Vegemite iSnack 2.0 PR response turning a debacle into a disaster

I must admit that a small piece of me has been wondering whether there are some geniuses at Kraft whose Machievellian wiles are pulling the strings on the iSnack 2.0 Vegemite debacle.  

You get the idea… get the public talking, then pretend to bow to public reaction and come up with a half decent name.

But based on today’s experience, I’m starting to think that they simply are this rubbish.

Up to now, it’s a saga I’ve mostly left alone.

But Julian Lee’s story on smh.com.au this lunchtime, pushed me to try and talk to them to find out the latest developments straight from the horse’s mouth. He reports:

“There’s a distinct possibility that we’ll be critically evaluating the name,” Kraft’s head of corporate affairs Simon Talbot said today. “The name isn’t resonating with success or favour.”

I think the word Simon’s looking to resonate with is “fail”.

Anyway, just as I’m sure lots of other journos have been doing, I decided to try to speak to someone from Kraft.

First stop, naturally, Google. That takes you to the Vegemite home page. There’s no link to a croporate site, but there is a general consumer number. That rings out, until you’re connected to an external operator who takes a message.

How about the Kraft home page then? That’s a bit more hopeful. There’s even a “media release” tab. With one press release – about a product recall, more than a year ago. No phone numbers on it though.

So back to Google. It reveals a couple of old trade press stories about various agencies winning work for various Kraft brands. I call them all. Variously I’m transferred to voicemails, unanswered phones, or people delighted and relieved that the Vegemite mess is nothing to do with them.

One of the agencies helpfully calls another office which digs out a name and number in the Kraft corporate comms team. I leave a message. He doesn’t call back.

The Kraft customer services rep eventually does call back though. But she’s not allowed to give me a number for the corporate affairs people. She promises to pass them a message though.

Now at this point, I should point out that not all avenues are exhausted. There are more numbers Icould call. I could ring the ad agency or media agency and they’d probably know who I might speak to.

But as far as PR goes, it’s poor. I’ve been chasing this for two hours and am yet to speak to any sort of adult at Kraft who’s allowed to say anything about Vegemite, whose reputation is bleeding away by the hour. It reminds me a bit of the similarly useless Optus response on the day they got sucked into the Kyle & Jackie O saga.

But if there is a corporate message, they’re not going to get it out through Mumbrella.

Instead, I’ll just go back to writing mean things about them on Twitter instead. #vegemite fail…

 3.20pm update. Turns out the PR agency is called Royce. They’ve just emailed to say they’re changing the name.

Tim Burrowes

Comments


  1. Dan
    30 Sep 09
    2:19 pm

  2. Will heads roll?

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see a snacking as a result of this debacle…

  3. Nathan
    30 Sep 09
    2:22 pm

  4. I’m sure talking to mumbrella is the yeast of their worries at the moment…

  5. Peter Williams
    30 Sep 09
    2:24 pm

  6. When I read this story I almost spat out my iSnack 2.0 sandwich

  7. IdeasLady
    30 Sep 09
    2:24 pm

  8. I think Pulse Communications (Ogilvy PR) used to do their PR (the did a happy little vegemites campaign that won an APAC PRWeek award a few years back). That’d be my first call.

    Second move. You have a name. This Simon Talbot fellow. Look up Kraft HQ in the White Pages and ask to be put through to him at the switch. Or corporate comms team. Corporate websites rarely have the right contact numbers for this sorta thing in my experience.

    Currently debating the possibility of this being a possible farce campaign with collegues (the rumour is the proper new brand name is being launched in Nov), but agree that Kraft have been terrible at managing the bad news around the iSnack 2.0 name. But I guess if they couldn’t decide on a brand name that resonated with audiences, then a crisis comms plan might be a bit of a stretch.

  9. Ben Shepherd
    30 Sep 09
    2:31 pm

  10. mate call mindshare melbourne or JWT melbourne and they’d be able to get you in touch with someone.

