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Rebranding lessons from Kraft and the UP School of Business |

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Rebranding lessons from Kraft and the UP School of Business

BULL MARKET, BULL SHEET - Wilson Lee Flores - The Philippine Star

Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.  —David Packard, co-founder of Hewlett Packard

Long before marketing gurus and advertising experts in the West espoused the power of a name in branding a company or a person, whether professional, entrepreneur or political leader, we Asians already believed in the powerful effects of choosing a fortuitous name for one’s destiny since ancient times, often consulting feng shui or geomancy experts and even literary scholars.

Recently, two important Philippine and international institutions made the crucial decisions to change their names, one sparking some controversy and the other eliciting smooth universal acceptance — the University of the Philippines’ School of Business in Diliman, Quezon City, which has been renamed the “Cesar E.A. Virata School of Business” in honor of the former prime minister and finance minister, and global giant Kraft International, which has become “Mondelez International.”

Kraft International had a global split — with the North American grocery business retaining the old brand name, while the global snacks firm became Mondelez International, which continues selling Tang juice, Oreo and Chips Ahoy! cookies, Toblerone and Cadbury chocolates, etc. The local firm just adopted Mondelez this month.

What are some name-changing or branding lessons we can learn from UP and Mondelez?

1. Have a positive vibe and connotation. The first step in name changing is to ensure that the new name is positive in vibe and connotation. In fairness to former prime minister and finance minister Cesar E. A. Virata, he is an enlightened technocratic leader with an incorruptible track record, both in the government and private sector.

Those who criticized renaming the UP School of Business after Virata cite his having served the Marcos administration due to its controversial authoritarian nature and allegations of corruption. In fairness to Virata, he himself wasn’t guilty or even implicated in those allegations, and he served the nation well.

In the case of the new name Mondelez, New York Times journalist  Stephanie Strom wrote: “Mondelez International…  meaning is a combination of ‘world’ and ‘delicious’ in several romance languages.” Bloomberg News reporter David Welch wrote that those words came from Latin. The new name is pronounced “mohn-dah-leez.” Mondelez Philippines general manager Sudip Mall said the new company name would inspire them to better serve the consumers and one million retail stores nationwide selling their products, including the sari-sari stores.

Look at how modern-day entrepreneur Tony Tan Caktiong chose the name “Jollibee” for his family-oriented, feel-good fastfood chain: it combines “Jolli” from the English word “jolly,” meaning “happy,” and “bee,” which refers to the hardworking, team-oriented maker of honey or sweetness. All positive connotations.

The new, higher-end mall SM Aura is a good choice for name, since the English word “aura” has a positive and stylish feel to it, also meaning  “a distinctive but intangible quality that seems to surround a person or thing; atmosphere.”

2. Gain public support and consensus. Kraft made the correct decision to gain  support and enthusiasm for its name change by asking its employees to suggest names, with over 1,000 employees joining and sending in more than 1,700 potential names. The inspiration for this new Mondelez corporate name came from two employees — one in Europe and another in North America. The name change was announced worldwide, and I heard the name change in Mondelez Philippines started just this July.

In the case of the UP School of Business, my observation of the situation is perhaps the well-intentioned officials in that school failed to consult and seek the support of more people for their very important decision of changing the school’s name. Did they study if there were any legal and procedural obstacles?

UP should have also done a good public awareness campaign, such as hold a ceremony or event to formalize the name change, at least, with a thorough explanation citing the credentials of Virata in order to gain more public support.

3. A shorter name is easier to promote and remember. In the case of both the Virata School of Business and Mondelez Philippines, the length of both names is just fine, not too long to pronounce and not too complicated.

Other examples of positive name changes to shorter names include Japan’s Panasonic home electronics brand, re-branded from the too-long “Matsushita” — the surname of their legendary self-made founder Konosuke Matsushita. Thank goodness America’s Research in Motion (RIM) firm finally ditched its unwieldy corporate name on January 30 and adopted its famous product name, BlackBerry, also for use as its company name!

Did you know the brand Nike used to be called by the overly long name “Blue Ribbon Sports”; that camera-maker “Olympus” used to be called by the Japanese name “Takachiko Seisakusho,” and that Sony also had a very long name “Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo” before its successful name change in 1958?

In the Philippines, here are some successful corporate name changes to less complicated and easier-to-remember names: the market-oriented Sy family changed the name of their “Banco de Oro” to “BDO Unibank, Inc.” under Teresita Sy Coson and “Shoemart” has become “SM,” the Gotianun family changed the name and logo of their Alabang complex from “Filinvest Corporate City” to “Filinvest City” in January this year, while the Zobels of the Ayala Group also changed their affordable housing developer “Laguna Properties Holdings, Inc.” to “Avida Land Corporation.” 

Mercury drug was an SME

Readers often ask me how many people started their businesses. One of the best ways for a person to start a business is to first work for a firm or business that you hope to emulate in the future.

Look at work experience as an apprenticeship — that’s how many ethnic Chinese entrepreneurs in Asia started out, like Mercury Drugstore founder Mariano Que, who started out as an ordinary employee with prewar Manila’s biggest drugstore business based in Binondo called Farmacia Central.

That drugstore business was owned by Dr. Jose Tee Han Kee, the immigrant founder of the Teehankee clan which included his son, the late Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee and grandson, former Justice Undersecretary Manuel Antonio “Dondi” Teehankee, both bar top-notchers. Another grandson and bar top-notcher is Enrique Yu Teehankee, whose mother is from the top prewar Yutivo hardware clan.

Another grandchild of entrepreneur and civic leader Dr. Jose Tee Han Kee, who was the passionate Philippine supporter of Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s 1911 republican revolution in China, is Volvo Philippines president Maria Cristina Lee Teehankee, whose mother is from the prominent prewar Li Seng Giap trading clan. 

Mandarin Oriental Manila’s new food and beverage director, the Polish-Australian executive Peter Pysk, recently mentioned to Philippine STAR that among the alumni of their Tivoli and other fine dining restos in the hotel are such successful resto entrepreneurs as chef Ariel Manuel of Lolo Dad’s Restaurant and Tony Boy Escalante of the romantic Antonio’s Tagaytay. The head of the kitchen at The Tivoli in Mandarin Oriental, Manila, is French national chef Remi Vercelli.

Non-profit NGOS use businesslike marketing strategies

This column has received much feedback from non-business people and entities such as professionals, some clergy and even non-government organizations asking for suggestions and ideas to make them flourish. I recommend that we all study the strategies, successes and even the failures of business companies for lessons.       

One example of a non-profit organization excelling in business-like marketing strategies for its advocacies is the activist environmental group Greenpeace. From July 9 to 30, Greenpeace Philippines is bringing a ship called the Esperanza — the Spanish word for “hope” — to the Philippines on a journey to expose the threats confronting the health of our oceans via overfishing, destructive fishing, pollution and climate change.

Greenpeace Philippines activists Vince Cinches and Virgie Benosa Llorin said the public can visit the 72-meter ship in the port of Dumaguete City from July 13 to 14, and at Manila’s Pier 14 South Harbor from July 27 to 28. It used to be a firefighting ship of the Russian Navy. For more information about this environmental campaign by the Esperanza ship, go to, follow @gpph on Twitter or

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