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Snack Time: Kraft Mondelez Brand Name Review

By Mark Skoultchi

April 2, 2012

So what to make of the new name for Kraft’s global snack business. Well, now that the dust has mostly settled and the predictable stream of vitriol over the choice of name has receded, we can have a fair and professional conversation about this new company badge.

I’m guessing that 99% of the blogosphere has never been a part of an actual company name development initiative. And yet everyone’s a freakin’ expert. It drives me crazy. I’m not in love with this name. It has its problems, which I’ll get to in a moment. But I don’t think it’s a terrible choice, and I can appreciate the challenge that Kraft faced in having to come up with it.

Derived from Monde, the French word for “World”, and Delez, according to Kraft, an expression for delicious, the name is at least defensible as a moniker for an international snack company. I mean c’mon folks. Who hasn’t found a more tenuous link between a company name and its business focus than this? The examples abound. This one is simply not that big a leap. Sure, I wish Delez was spelled Deliz, which would’ve taken me more quickly to Delizioso, the Italian for “Delicious”, but that’s okay. I get it. And it only took a single explanation to forever embed it in my brain. Delez evokes Deliz evokes delicious. Thank you, Kraft’s spokesperson. Got it.

Let’s talk about pronunciation. I’m not a formally trained linguist, but I’ve been in the business of naming products and companies long enough to know that an alternating consonant-vowel-consonant-vowel construction (CVCV) simplifies pronunciation for many international speakers. Mondelez isn’t a perfect CVCV construction but it’s close, and for most speakers rolls off the tongue easily enough.

On the other hand, there’s likely going to be some confusion about whether the name is pronounced Mon-dah-lay or Mon-dah-lezz or Mon-dah-leez. Of course, this is what’s got all the so-called naming pundits in an Oreo induced uproar. And I have to agree; it’s a strike against the name.

The ideal name will have a singular, perfectly intuitive pronunciation, and there are a few different ways to pronounce this one. The trouble is primarily with that final syllable. LAY, LEZZ, LEEZ, it’s anyone’s guess. Thankfully, we have that same company spokesperson to clear it up for us. What’s that? It’s pronounced Mon-dah-LEEZ? Oh. Okay. Thanks. Got it. Friends, do we really have to revisit the va-RIZE-on / VERA-zon example?? Mondelez’s pronunciation isn’t perfectly intuitive, but Kraft shouldn’t have too hard a time educating people.

By now you’ve probably read that the name recalls the Russian word “manda”, which refers to oral sex, and that people in many countries of the former Soviet Union (not just Russia) will find the name vulgar. However, while I’d like to do some research into this, my understanding is that this is a very old term, not used much anymore, and unlikely to offend most Russian speakers. In just about every global name development project I’ve been a part of linguistic and cultural analysis has returned some negative interpretation or meaning of a proposed name candidate. It’s inevitable, and in most cases the references are little understood and the concerns exaggerated. Rarely an obstacle to success in those markets. Let’s not forget that Volvo is one of the best selling cars in the United States, despite the word’s similarity to a part of the female genitalia.

And, truth is, this name is unlikely to be very consumer facing. I’d be surprised if Mondelez were used in any other location than on the back of a product package, as a corporate endorsement in small type, or at the bottom of a snack brand website, alongside the copyright. It’s a house of brands, not a branded house. Not that that matters. Companies should strive for perfection in their naming, regardless of how consumer facing the brand will be. But this name isn’t gonna be nearly as prominent as it is right now. Even though I think Kraft would’ve benefited from working with a professional on this initiative rather than soliciting name ideas from its employees around the world (yeah, it was one of those shameful internal naming contests), I don’t think they did half bad. Mondelez will likely be approved and soon after recede into the corporate landscape, allowing its product brands to again take the pubic spotlight. My prediction: people quickly learn that it’s pronounced MondeLEEZ (or don’t care one way or the other), the Russian associations with sex acts become a non-issue, and Kraft sells the whole business unit for a hefty sum.

Overall Grade: B-

Grade:
B-
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