Generally, when something is put to a vote, the most popular vote wins. This is not the case for the Kraft Foods Australia product, Cheesybite. If you don’t know what Cheesybite is, it is a jar of caramel-brown, salty, gooey yeast paste (also known as Vegemite, an immensely popular Austrailian spread), that is mixed with cream cheese. Sounds appetizing, huh? Well to many Australians, it is. In a recent New York Times article, Bill Granger, a well known Sydney chef, said that Vegemite is “One of the only foods that is unique to Australia, and people see it as being quintessentially Australian.”
With the popularity of Vegemite in Australia, Kraft decided to place Cheesybite on the shelves of supermarkets without a name initially, in hopes to get ideas from consumers. By September, with a population of only 22 million people, Kraft sold 3 million jars of the new product to Australians! Following the sales, a decision was made to have consumers cast a vote. Here is where trouble all began… Kraft didn’t run with the most popular result. Instead, the name became Vegemite iSnack 2.0.
When the name was released to the public, consumers did not hold their tongues when it came to expressing their opinions. In The New York Times article, one commentator suggested that the designer who had submitted the winning name be tarred with Vegemite and forced to run naked through the streets of Sydney “as retribution for his cultural crime.” Others called the name “uStupid 1.0” and “un-Australian.” Needless to say, things got pretty heated. In fact, the negative reactions caused Kraft to announce they were putting the name back to a vote in just four days time. Thankfully, the second time around, Kraft chose the most popular result, dubbing Vegemite, plus cream cheese, with the name Cheesybite.
So, what was the point of having consumers participate to then deliberately stray from the results? Well, some believe that Kraft was attempting a publicity stunt similar to Coca-Cola’s, New Coke failure in 1985, because while consumers were complaining, sales of iSnack 2.0 rose 47 percent in the first two weeks. When accusations of a publicly stunt arose, Simon Talbot, the head of corporate affairs at Kraft Foods Australia, denied any such thing. He did say that the additional attention may have influenced sales, but it was the correct blend of taste and insights that made the product popular.
Overall, attention was being brought to the product, and whether it was positive or negative, it didn’t seem to matter. Regardless of the new name, Kraft has turned a rather ordinary product into a matter of public pride, ownership and likeness for the Vegemite brand. Nevertheless, there is a lingering question as to how such a large company could make such an obvious mistake? Was it for publicity, or was it truly an, “Oops!” moment?