Crowdsourcing Done Wrong: the Vegemite iSnack Naming Disaster

Exercise in Another Form of 'Mass Marketing' Turns into PR Nightmare

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Here's one for the marketing textbooks. A marketer on the verge of launching a new product turns to the unwashed masses to come up with a name. Only in this case rather than spark a bunch of consumer interest, the brand stewards managed to spark a global backlash.

That's what's happened to Kraft Foods as its rolled out a more spreadable version of the Australian favorite Vegemite. More than 48,000 people responded to a call to come up with moniker for the new combination of cream cheese and Vegemite, a popular spread made from yeast extract. The winner, as coined by a Australian web developer who, by his own admission, has his tongue planted firmly in his cheek: iSnack 2.0.

Now, obviously this is a name that has nothing to do with the product and looks like a mere exploitation of cliches in digital product nomenclature.The lesson is equally obvious. Even when they're being asked for input or sourced for ideas, consumers want brands to be able execute some level of judgment, filtering out awful ideas at minimum.

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Rowan Dean, creative director of advertising agency Euro RSCG, summed it up to The Australian. "The idea of getting the public to create the new name of the product the way they did with the original Vegemite is fantastic. But iSnack 2.0 is totally irrelevant to the iPod, Web 2.0 generation, and if they don't change the brand name it will disappear from the shelves in six months." The original Vegemite name was chosen through a public competition in the 1920s.

Kraft, however, didn't see it that way. In addition to denying that this is not a stunt, Kraft's head of corporate affairs, Simon Talbot, was quoted as saying, "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."

The name was revealed during Australian Football League finals over the weekend, though the product had already been on shelves with a label that read "Name Me." More than 3 million jars had been sold.

Dozens of mainstream media articles have lambasted the name as have countless posts on Facebook and Twitter, where it was a trending topic for a time. A website called "Names That Are Better Than iSnack 2.0" has popped up.

And it's selling t-shirts for $29.99 a pop.

Speaking of co-creation, here's the inevitable "Hitler reaction" video:

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