Today’s Guardian carries a story about Kraft Foods, who have set up a new company to handle their snack food products. As is often the case these days, rather than getting the professionals in to come up with a name, they launched a crowdsourcing-style competition. The result is Mondelez, where the ‘monde’ suggests ‘world’ and ‘delez’ supposedly suggests 'delicious'.
It doesn’t immediately strike you as a great name. The pronunciation is ambiguous and it sounds slightly like a French xxx-rated site.
The tone of the Guardian article is certainly wry and the comments so far suggest the name will draw mockery, not just on its intrinsic merit or lack of it, but also for the fact that it was crowdsourced – the winning suggestion came from two employees.
But it’s worth noting that, when it comes to naming, crowdsourcing is nothing 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.
The story is proof that crowdsourcing is far from the newfangled practice it’s made out to be. In many cases, it's really a fancy name for a competition.
There’s another interesting footnote on Hovis. The runner-up in the naming competition was ‘Yum yum’, which would have set a very different tone for the brand. It suggests that a tendency for slightly grating, infantilising brand language was also alive and well in 1890.
The picture at the top of this post (sourced here) shows the gravestone of Richard 'Stoney' Smith in Highgate Cemetery. It's a fascinating irregular shape and there is something satisfying about a Stoney stone, especially as it commemorates a man whose stock in trade was ground flour.
UPDATE: This article has subsequently appeared in a revised form on the Creative Review blog. Commenter Ben Millar notes that £25 would equate to £2,400 in today's money. Not to be sniffed at.