Vegemite – announced the results of a nationwide competition which attracted more than 40,000 entries to name the new, creamier recipe of the suburban staple.

iSnack 2.0 was the name Kraft Foods selected (we kid you not!).

The move was a bid by the food conglomerate to align the new product with a younger market — and the “cool” credentials of Apple’s iPod and iPhone. That a yeast based spread is not a technology based instrument seemed to allude the minds of the judging panel.

Simon Talbot from Kraft Foods said: “The name Vegemite iSnack2.0 was chosen based on its personal call to action, relevance to snacking and clear identification of a new and different Vegemite to the original. We believe these three components completely encapsulate the new brand.”

The product’s tag line read: “iSnack 2.0, because it’s the next generation Vegemite.”

The winner of the contest, West Australian web designer Dean Robbins, told the media ”It’s been difficult to contain my excitement; I actually leapt out of my chair when I heard the news. To think that I could go down in Australia’s history is overwhelming.”

That he will go down in Australian history is not without dispute … but probably not for the reasons that he wanted.

By the day after the release of the name, the product launch was met with almost universal condemnation by customers.

The internet bristled with indignation at the name chosen with the online world turning on Kraft with a savagery not seen since Coca-Cola changed its recipe in 1985 and rebranded it New Coke.

Soon thousands of negative comments were up on Twitter and a website, Names That Are Better Than iSnack 2.0, also sprung up.

Within three days, Kraft had dumped the brand name (but not the new product which was selling very well).

“The new name has simply not resonated with Australians … particularly the modern technical aspects associated with it,” Kraft’s Food’s Simon Talbot said.

“At no point in time has the new Vegemite name been about initiating a media publicity stunt.

“We are proud custodians of Vegemite, and have always been aware that it is the people’s brand and a national icon.”

**

And see this is where McLeod Governance starts to have problems with the whole process.

If this was a genuine attempt at naming a new product that would also be in the shadow of a national icon one would have thought that some assessment of likely customer reaction may have been made by … hmmmm going to a focus group or even asking around.

This is basic risk management – to test out reactions to a potential course of action.

But no, the “personal call to action” seemed to confirm this effort as one of the worst product launches of recent times.

And forever more, iSnack 2.0 will ring out as what you should not do in the world of product launch governance.

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