DuPont misfires with Chemours

I. E. du Pont de Nemours and Company. This impressively aristocratic name is better known as plain DuPont, the world’s fourth largest chemical company.

Founded in July 1802 as a gundowder mill by one Éleuthère Irénée du Pont, it supplied the Union Army in the Civil War and went on to specialize in the poylmers that made it famous.

dupont logo

Du Pont was born in Paris in 1771. His father, Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours, was a political economist who had been elevated to the nobility in 1784 by King Louis XVI, allowing him to carry the honorable de Nemours suffix, Nemours being a picturesque ‘commune’ in the Île-de-France region in north-central France.

Little wonder then the company should look fondly on Nemours as the name for the spinoff of its performance chemicals business, embedded as it is in the heritage of the company and the duPont family’s noble French origins.

Nemours was a natural, except that the duPont family had already endowed the name to The Nemours Foundation, a pediatric health system operating in the Delaware Valley and in Florida.

The problem was neatly side-stepped by the creation of Chemours, a sound-alike name that also invokes French place names à la Cherbourg, Chantilly, Chartres, Charmant, Chambery and Chinon.

ChemoursA nice idea, but it’s not at all what DuPont had in mind; it wants to be sure that people know the performance chemicals business is a performance chemicals business and has, therefore, declared Chemours be pronounced ‘Kem-oars’, with a ‘k’ for chemicals and not a ‘schh’ for château.

Sad. My mistake. I got carried away by the romance of it all. I just thought… a company with such a flair for naming its inventions – Vespel, Corian, Teflon, Freon, Mylar, Kevlar, Zemdrain, Nomex, Tyvek, Sorona and Lycra – might have been more inventive with an historic spin-off dedicated to “applying great chemistry to make a colorful, capable, and cleaner world.”

Leidos, a name with a kaleidoscope of problems

SAIC is one of those awkward corporate initialisms you just want to avoid. Do you try to say it (say-ick), or spell it out letter-by-letter?

It stands for Science Applications International Corp, a name that tells you little more than the initials.

No matter. SAIC is an American contracting company that you’ll probably never have a need to call.

In what is a difficult market for government services, SAIC has decided to split itself into two to ‘enhance’ shareholder value. The smaller of the two companies will keep the name SAIC and stay focused on its core business.

The other entity will be spun off as a new company focusing on technology for the national security, health and engineering sectors. So here is a chance for SAIC, or a part of it, to come out from behind its anonymity and say something to the market about what it stands for and why it exists.

Enter ‘Leidos’.

In a press release SAIC explains that the origin of the name Leidos is to be found hidden in the word kaleidoscope and “reflects the company’s effort to unite solutions from different angles.”


If, like me, you are having trouble trying to figure out how solutions can be united from different angles, try this wonderful piece of PR hyperbole:

“It’s a memorable word with dynamic connotations that capture the energy, talent and passion that our employees bring as they work to deliver solutions that protect our nation, our communities, and our families.”

Leidos (Lydos, Laydos? Leedos?) is a coinage that has the primary virtue of being (presumably) available. As a name it connotes nothing at all. Nothing. And why should it? It’s just a made-up name based on a piece of a word that, in and of itself, has no inherent meaning.

Eventually, with a lot of investment around a focused brand strategy, Leidos might begin to contain ‘dynamic connotations that capture the energy, talent and passion of our employees”.

Until then, the company should begin to figure out who it is and why people on whom it depends should care about its existence, and not depend on an unremarkable six-letter word to do all the explaining.

The Washington Post weighs in:

Sarah Lee chooses Hillshire Brands name for spin off

Sarah Lee Corp. chose Hillshire Brands Co. as the new name for its North American business that will be spun off later this month.

The food and beverage company said Hillshire Brands will trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol HSH..

Sara Lee, which acquired the Hillshire Farm brand in 1971, said the Hillshire Brands name represents its strong heritage and its “ambitions for growing our portfolio of iconic brands in the future.”

After the spinoff, Hillshire Brands’ food-service division will continue to be known as Sara Lee Foodservice.

Once a hodgepodge of household products and food brands, Sara Lee has been selling off businesses and narrowing its focus over the past few years.

On June 28, the company will separate into two publicly traded companies: an international coffee and tea company to be named D.E. Master Blenders 1753 and a North American business that includes the Jimmy Dean and Hillshire Farm brands.

The Wall Street Journal.

Business Insider: Turning Sara Lee Into Hillshire Brands Is A Perfect Example Of How Not To Name A Company

Two Motorolas, one huge branding mistake

Motorola Inc., the maker of mobile phones and two-way radios, is targeting January for the spinoff of its handset unit, splitting the company in two.

The new company will be known as Motorola Mobility.

The remaining business, Motorola Solutions, will make bar-code scanners, walkie-talkies and other emergency-communication equipment.

Mobility, or Solutions?

Thus, there will be two Motorolas and two Motorola brands in the market next year.

In all the spinoff announcements there has been no mention of how the shared brand will be managed, which should be a concern to investors. How will each of the two Motorola brands move forward and evolve, as they will need to in order to stay relevant and competitive in their specific market categories, without undermining each other?

Motorola is treating the separation as though they it were naming two new divisions, each with vacuous appellations, in the apparent belief that the Motorola brand will magically float above the two, managing itself in the ether as it has done always. As both businesses are inherently about ‘mobility’ and ‘solutions’, how is the market supposed to understand the difference between Motorola Solutions and Motorola Mobility?

The truth is that Motorola has never understood branding and the role of the Motorola brand. Brands have always been about product.

Prediction: Only one of these businesses will survive as Motorola. The other will languish, not understanding how a commoditized industry has moved to differentiation by brand, until it is too late to save it from being acquired by a competitor. If and when this happens, what will happen to the Motorola name then?

Name origin: Motorola founder Paul Galvin came up with this name when his company (at the time, Galvin Manufacturing Company) started manufacturing radios for cars. Many audio equipment makers of the era used the “ola” ending for their products, most famously the “Victrola” phonograph made by the Victor Talking Machine Company (later JVC).  The name was meant to convey the idea of “sound” and “motion”. It became so widely recognized that the company later adopted it as the company name.