Johnson & Johnson’s new consumer health spinoff, housing well-known brands from Tylenol to Band-Aid and Neutrogena, has announced its name: Kenvue.
Upon launching in 2023, Kenvue will be poised to generate sales in more than 100 countries to an estimated one billion customers.
Such a powerful brand warrants a powerful name. But Kenvue just isn’t. We know how hard it is to clear company names internationally, but the name’s messaging is overused and its construction dated. (We feel tired just looking at it.)
Johnson & Johnson explained its choice in a release: this “modern name” was “inspired by two powerful ideas: ken—meaning knowledge, an English word primarily used in Scotland, and vue, referencing sight. With rich knowledge of human needs and deep consumer insights, Kenvue will deliver meaningful, personal health solutions.”
The ideas of knowledge and insight are fundamental to many businesses (and therefore seriously overused) but are much better suited to data, tech, or consulting than consumer health. Besides, Vue strongly suggests actual seeing rather than the metaphor of insight. (Vue appears in many consumer vision product names, such as contact lens OG Acuvue.)
You could make the “knowledge + insight” idea work with the right brand positioning. However, the new company’s stated purpose has nothing to do with either. From the release: “Kenvue’s purpose, Realize the Extraordinary Power of Everyday Care, will guide the company’s actions and long-term aspirations, from strategy to talent philosophy, and more.”
Thibaut Mongon, CEO Designate of Kenvue, notes in the release that, in developing the new corporate identity, the company harnessed “expertise, love, and energy” and seeks to demonstrate the “extraordinary power of everyday care” and its “profound cumulative impact on your wellbeing.” It’s a noble goal. But, unlike Mongon’s explanation, the company name doesn’t convey exciting individual potential or an energizing self-care call-to-arms.
What’s Old Isn’t New Again
Mongon also states that the new company will “breathe life” into the spinoff’s beloved brands, but the name is more of a dusty sigh than a life-giving breath of fresh air. However, outside Scotland, the only time you have probably heard the word ken is in the phrase “outside my ken,” as uttered by your grandfather or English professor (who, incidentally washed their clothes and fridged their food in Kenmore appliances from Sears).
Vue for view similarly feels dated. Acuvue contact lenses were first released in 1987. The multinational cinema holding company Vue International rolled out its name 19 years ago. And tons of -vue vision and photography product names have been on the scene for the past 30 years or more: ProVue, Prevue, Televue, Invue, Omnivue, Skyvue, and on and on.
Unlike the giant corporation that it represents, Kenvue is very average. In the end, though, it will be fine (think of all those practicing lawyers and doctors who were C students). Consumers will be talking about Band-Aids and Tylenol, not Kenvue, anyway.
Finding an internationally ownable name and exact .com is incredibly difficult. However, a big player like J&J could have done better.