Friday, October 02, 2009

iSnack 2.0

iSnack 2.0. Do you have any idea what that is? I certainly don't. Well, I do, but had I been asked that blindly out of the blue like I just did to you I wouldn't have the foggiest. I would be thinking of some sort of iPhone App that makes it seem like you are eating french fries on your screen or maybe that finds you the nearest hot dog cart anywhere in metro San Francisco. Isn't that what you thought?
Well that's not what it is. It's not electronic at all. In fact, it basically as far from being electronic as it can be. It is actually a sort of dark yeast paste, made of the leavings from the beermaking process, flavored with vegetable and spice additives, and loved dearly by all of Australia. That's right, it's Vegemite.
Vegemite, a.k.a. iSnack 2.0, is the new exhibit number one when considering how badly things can go awry when a foreign company buys a nationally renown brand. Somewhere along the way, Kraft bought the Vegemite brand. This, I believe, much like the good people at Kraft, was a good idea. I mean, Vegemite is a great brand, known all throughout the world and wildly popular Down Under. If you want to get a better idea as to the magnitude of Vegemite, think of it as the Australian version of peanut butter. That's how they consider it; that is the relationship that the Australian people have with Vegemite. The thing is this: this nasty (trust me, I've tried it) yeast paste is so iconic that all Kraft had to do was leave it alone and it would have been a cash cow, or since this is Australia a cash ewe I guess it would be. That is where things started to go horribly wrong.
Large, multi-national corporations can't leave well enough alone, okay? It's not in their nature. One does not become a large, successful multi-national corporation by leaving well enough alone. Mom and pop stores do fine leaving well enough alone. The friendly local diner does fine leaving well enough alone. Multi-national corporations, however, have become so because they embrace new ideas, they take risks, they move forward and shake things up. And that works, that is just fine for bringing a larger price to your shareholders. That is their mentality, that is ingrained into their psyche. So when they come across something like Vegemite, and the interests of the shareholders and the consumer and the world at large would be best served by leaving a sleeping dog lie, they don't. They can't help but to tinker.
So that's what Kraft set out to do with Vegemite. First, they tinkered with it. Bold decision, Kraft. Why don't you ask Coke and see how that worked out for them? What Kraft did was make a creamier, cheesier version (Really? Seriously? Can someone please just tell me now that you are messing with me? I know that adding cheese to just about everything makes it better, but I think adding cheese to Vegemite would just make it worse in every way possible. Way to go Kraft) and then they named it the iSnack 2.0.
Yeah. First of all, to have iSnack2.0 there really should be an iSnack 1.0, or even an iSnack Beta somewhere out there, don't you think? I certainly do. That is like naming your first kid Edward Jr. when your name is Josh. It doesn't make anything resembling sense at all. It's the stupidest name I think that I have ever heard, and I seriously think that I would not buy that just because I wouldn't be able to bring myself to say to my friends "Oh no, I'm just sitting around, watching Magnum P.I. and eating some iSnack 2.0." Nope, couldn't bring myself to do it. I might have been able to have done so if they had simply called it iSnack, but they HAD to tack that 2.0 on to it. I couldn't even bring myself to go through the checkout line with it on the conveyor. It would be like buying some sort of awful VD cream, which with that combination of ingredients it just might work for that business.
Needless to say, the Australian public was not amused. In fact, they were a little pissed. They were outraged, they did not like it at all. Apparently I have become Dr. Seuss. Anyway, the public didn't like it, they didn't buy it, and they mocked it unceremoniously. So Kraft did exactly what any big multinational would do in their situation: they went ahead and decided they would rename it. But since they pissed off the public and they want the public to be happy, they decided they would let the public rename the new Vegemite.
Apparently the Australian public wasn't much better, because they suggested things like Goo-dy and Cheesewax, neither of which are appealing. So there has to be a better name out there somewhere, and I sincerely hope that someone in Australia manages to come up with it, otherwise they are stuck with Cheesewax. Either way it can't be worse than iSnack 2.0. What were they thinking?

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