Snap, crackle, flop: Name review of Kellanova

Kellogg is splitting up, but the name of the co that will house Pringles, Pop-Tarts, and other temptations is not too tasty.

Kellanova name review by Catchword BrandingLast year, the maker of Rice Krispies and Pringles announced a plan to streamline its sprawling operations by spinning off independent companies. Kellogg, a company so established it is simply known by the stock ticker “K,” didn’t say what these new companies would be called but expressed hopes that each would thrive under a narrower mandate. On March 15, not quite a year later, the names were revealed.

The first company, dedicated to the North American cereal biz, will be called WK Kellogg Co after founder Will Keith Kellogg—a straightforward if un-thrilling choice. The second, a much bigger outfit that will oversee snacks around the globe, as well as frozen breakfast products and plant-based foods, will be known as Kellanova.

In a press release, company executives explained that the Kellanova name is meant to capitalize on existing brand equity and convey the new company’s ambition to be the world’s “next generation” snacking powerhouse.

Choosing new names in a global restructuring like this is no easy task. They need to be pronounceable in scores of different countries. They need to be globally available. Their domains need to be gettable. Sometimes the names are good in spite of all this (See: GSK spinoff Haleon and Coach parent company Tapestry). But often the resulting names are bland or bizarre coinages that land like a banana peel.

There are some things to recommend Kellanova. It follows a lyrical pattern (consonant / vowel / consonant / vowel) that is easy for speakers of many languages to pronounce. It does leverage the serious equity of the Kellogg’s name. And the intended “next generation” message is obvious: nova is Latin for “new,” a fact that English-speakers get reinforced on the daily through words like innovation and novel. The word nova also refers to the brightening of a star in several different languages, a solid message for a spinoff (though the company did not highlight this meaning in its release).

That said.

The name Kellanova is a mouthful. It bears an odd similarity to Casanova, Villanova, and telenovela. And while the Latin word may technically speak to newness, the use of nova is about as fresh as those air-soaked Frosted Flakes lost in the depths of your pantry.

That is in part because so many companies in so many industries have tried so hard to align themselves with innovation, to the point that it is rarely a differentiator. Kellogg had a chance with this name to tell us what sets their food company apart from all others, to express what the company stands for, to leverage all the positive feels consumers have about Cheez-Its and Pop-Tarts—and it ultimately chose something flatly indistinctive.*

If the coinage feels amateurish, that may be because it was the result of internally polling company employees about what they thought the new company should be called. According to the release, nearly 1,000 employees sent in some 4,000 suggestions, including some with the word nova in them. Though an inclusive exercise to be sure, crowdsourcing is not typically the best way to choose a name for something. (Just ask the British government about Boaty McBoatface or the folks over at Mountain Dew.)

Kellogg's red logoHow good or bad the name is likely won’t matter much to consumers, who will continue to see the familiar curvy Kellogg’s branding on products from both companies. Still, there are other audiences, like investors and competitors, who can be impressed by a new corporate moniker, and Kellanova feels like a squandered opportunity in that regard.

One could even argue that the name, in its very construction, has an (ahem) limited shelf life. Yes, the company is new today. But it won’t be in two or five or 10 years. And we may have evolved beyond our widespread innovation fixation by then, too.


* Though nova is pretty tired, its flaws do not include that old urban legend about the Chevy Nova tanking in Latin America because no va means “doesn’t go” in Spanish. The car sold perfectly well, and Spanish speakers associate the word with newness as much as English speakers given words like innovación (innovation) and novedad (“novelty”).

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