What’s in a Name? Kraft’s Distasteful Rebranding

Kraft, one of the great global brands, wants its snacks business to be known henceforth as Mondelez International.

Yes, Mondelez. That’s “Mond” from the Latin for world. And “Delez,” which rhymes with disease.

Pronounced “mohn-dah-LEEZ,” the new name is actually supposed to suggest delicious world, but the concoction is unappetizing.  The P.R. brigade rushed to explain that the company’s products aren’t going to be rebranded. Mondelez will just be the corporate name, in the background, on the back of the package. In small type. You’ll hardly notice it.

Then why do it at all?

Because Kraft Foods is dividing itself into two separate companies: a global snacking business (including Oreo cookies, Cadbury chocolates, etc.) and a North American grocery division (cheese, coffee, etc.). The Kraft name will stay with the U.S. operations.

Corporate rebranding isn’t a bad idea per se, but it can be tricky, especially when it involves creating new words. When former Kraft corporate parent Phillip Morris split itself into two companies (U.S. and International) the International group retained the Phillip Morris name while the U.S. operations recast itself as Altria, derived from the Latin altus, meaning higher — a nice departure from the weight of tobacco litigation, which is such a downer.

Getting the public to embrace a crazy new name is one thing, but companies that start life with oddball monikers are a different matter. Haagen-Dazs is a good example of something that is memorable because it’s weird. Google is a deliberate misspelling of googol, a huge number with lots of zeros.

Invented words are nothing new – it’s a great way to copyright and “own” a term. Arthur Andersen accounting firm spun out its consulting arm as Accenture — accent on the future, get it? (This turned out to be fortuitous for Andersen, which was soon destroyed by the Enron ethics scandal. You can see why it didn’t want to be associated with the past.)

Write This, Not That

I also run a blog called Write This, Not That over at WritingAdvisor.com. So in the spirit of suggesting alternatives (and not just criticizing) I would say the newly independent, international Kraft might try to hold on to its well respected name. How about KraftWorld, KraftMond, or even the prosaic Kraft International? Or SnackWorld or WorldSnaX or HapiSnax? Or “globalize” one of the better known products like Ritz — Ritz Int’l, that sort of thing. Alternately, if the idea behind Mondelez is “delicious world” then I think the more straightforward DeliciousWorld, or a variant, might work.

Let’s face it: English is the world’s crazy lingua franca, and there’s no reason to bastardize Latin in a way that needs a pronunciation guide.

The decision isn’t final; shareholders will vote on the name change on May 23. And it’s worth noting that the branding “experts” didn’t get everything wrong. Mondelez’s slogan will apparently be “make today delicious.” That’s an excellent tagline – well Krafted, you might say.

Sources: New York TimesThe Week

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