Kraft Foods: A Lesson In Global Marketing

Category: Marketing Translation

Recently, Kraft Foods announced the creation of a holding name for a new company that will be used for a portion of its international snack business. The name, “Mondelez International,” is meant to be a multilingual portmanteau of sorts, its first syllable echoing the word monde (meaning “world” in French, but whose sound also works in other Romance languages, e.g. mondo in Italian and mundo in Spanish and Portuguese), and whose final syllable is a nod to the English word “delicious.”  Together, it is meant to call to mind a delicious world. Sounds good enough, right?

Well…not everywhere. Shortly after the announcement was made, feedback appeared that part of that word has some unfortunate connotations in Russian. This latest snafu has one very curious element: Kraft apparently tried to do their linguistic homework and culled focus groups to test the name in 28 languages, including Russian. There is no word yet on why their Russian focus group didn’t catch the offensive meaning hidden in the name — or if it was flagged but dismissed as too remote an association.

In Kraft’s defense, coming up with a name that is absolutely, 100% linguistically feasible and culturally appropriate in every country and region in the world is a tall order. The advertising and marketing world is filled with language-related mishaps, as we blogged about in September. One key element of marketing translation services is to check for all possible meanings in pronunciations, not only in English but also local languages. To quote poet Robert Burns, “The best laid schemes of mice and men / Go often awry.”

And as for Kraft, the good news is that shareholders still have time to nix the name when they meet on May 23rd. Perhaps “Mondelez” will soon be replaced by something a bit more culturally and linguistically benign.

Photo attribution: striatic