Kraft By Any Other Name Not As Sweet?

Perhaps the most comprehensible rationale proffered over the past few days for Kraft’s decision to rename its global snack company Mondelez International, Inc. is that the domain name Mondelez.com was available. Judging by the reaction of many commentators to the announcement made on Wednesday, JustPlainIdiotic.com would have fit the bill quite nicely, too.

“This is an act of madness,” writes Jim Edwards on Business Insider. “Most companies can only dream of owning a century of brand equity with the level of trust that comes with the Kraft name.”

The implication being that, poof -- that’s all down the drain.

“‘Mondelez’ (pronounced mohn-dah-LEEZ') is a newly coined word that evokes the idea of ‘delicious world,’” according to Kraft’s press release announcing the proposal, which must be approved by shareholders at its annual meeting on May 23. “‘Monde’ derives from the Latin word for ‘world,’ and ‘delez’ is a fanciful expression of ‘delicious.’ In addition, ‘International’ captures the global nature of the business.”

“If you have to provide a phonetic spelling of your new brand name when releasing it to the public, you’re in big trouble,” blogs Jim Nichols VP–digital at Stern + Associates, in Forbes.com. “In general, you shouldn’t have a brand name that can’t be easily pronounced, or spelled, unless it is the name of the founder.”

Not to mention that the definition of the word is not readily apparent and the pronunciation is one of several possibilities -– including “mon-dah-lay” and “mon- dah-lezz” –- that may leave people baffled, points out Nina Beckhardt, CEO of The Naming Group, to Bloomberg Businessweek’s David Welch. 

“The public gets sick of compressed words if they aren’t intuitive,” according to Beckhardt.

They also might get frustrated trying to type that line over the final “” – it’s called a macron. Edwards points out that Kraft itself failed to produce it on its official announcement (except in the headline). Cut and paste worked for us in Word but it didn't make the conversion to HTML; here's a handy tip sheet for HTML and the Mac and Windows operating systems.

To add salacious insult to injury, Ad Age’s Kate MacArthur reports that in Russian, the name sounds like a slang term for an oral-sex act –- an observation confirmed by a professor at Northwestern. A Kraft spokesman responds that the company "did extensive due diligence in testing the name," including focus-grouping it in 28 tongues, and “determined misinterpretations in any of the languages to be low-risk."

Then there are reactions that seem somewhat emotional.

“Whatever Kraft, you could call yourselves 'Caviar and Filet Mignon' but you're still Kraft Mac n Cheese,” writes Courtney McCullough in SUMOskinny –- which is billed as “the ultimate guide to college life.” “That's like a cow putting on a penguin costume, it's still a cow.” 

Even if you accept the penguin/cow allusion, Macaroni and Cheese, is not part of the global snacks division, of course. Brand Keys president Robert Passikoff tells the New York Times’ Michael J. de la Merced that, since it’s only a corporate name, it probably doesn’t matter much what people think of it (if they think of it at all, no?).

“The truth is, people buy Cadburys and Oreos,” he says. “They don’t buy Kraft snack foods that happened to be named Oreos.” As for the pronunciation: “Customers will figure it out,” he says. “They figured out Häagen-Dazs.”

Even with the umlaut. 

Another interesting positive for the new name proffered by a pundit over the last few days was the “I made that” defense. Kraft revealed in its press release that the inspiration for Mondelez came from two employees -- one in Europe and another in North America. 

Stef Gans, CEO of the marketing consultancy Effective Brands, tells Ad Age’s Kate MacArthur and E.J. Schultz that the fact that employees came up with the name is more important than the name itself because it might instill a sense of pride. 

“That has a benefit in terms of getting people motivated to do great work," says Gans, which is "way more important than what [a] naming or branding expert ... feels about it.” 

As we break for a short vacation, we are left pondering what eviscerating vessel for a robust brand people will dream up next? Something along the lines of Verizon? Exxon? Accenture? There are a certainly a googolplex of possibilities to Google out there. 

Tags: food
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3 comments about "Kraft By Any Other Name Not As Sweet?".
  1. Brad Stewart from Adjoy , March 23, 2012 at 9:22 a.m.
    April Fools?
  2. Tracy Infield from Astoria Social Media , March 23, 2012 at 11:46 a.m.
    Thom, your article made me check out other articles on the subject (all mainly outraged, appalled and amused, too), but isn't it a bit of a non-story? Doesn't Kraft still keep its name here in the States? If I'm understanding it correctly, the made-up name is for international only—and other counties don't have the warm and fuzzy feeling towards the brand that we do.
  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , April 3, 2012 at 2:29 p.m.
    Kraft expecting some kind of legal trouble ?