When I first saw the article, Malt-O-Meal Changes Name to MOM Brands to Reflect Growth, my first impression was of the familiar, comforting Malt-O-Meal box now saying something like MOM Cereal instead. Would the imagery change as well? Would packages feature a generic representation of a mom – like the stereotypical characters, Aunt Jemima, Colonel Sanders, or the Gerber baby?
As I delved into the article, I realized that I had jumped to conclusions, and if I’d carefully read the title, I would’ve known that the company name was being changed — not the product name. Here’s where the study of naming architecture comes into play — no really, this is the actual discipline of naming companies. Taking Malt-O-Meal, er I mean MOM Brands, as an example, let’s go through the difference between a company name, a brand name, and a product name:
- Company Name: MOM Brands (formerly known as Malt-O-Meal Company). For companies that house multiple brands, this is the big umbrella that covers all of the brands within the company. Another example of this is the company name, General Mills, which houses numerous sub-brands, including Yoplait, Cheerios, Progresso and so many more.
- Brand Names: Malt-O-Meal, Isabel’s Way, Three Sisters, and Mom’s Best Naturals are just some of the brands under the MOM Brands umbrella. Note that the previous company name, Malt-O-Meal Company, was also the name of their leading brand. This can be seen in other companies, such as the beauty giant L’Oreal, who owns many brands, including Lancome, Maybelline, and Kiehl’s — and yet, the company name reflects only one of their brands.
- Product Names: MOM Brands probably has hundreds of products — Cinnamon Sweets, Golden Puffs, and Marshmallow Fields to name just a few. These seem like a bunch of random, lost cereals unless they are paired with their parent brands: Three Sisters Cinnamon Sweets, Malt-O-Meal Golden Puffs, and Isabel’s Way Marshmallow Fields. Think of product names as individuals belonging to brand families, which are owned by an umbrella company.
I’ve created a visual representation of MOM Brands’ naming architecture (note that the chart does not list all MOM products and brands but is simplified to show the architecture and hierarchy:
So, why did Malt-O-Meal Company change their name? And, how does the new name, reflect its growth? Well, the previous company name highlighted only one of their brands. This new name can serve as more of a generic catch-all umbrella, freeing the company to focus on marketing their brands individually. And, the choice of the word mom is not totally random, as it’s an acronym for Malt-O-Meal. In terms of positioning, all of the company’s products are cereals — a category that has strong positive associations with mothers, e.g. “Kix – Kid Tested, Mother Approved.” If MOM Brands plans to keep to the breakfast category, this name has relevant associations and reinforces the company’s positioning.
On a separate note, I don’t agree with “MOM” being fully capitalized. In all caps, it reminds me of being in trouble while my angry MOM is yelling at me. When the name appears in lowercase, I associate it more with the warm, nurturing, and cuddly side of motherhood. That being said, I may just be getting caught up in a capitalization technicality because the company logo has “mom” in lowercase and the capitalized “MOM” can only be found on text on the website.
Speaking of getting caught up in things, this in-depth dissection of a company name change may be interesting only to naming and branding folks. In the retail category, company name changes are unlikely to impact the average consumer. In the store, it’s going to be a tiny change to the small writing on the back of their Malt-O-Meal box — something that the consumer could probably care less about. But, for us at Catchword, these sorts of name changes are what we live for. Well, that and dim sum 🙂
Overall Grade: A-