Late Victorian crowdsourcing

Kraft Foods has set up a new company to manage its global snack foods business – and, inevitably, the name has been crowdsourced. The result is ‘Mondelez’, and it is already attracting the usual mockery online. But the idea of crowdsourced brand names is nothing new

Kraft Foods has set up a new company to manage its global snack foods business – and, inevitably, the name has been crowdsourced. The result is ‘Mondelez’, and it is already attracting the usual mockery online. But the idea of crowdsourced brand names is nothing new…

There is something inevitable about the reaction to Mondelez, the crowdsourced name for the new company that will manage Kraft’s snack foods business. Following a wry story in today’s Guardian, the comments are already coming in thick and fast – mostly along the lines of ‘Krapp Foods!’ ‘Goldman Snax!’ and others too rude to repeat.

Admittedly, the name doesn’t strike you as one of the greats. It was suggested jointly by two employees. The rationale is that ‘monde’ suggests world, while ‘delez’ supposedly suggests ‘delicious’.

Fair enough, but the pronunciation is ambiguous (never good for a global name), and you could be forgiven for thinking the word refers to a French XXX-rated site. On the plus side, it’s a new coinage, so the domain name presumably won’t be a problem.

The name would no doubt draw a vitriolic reaction even if it had come from the professionals (think Consignia), but the fact that it came from two employees in an open competition somehow adds to the level of derision.

But it’s worth noting that, when it comes to naming, crowdsourcing is far from new.

As long ago as 1890, a Macclesfield breadmaker called Richard ‘Stoney’ Smith launched a national competition to find a name for his new flour and breadmaking business. The winning entry came from a student called Herbert Grimes. And it was ‘Hovis’.

Like Mondelez, it comes from a contraction of two foreign-language words. In this case, it’s the Latin ‘hominis vis’, meaning ‘strength of man’.

It’s a great name, for which Herbert Grimes won £25. Not bad money in those days, although he may have negotiated more had he known it would still be around in 120 years.

Interestingly, the runner-up in the competition was ‘Yum yum’, which would have set a very different tone for the Hovis brand.

As with crowdsourcing, it suggests that a tendency for slightly grating, infantilising brand language was also alive and well in 1890.

Photo: Cemetery Explorers

As a melancholy footnote, if you pay a visit to Highgate Cemetery in London, you can seek out the gravestone of Richard ‘Stoney’ Smith, founder of Hovis. The gravestone is a fascinating irregular shape and there is something satisfying about the ‘Stoney’ stone, especially as it commemorates a man whose stock in trade was ground flour.

It’s a good place to sit and reflect on the strange birth of brand names. Bring a sandwich with you, made with Hovis bread, and maybe a suitable sandwich spread from Mondelez.

Nick Asbury is a copywriter (see nickasbury.com). He also blogs at asburyandasbury.typepad.com/blog.

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