Much-loved Australian breakfast product Vegemite has unveiled a new upmarket “Blend 17” spread and is trying out a bold new social media strategy alongside it.
The Vegemite Facebook page has been updated with sleek new pictures of the new Blend 17 product, which purports to be “bolder” than everyday Vegemite. With the page having over half a million followers, the posts quickly racked up thousands of likes, shares, and comments.
But — embracing a clever new strategy — the brand has taken to responding to hundreds of users’ comments with individualised and often humorous responses, be they praise, questions, or recommendations to friends.
One Vegemite fan took to the comments to tag a friend of hers by the name of Peter, saying “I knew u [sic] would love this”. In a response, the brand responded, “Can’t wait to hear what you think Peter!”.
In another case, a disgruntled commenter told the page to “bring back the old taste of vegemite”, claiming it “somehow tastes different these days”. Not missing a beat, the page responded “We haven’t changed our recipe since 1923 … maybe your tastebuds have just grown MITIER!”
While the brand has not responded to every comment on the two posts promoting the new spread, well over 450 user comments have received an individual response from the Vegemite page, often peppered with animated gifs and emojis. However, the brand has also provided genuine answers to customer questions about availability, taste, and the odd complaint.
Interestingly, the brand has only employed this tactic on its Facebook page, with numerous tweets on the brand’s Twitter page going unanswered.
While Vegemite’s approach is at a significant scale, other smaller Australian businesses have adopted a similar strategy in recent times, with Melbourne based rewards application Liven employing a similar approach on its Facebook page, which has just 22,000 followers.
Speaking to SmartCompany, communications and social media expert Catriona Pollard says she’s not seen much of these sorts of strategies and believes it’s a recent trend, one that she thinks more SMEs should get on board with.
“It’s such a great strategy and brands really don’t do this enough. When we respond to a friend’s comment on our own Facebook profile, it creates a deeper interaction and forms better bonds — brands can absolutely harness the same power,” she says.
“Basically all you’re doing is having an online conversation. It doesn’t have to be any sort of significant response, just an acknowledgement of your fans.”
While Vegemite’s approach seems to be tied into the marketing of its new spread, Pollard believes this should become part of businesses’ overall social media strategy and can go a long way in times of PR crisis.
“If you can harness even a small percentage of your customers with this strategy it can make a really significant impact on how people feel about your brand, which can really help in times of crisis,” she says.
While the majority of responses to Vegemite’s comments have been positive, Pollard warns business owners should be aware “anything you post on social media can backfire”.
“You’re opening the potential for conversation, so you need to understand that both positive an negative things can be said, and you’ll see a lot of both,” she says.
“In this case, however, I think the risk is worth taking.”
SmartCompany contacted Bega Cheese Limited, Vegemite’s parent company, but did not receive a response prior to publication.