Note: The subject of this article is a personal bugbear of the author. The views expressed are based on recognised brand principles but should not be taken as a definitive analysis of the brand naming approach in question. ;o)
The purpose of a name for any brand or product is to give it an identity. Before any visual branding takes place, a name must be decided on. Because, when all is said and done, a brand is a word.
The name is what people principally retain, and is what they use to reference the product or brand in conversation. Brand referral will normally be by name, which brings the importance of the name into sharp focus.
The critical function of the name is to provide a clear association in people’s minds. When the name is used, people know what you are talking about. This is fine until the need arises to extend a brand. That’s when a clear-headed, strategic approach to naming must really kick in.
When the Coco Pops® name was first introduced in the UK in 1961, it stood clearly for chocolate-flavoured Rice Krispies® and built powerfully on the word association with Kellogg’s immortal characters, Snap, Crackle and Pop. The ‘Pops’ part of the name was inextricably connected with the popping rice that the name represented.
Coco Pops® cereal has had many mascots over the years, but Coco Monkey has endured the test of time and has been the face of Coco Pops® in the UK almost constantly for more than 50 years. (With a number of face changes of course.)
When Kellogg’s wanted to line-extend the Coco Pops® branding to other chocolate-flavoured cereal, a simple but critical analysis of the name should have taken place. Which part of the name is associated directly with the product, and which part can be borrowed for line-extended products. The answer would have been unambiguous.
‘Coco’, and its attendant mascot Coco Monkey, could be used for line extension, but the word ‘Pops’ must remain unique to the popping rice cereal that it was so closely associated with.
This would have made way for strong product names, linked to the existing successful brand but each with its own identity. Names such as Coco Rocks, Coco Mega Munchers, Coco Straws etc. And all inheriting the powerful mascot Coco Monkey.
Instead, we have (or have had) names that are an absolute mouthful before you even open the packet. And a dreadful lack of identity. Coco Pops Rocks®. Coco Pops Mega Munchers®. Coco Pops Straws®. Coco Pops Porridge®.
Eh? What’s in this packet? Pops or Rocks? Pops or Straws? Pops or Porridge?
Interestingly, the various extended Coco Pops® products have come and gone. It doesn’t seem that they have been a definite success. I would suggest that at least one contributing factor – and as a passionate copywriter I would say, the main one – is the clumsy approach to brand naming.
Of course, it is possible that there was an issue with protecting Intellectual Property if shortening the master name to Coco. Maybe Coco Pops® was the part with iron-clad IP protection. We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.
But I suspect that they just didn’t have a strategic copywriter on the naming team at the critical time. What a pity.