Friday, November 6, 2009

A matter of Trust

An exercise that ends with more than three quarters of your consumers calling you a liar is probably not good business. The votes are in on the Vegemite iSnack incident, suggesting that democracy and marketing might not always mix.

Never before has an Australian brand been subjected so thoroughly to the will of the people. And possibly, never again will a marketer throw his or her brand (and career) so carelessly to the mob for appraisal.

You know the story but lets look quickly at the numbers.

48,000 suggested names were entered into the ‘give this stuff a name‘ contest. The winner, iSnack 2.0 lasted 4 days before being dumped by Kraft.

30,357 people then responded to a short list of alternative names. 10,928 agreed on an OK alternative, CheesyBite. But nearly as many disliked ALL the choices offered.

So the cheesy vegemitey substance now has a name that a substantial minority don’t hate.But a stat that really shook me was found by a crowd called BCM. Their online survey of 1250 people found that 77% thought the whole iSnack thing was a “carefully crafted media stunt”. Most TV, radio, print and online media commentators seemed to agree.

This, despite Kraft spokesman, Simon Talbot claiming, “At no point in time has the new Vegemite name been about initiating a media publicity stunt…The new name has simply not resonated with Australians. Particularly the modern technical aspects associated with it.”

Have Australian consumers become so used to stunt marketing that they now see hoaxes and tricks where none exist? Do they expect the custodians of trusted brands to mess with their heads as a way of selling product?

A stuff-up is one thing. God knows, we all make mistakes. But to essentially be called liars by three quarters of your consumers is incredibly concerning, I would have thought.

Kraft’s good-natured naming experiment has highlighted a very worrying development. And that’s that our consumers no longer trust us. They are not only prepared for trickery and sleight of hand, they expect it.

Marketers, creatives, account service and channel planners will have to think differently in the future. We will have to factor in the possibility of very public consumer backlash and distrust to any communication we create from now on.

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