Kraft faces branding challenge

23 March 2012

NEW YORK: Kraft, the food group, has chosen the name Mondelēz International for the global snacks firm set to be formed after it splits in two, a choice showing many of the challenges of rebranding.

The US multinational, which is dividing its American grocery and international snacks operations into two separate companies, asked staff to submit ideas for a possible title for the new snacks business, receiving 2,000 entries.

"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," Irene Rosenfeld, who will be the CEO of Mondelēz International, said in a statement.

Among the other suggestions were "Tfark" and "Snax", but the organisation picked Mondelēz – pronounced as "mohn-dah-LEEZ" – because it combined two Latin words meaning "delicious world".

"It strikes me as something people have been thinking about for way too long," said Stef Gans, CEO of Effective Brands. "But if it's just a corporate holding name, who cares?"

Sharon Shedroff, founder of Strategic Vision, added that the name might be hard to understand in some markets. "Until the brand is established, it will be difficult for people to give it meaning in the US and probably in Asia," she said. "Brands under it, like Oreo, could lend credibility to Mondelēz."

David Rogers, of Columbia Business School, similarly stated the use of a macron accent in Mondelēz was "evoking a faux European heritage with letterings that belong to no real-world language."

Moreover, he warned it would cost significant sums to educate people to say "Mondelēz" correctly, an exercise that was unlikely to be worthwhile for a corporate brand. "They probably will just let it be mispronounced and misspelt by others," he said.

Altria, previously Philip Morris, Diageo, formed from the merger of Guinness and Grand Metropolitan, Accenture, the consultancy spun off from Arthur Anderson, and Verizon, created by a tie-up of Bell Atlantic and GTE, followed a similar route.

"The public gets sick of compressed words if they aren't intuitive," said Nina Beckhardt, president of The Naming Group. "When the pronunciation isn't accessible, it looks bad. It's not intuitive."

In a continuation of this trend, Abbott Laborotories has also announced that its new consumer-facing drug company will be called AbbVie. This mixes "Abbott" with "vi", the Latin root for "life".

"If it's in the dictionary, someone's thought of it. If it's close to a word in the dictionary, someone's thought of it. And if it has Greco-Roman roots, someone's thought about it," William Lozito, chief branding officer of Strategic Name Development, said. "It doesn't leave you a lot to work with."

Data sourced from Financial Times, Bloomberg, Chicago Tribune; additional content by Warc staff