By and large, corporate life is no laughing matter. One exception – and a cause of bottomless mirth at that – is the pompous business of corporate name-minting.
Latest, in a long line of jokes, is ‘Mondelez International.’ What, you ask? It’s the new monicker for the Kraft spin-off snack business which will shortly be headed by Irene Rosenfeld, after she jettisons the lumbering US grocery business onto poor old Tony Vernon.
One of Vernon’s few high cards will be the fact that he retains the Kraft name which, whatever its downmarket connotations, has the merit of being agreeably monosyllabic and memorable.
If only we could say the same for Mondelez International. Why, oh why (as The Daily Mail might put it) couldn’t it take the Cadbury name? After all, organisationally and with the exception of a few Kraft legacy brands such as Oreo, Mondelez is the ex-Cadbury company. It faithfully maps Cadbury’s emerging markets strategy and, if it is to achieve the higher margin growth commonly associated with the snack sector, that will in no small part be due to the dominance of Cadbury brands within its portfolio.
Instead of the instant mnemonic, however, we have the instantly forgettable Mondelez. Apparently, this was dredged up from an exhaustive haul of 2,000 ideas – fashionably and inexpensively crowd-sourced from Kraft employees. The ultimate choice was, in fact, a portmanteau word derived from one suggestion fielded in America and another in Europe. Which probably tells you all you need to know about Rosenfeld’s imaginative powers. Camel, horse, committee anyone?
On second thoughts, however, I’m not entirely convinced by this folksy little conceit of hers. Mondelez has about it a strong whiff of corporate ID specialist. Allegedly it’s a bit of cod-Latin, derived from a hybrid of mundus (world) and delectatio (delight or pleasure), which is more readily understood by substituting the French modern equivalents ‘monde’ and ‘délice.’ Note the subtle potential French wordplay – Mon délice – perfect but for the fact it is grammatically incorrect, délice being feminine.
What does all this remind you of? Yes, you’re right: Diageo, Altria, Aviva and most memorable of all – for the wrong reasons – Consignia. All of these rejoice in being bland latinisms (although strictly speaking, Diageo is all Greek to me – dia, ‘through’; geo, “world”: but let’s not get pedantic about it). It seems a curious irony that at a time when interest in classical languages is at an all time low, corporate id specialists have turned the abuse of them into an art form.
And, in their earnestness not to create offence by minting something more meaningful, have often achieved laughable results. Take Aviva for example. On one reading, it could mean ‘Without life.’
As for Mondelez, which Americans clearly have difficulty in pronouncing, I will leave you with the wise words of Sharon Shedroff, founder of San Diego consulting firm Strategic Vision Inc:
“Until the brand is established, it will be difficult for people to give it meaning in the US and probably in Asia. Brands under it, like Oreo, could lend credibility to Mondelez.”
So why go to the trouble and expense in the first place?