Name Competitions: Lessons From Kraft Foods

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Was the name iSnack 2.0 good or bad?  I’d say it was simply uninventive.

From a public relations perspective the controversy and subsequent backlash has been instrumental in putting the product centre stage. 

However, faddy names like this will simply not have the legs to run the distance unless the plan is to give the product a short lifecycle.  But given that Vegemite has been on shelves since 1923, I’m sure they hope the new concoction will also go the distance. 

‘2.0’ as a general theme will be short lived. For a while everyone was talking about ‘web 2.0’, and it has since been used as a reference for new thinking, concepts and even new generation products . 

However once another wave of progress and thinking turns up, another theme will be born and be accompanied by similar language.  ‘2.0’ will become ‘so last week’. 

If iSnack2.0 was allowed to survive it would almost certainly be consigned to irrelevancy after a few years, if not sooner. 

Do people really care though? If marketers are right in saying brands attract specific markets and audiences, then iSnack2.0 would be laughed at by generations X and Y, with Baby Boomers simply not understanding it all. 

Not a positive outlook considering the strength of the original Vegemite brand, which has become more and more apparent since this naming debacle.

After a week of negative press from launching iSnack2.0, Kraft went back to their list and relaunched the product as Vegemite Cheesybite.  It’s proved that Vegemite isn’t just a distinct tasting spread, but a national icon.  Who would have imagined that extending the product line of a yeast extract spread could cause such a stir. 

It’s interesting to note that there have now been three brand variations of the same product on the shelves, with the original ‘Name Me’, followed by iSnack2.0 and now Cheesybite. 

The media reported that jars of iSnack2,0 are now changing hands for silly money on eBay, so I imagine it won’t take too long to clear the shelves of evidence as collectors snap up bargain Vegemite memorabilia.

There are two ways of looking at what’s happened, one is that Kraft was genuinely crafty and had planned the whole situation to unfold in the way it did to create a resurgence of interest in the Vegemite brand to boost sales. 

This strategy can work on a public that feels that the company is trying to corrupt a national icon where purchasing the original product becomes a protest vote.  The second is that a string of bad decisions and misguided process has had the company chasing its tail and fending off negative publicity.

What can we learn from this?

The first is that running a competition provides useful data but they seldom provide useable outcomes.   Running a competition with employees, customers and suppliers is a good way of seeing what values they associate with you. 

For example if a courier company called Bob’s Courier Service’ wanted to rename and they use a competition, responses may be ‘FastBob’, 'BobOnTime', 'LightningBob' etc, from these you can see patterns emerge as to what values people associate with you.  Use this data to your advantage and let it help guide and push other ideas.

When it comes to choosing a name if you ask for an opinion you’ll always get one, whether it’s educated or otherwise.  Most people are highly conservative with names if you ask them, yet at the same time accept what they see in the marketplace. 

Have you ever heard anyone question the perceived safety of an airliner painted with the word Virgin?  

You need to have the courage to choose a name that will be remembered by people now and stand the test of time.  You can imagine if the name Virgin was taken to market so opinion could be sought and a decision made. 

Public opinion wasn’t sought and nobody blinked an eye.  Compared to other airlines it’s an unusual name, but coupled with the fact that it’s short and is accompanied with strong visual imagery, it makes for a robust and sustainable brand.

In technical terms there are a number of scales and parameters that a name should be judged by.  A general ‘good’ or ‘bad’ scale is intangible and is based on personal judgement, which is governed by past experiences, cultural background and so forth. 

Personal opinion is good to take on board, however it must be your marketing goals (your brief) that drive the process and allow you to make a clear decision.  

Choosing a name takes courage and nerve as it is one of the most important marketing decision you’ll make.  Every minute of every day the name will be written, spoken and seen in some form or another - and this is something that you need to keep in mind when choosing a name. 

It might look good on the boardroom whiteboard, but will it work in the market?

 

© Hamish Chadwick, Image Substation 2010