  11. Tim Nicholas
    30 Sep 09
    2:33 pm

  12. For a marketing journo to not be able to reach a major advertiser concerning a very public issue is unbelievable. It’s a characteristic of corporate behaviour that is to be expected – hide from the media and hope it will go away.

    I vote #vegemitefail as the leading contender for PR disaster of 2009. (Austereo a close 2nd).

  13. Julian Cole
    30 Sep 09
    2:41 pm

  14. Hey Tim,

    I received a brochure from PRIA about their National Conference in Brisbane. They have Simon Talbot, Head of Corporate Affairs for Kraft talking about Risk taking initiatives in social media (specifically about Vegemite). I hope that helps.

  15. mark kenny
    30 Sep 09
    2:43 pm

  16. marketing degrees should be available by mail order after this.

  17. BJ
    30 Sep 09
    2:45 pm

  18. It’s a hellish name, isn’t it? What were they drinking when they selected it? Molten Vegemite?

  19. mumbrella
    30 Sep 09
    2:47 pm

  20. Thanks for the suggestions, y’all – much appreciated. I agree that it would be possible to follow all of those leads, and eventually get to speak to the right person.

    But the point is that it’s bad communications, bad PR and bad SEO that journos need to do that. Frankly the story isn’t big enough to invest that amount of time into getting their side of it.

    I’m working on other stories now…

    Cheers,

    Tim – Mumbrella

  21. Justin Polites
    30 Sep 09
    2:48 pm

  22. That’s gold Julian!
    http://www.acevents.com.au/pria2009/programme.html
    4pm Stream D – Monday 26/10

  23. Karalee_
    30 Sep 09
    2:50 pm

  24. As JC says, Simon is listed at the conference (which I am hoping to auction a leg off on ebay to attend).. here’s the link http://www.acevents.com.au/pria2009/

    Wonder if he’ll stay in the line up?

    And from a purely public relations/corporate affairs point of view, I agree with you Tim. You shouldn’t have to go to such lengths to speak with or receive official comment (even if it is ‘no comment’).

    Let’s hope they do learn a lot of lessons from this unfortunate case, including having an up to date media centre/contact details on their website.

    Cheers
    k

  25. iSnark
    30 Sep 09
    2:59 pm

  26. @Mark Kenny Maybe marketing degrees will come free with every jar of iSnack..

  27. Kelsey
    30 Sep 09
    3:24 pm

  28. http://www.smh.com.au/business.....-gc9z.html

    iSnack2.0 officially dumped according to this article marked 3.10pm today; they’re looking for a new name.

  29. mumbrella
    30 Sep 09
    3:25 pm

  30. Thanks, Kelsey. We’ve just posted the statement too: http://mumbrella.com.au/kraft-.....ng-it-9997

    Cheers,

    Tim – Mumbrella

  31. Scott Pettet
    30 Sep 09
    3:46 pm

  32. ‘Received a brochure from PRIA about their National Conference in Brisbane. They have Simon Talbot, Head of Corporate Affairs for Kraft talking about Risk taking initiatives in social media (specifically about Vegemite).’

    That’s absolute gold! I’m sure the session will be packed to the rafters.

  33. Melanie
    30 Sep 09
    5:11 pm

  34. ‘Received a brochure from PRIA about their National Conference in Brisbane. They have Simon Talbot, Head of Corporate Affairs for Kraft talking about Risk taking initiatives in social media (specifically about Vegemite).’

    Hmm… tastes like a PR stunt more and more. Most of the backlash and discussion of #vegemitefail has been through social media. Do ya think they already knew which case study they were going to use? ;-)

  35. Pedantic Communicator
    30 Sep 09
    5:19 pm

  36. Can I please have iSnack 2.0 on my toast please mummy! Shocker!

    Hate to be pedantic but the communicator in me is forcing me to let you know about the misuse of “their” in the opening sentence!

  37. mumbrella
    30 Sep 09
    5:23 pm

  38. Ta, PC – corrected…

  39. Nick M
    1 Oct 09
    12:25 pm

  40. its just such a mouthful to say and 2.0? has it changed in any way to be worthy of version two?

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