Sara Lee announced today that it is changing its name to Hillshire Brands after it spins off its coffee division.
This is a smart move but I wonder if the executives at Hillshire missed an opportunity.
There was little chance the company would keep the Sara Lee brand. Sara Lee is closely associated with frozen desserts, so it isn’t a great fit for what is primarily a meat company. More importantly, Sara Lee is a rather tarnished corporate name; the company has struggled for a very long time, acquiring and spinning off businesses in a desperate business to create a sustainable, profitable enterprise. The organization needs a symbolic fresh start.
I’m certain the Sara Lee executives considered creating a new corporate name. This is what Kraft decided to do with its snacks division. But finding a good name is a challenge and for a small company like Sara Lee’s meats business it would be difficult to invest heavily in the new corporate brand. And what good is a corporate brand if no one knows it?
Using an existing brand, then, was the logical approach. Hillshire is certainly a good one.
I’m sure there was one big decision they struggled with: use Hillshire Farm, Hillshire Farm Brands or Hillshire Brands?
Hillshire Brands is safe. It also distinguishes between the product brand, Hillshire Farm and the corporate name, Hillshire Brands.
Still, I wonder if they missed an opportunity to fully embrace the Hillshire Farm brand. Bringing Farm into the name changes its meaning and in a positive, more emotional way. Hillshire Brands sounds like the corporate leaders are a little uncomfortable with the Farm. I would have embraced the connection.