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I have a great idea…

March 23, 2012

“Let’s let our employees name the company. What could possibly go wrong?”

Mondelēz. That’s what.

“Beg your pardon,” you say?


Kraft needs a new name for its snack division. They open the process to 1,000 employees, two of whom say something like “Delicious World.”

A little tinkering results in Mondelēz. One part Condoleezza and one part Mons d’ Elise.

I’m going to vote “no, thank you” on this one, Kraft.

Am I being a naming snob? No. I don’t believe great names only come from experts. One of the most successful naming endeavors I was a part of came from a woman who poked her head into a meeting and offered a suggestion born of a song she was listening to. Her suggestion became the name and *everyone* was thrilled.

But there’s something about this “win an Edible Arrangements gift certificate if you have the winning idea” sweepstakes of creative darts makes me a bit queasy.

Perhaps it’s the Business Week disaster massage that “well, at least the name isn’t Tfark,” that is making my lunch shift uneasily in my gut. Yes, indeed: thank goodness Kraft didn’t reverse the letters of its name. Because Tfark sounds as though someone has had intestinal problems spurred of their morning cup of rooibos. It sounds contagious. It sounds like what you do with e. coli ridden snacks. Or should I say “Snax,” as Kraft spokesperson Michael Mitchell suggested.

Maybe I just can’t imagine how Kraft is going to select the logo. Customer-submission contest valid with proof of purchase of Oreos?

Take a look at the tide of disapproval: Businessweek slams the name with a convoluted “first question, second question, first question” device that eventually points to the reality that, if Mondelēz is a corporate brand with no consumer contact, it’ll have to do.

The Wall Street Journal basically argues that, if iPad and Accenture and Murano can get past horrible names, so can Kraft.

Forbes, on the other hand, suggests an unwieldy and ghastly hyphenation scheme: Mon-deleez or Mon-delize. Um, has nobody in the business world taken fifth grade anatomy? Or tried to avoid legal cease and desist orders from Monsanto? Or taken even a basic course in marketing?

What Kraft and BusinessWeek and Forbes all help highlight are the perils of naming. Nobody wants to be a laughingstock. And that makes companies choose safe, flat, boring names. And very few people actually understand all the finer points of naming and are quick with ludicrous “fixes” to awful names.

I don’t want to fix Mondelēz. I want to gently suggest that the shareholders not approve it. Such a rejection could have marvelous results: this whole public relations setup has dressed the stage and prepared the audience so that any subsequent name will feel a relief. It’s akin to telling your in-laws that you might name the baby Hamlet, so that when you announce the birth of Ernest, everyone sighs great exultations of how he’s so cute.

[cross posted over at Hearkin and Harkin]

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