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 corporate 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


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