First off, say you’re an international media powerhouse and there’s a hot branding story to be written — who you gonna call? Well, if you’re the Wall Street Journal, it would be the fortuitously and impossibly named Julie Jargon, of course (check for yourself).
– On to the issue of Kraft’s new name – Mondelēz: Despite the public yelping and nattering, beyond the many snarky-but-funny commentaries out there already (Mon-de-Leeza Rice, Da Vinci’s Monde-Leza), whether you like it or not, this name is unlikely to have a significant business impact one way or the other. Corporate names (particularly where individual products are differently named) are generally inwardly focused; as Robert Passikoff of Brand Keys observed, consumers buy products, not companies. Investors, on the other hand, do buy companies, in whole or in part. So they are probably the most relevant audience – -and their decisions are based on financial performance, not nomenclature.
– If you’re in the business of developing a new corporate name, it is a bit like a chocolate candy with a small rock inside – -looks like a tasty fun project but quickly becomes very difficult to chew – especially for a global company. Not only do you need to find a heretofore-unused name (because otherwise it’s not protectable or proprietary), it has to be usable internationally (and by usable I mean it minimally can’t insult cultures/religions or otherwise incite any sort of web-fuelled blowback). Additionally, there needs to be global trademark clearance, availability of URLs, etc. With luck, it can even conjure some sort of general imagery – – good-tasting food, global, etc. – -but that’s really not the primary consideration. It’s about finding something that works. Other industries that need a ready supply of new names, a prime example being the pharma business, have out of necessity chucked some of these criteria, which results in new drug names resembling past foes of Captain Kirk as he manned the bridge staring at that large before-its-time flat-screen TV: including new entrants Jakafi, Egrifta, Erwinaze and Forfivo (according to Gregory Karp of the Chicago Tribune). Mmmm!
But the most difficult aspect of naming is that new and unfamiliar names are rarely going to be immediately loved, or even liked. As humans, we like the familiar, we assign emotional connections to brands and it’s generally not possible to drive instant familiarity and positive connections with an intangible corporate entity – – if anything, this would evolve over time. It’s very hard to get a realistic assessment of how new names will play out in the long run through research, regardless of how many are polled – – in the immediate setting, there’s not a lot at stake with a positive or negative reaction, and people can’t project a familiarity-driven feeling into the future. Think about some of the new names that have been hatched recently: Verizon (not bad), Accenture (mostly harmless), BearingPoint (reminds me of BreakingPoint), Altria (neutral). None of these really impacted the company’s fortunes one way or the other. The most practical evaluation of a new name, thus, becomes: does the CEO like it? This depends a lot on how it strikes this particular person – – with the obligatory ‘supporting research’ in tow. Fair? Optimized? Probably not.
– On the other hand, there are some subjective repercussions of Mondelēz that can’t be ignored. In this case, I can’t help but think that Mondelēz is an actual person. And not just any person, a male person. And not just any male person, but someone who might be a cross between Juan Valdez of coffee fame, and the Dos Equis Most Interesting Man in the World. So there is definitely (at least for me) a Latin male image that was probably not the primary goal of the creative brief. Don’t know if it’s ‘mon’ that is similar to ‘man’, or the long e (ē) macron symbol that looks like a Spanish enye (ñ). In any case, male and Latin is fine, but it perhaps loses some appeal to more than 50% of the world’s citizens, and a much greater share of the world’s shoppers. Or maybe it somehow conjures a single-named entertainer (like Gallagher, Yanni, Fabio, etc). Like an earworm, you can persuade me all you want but that’s now the image I’m carrying around. (You know, one never gets a second chance to make a first impression).
– Net, this corporate naming business is difficult, but in the end, large budgets, repeated exposure and time will dull the first impressions and generate familiarity and possibly positive impressions over time. And since consumers don’t really connect corporations to uniquely-named products, it’s not a life-or-death decision (product branding is a different story). So my prediction: Mondelēz will, over time, become part of the landscape and we’ll move on to different and more important issues. Just don’t get me started about AbbVie…or Russian slang…