Opinion

Blend 17 isn’t iSnack 3.0; It may be Vegemite for wankers, but it’s still PR 101

Vegemite's upmarket new sister brand Blend 17 may have been labelled as "for wankers", but it's all part of the PR plan, argues Mumbrella's Tim Burrowes

The first thing I heard in the car this morning was Nova’s Fitzy & Wippa talking about whether Vegemite’s new spinoff is iSnack 3.0.

And the first thing I saw on Facebook was a post from Pedestrian on the same topic.

So, eight years after Vegemite’s iSnack 2.0 debacle, have they done it again?

In case you missed it – and if my Facebook feed this morning is anything to go by, by the end of the day, you won’t – there’s a new Vegemite product: “bolder, richer” Vegemite Blend 17.

And, I might add, “expensiver”.

And by “they”, it’s a different “they” of course nowadays – during those simpler times of iSnack 2.0 Vegemite was in the hands of US company Kraft. Earlier this year, Vegemite came into the stewardship of Bega Cheese.

But no, I don’t think they have done it again.

Back on September 30, 2009, there was a genuine note of panic in the air when I tried to call the  offices of Kraft corporate. (Have I really been writing Vegemite branding stories on Mumbrella for eight years now? Jeez…)

To recap, they’d run a competition to name a new spreadable version of Vegemite and inexplicably chosen the name iSnack 2.0 as the winner.

The perceived insult to an Australian icon by its US owners of giving it the stupid name turned it into what was, for a few days, a national sensation. It may even have been Australia’s first major social media disaster from a brand.

This time, I think it’s rather more considered.

They’ve been dripping this out. The only mention on the Vegemite Facebook page so far is the above video which went up yesterday afternoon.

Indeed, the first online reference I can see is a post two days ago on Reddit, which I do rather wonder was part of a seeding campaign. The poster certainly hits the helpful talking point of which retailers stock it. And unusually “Reality Bytes” seems to shop at both Coles AND Woolworths.

So should the brand managers be concerned that Blend 17 is being described as “Vegemite for wankers”?

Not really.

Brands don’t panic about social media fails in quite the same way. There’s more of an understanding that with a public conversation comes controversy.

The ultimate evidence comes in the final lines of the Pedestrian post.

If you’re a one-percenter feel free to make up your own decision, with 450,000 jars of this ritzy, la-dee-da monstrosity making its way around the country from this week.

I, however, will be over here eating ORIGINAL Vegemite, thinly spread on toasted plain white bread, like a true hero.

Which is of course, exactly what the brand wants. After acres of news coverage first.

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