Kraft Foods is separating its higher-growth global snacking business unit from its North American grocery division, so it needs a name for the new company. The process Kraft used to get that new name, and the rationalization of the name, make a great example of what not to do in a naming process.
The “potential” new corporate brand name (pending shareholder approval vote on May 23), Mondelez International, is fraught with problems. As the New York Times DealBook blog mildly puts it (Kraft, ‘Mondelez’ and the Art of Corporate Rebranding), “The move highlights the potential complications that come with corporate rebranding, especially when a company decides to make up a name out of whole cloth.”
Potential complications is an understatement for the activity of launching a major company with a terrible name that nobody will remember. So how did a global giant like Kraft get into the position of adopting a weak, unmemorable and unpronounceable name for its new spinoff? They did it the old fashioned way — by (very large) committee: “Kraft said that the moniker came from submissions by more than 1,000 employees around the world, who suggested over 1,700 names.” For a company that makes food products from recipes, you’d think they might have noticed that democratizing the naming process like this is a recipe for disaster. For example, let’s say that we’re going to have a free ice cream day for our 1000-employee company. Everybody can have as much ice cream as they want, but we can only get one flavor, so we need to reach a consensus on which flavor to serve. Will it be Cherry Garcia or Chunky Monkey? No, it will be either vanilla or
chocolate (oh wait, some people have chocolate allergies ) — ok, vanilla it is.
Once Kraft had a process in place to guarantee that the name squeezed out the end of their soft-serve branding machine would be vanilla, all that remained was the justification, and here it comes:
The winner: Mondelez, cobbled together from submissions from a North American employee and a European one. It’s a combination of “monde,” the Latin word for “world,” and “delez,” a made-up word meant to suggest “delicious.” Hence, “delicious world.”
“Cobbled together” is right. The problem is, real people inhabiting the real world would never encounter a name like Mondelez and feel the warm glow of entering a “delicious world.” And who says that the made-up “word” delez suggests “delicious”? You could make a better argument that it suggests “delays” or “deletes,” as in, “Food you can’t eats, so you should deletes. Don’t delay.” Pardon my pigeon Esperanto. Better yet, Mondelez sounds like a slang term for oral sex in Russian. Delicious world, indeed! But since they manufacture “snacks,” this connotation can only help improve brand recognition, at least among horny/hungry Russians. Score one for Kraft.
The next part of this process train-wreck is to trot out the CEO to perform, as if on cue, the Name Announcement Song & Dance, which Kraft dutifully obliges. Here is the marketing robospeak attributed to Irene B. Rosenfeld, the chairman and CEO of the new company:
“For the new global snacks company, we wanted to find a new name that could serve as an umbrella for our iconic brands, reinforce the truly global nature of this business and build on our higher purpose – to ‘make today delicious.’ Mondelez perfectly captures the idea of a ‘delicious world’ and will serve as a solid foundation for the strong relationships we want to create with our consumers, customers, employees and shareholders.”
My question for Ms. Rosenfeld is, when was the last time you entered a “strong relationship” with a brand that had a name like Mondelez? Would you even remember its name a week later?
Perhaps a shareholder revolt will veto the Mondelez name on May 23, and send Kraft back to the drawing board (and brawling ward) with one more chance to do naming right. They need look no further than their own Nabisco brand cookie product, Oreo, for an example of an outstanding invented name that is warm, poetic, fun to say, memorable and meshes beautifully with the product it identifies. With the right process in place, Kraft could still pull off a winning brand, one that is less vanilla, and more Karamel Sutra. Then it really would be a Delicious World after all.