For 85 years, Kraft Mac and Cheese has been one of the staples of comfort food. As far as easy meals go, Mac and Cheese is about as iconic as it gets. For a lot of people, it’s as much a part of the experience of growing up as playing in the neighbor’s yard until the street lights come on.
Except, if you go to the grocery store and try to buy a box, you won’t find one. At least, not one that says ‘Mac and Cheese’ on it.
That’s because, the blue box with orange and yellow letters, and the famous elbow noodle smile isn’t called ‘Mac and Cheese.’ It’s called Macaroni and Cheese. That’s the official name. Well, until now.
On Thursday, KraftHeinz said it was changing the name. Now, it will officially be Mac and Cheese, which makes sense, considering that’s what everyone calls it anyway. “The change from ‘macaroni and cheese’ to ‘mac & cheese,’ is meant to reflect the way fans organically talk about the brand,” the company said in a press release.
Honestly, that’s brilliant. I would bet a lot of money that a non-zero number of people reading this right now had no idea it wasn’t already called Mac and Cheese.
I mean, usually, when a company decides to rebrand a product, it’s a bad idea unless something significant has changed enough that customers would be confused by calling it the same thing. But, that’s not why most companies change their brand. Usually, someone gets bored or thinks they have a great idea that will breathe new life into a product just by changing its name.
I promise you it never works that way. That’s because a brand isn’t your logo or your color scheme or your website. It isn’t even the story you try to tell through marketing.
No, your brand is the story your customers tell themselves about you and your product. It’s about every experience they have with your product–most of which you have no control over at all. More than that, it’s the way they feel about your company. All that other stuff is just a reminder about that story–about that feeling.
In this case, however, Mac and Cheese is already the brand, even if Kraft took close to a century to come to the same conclusion the rest of us figured out when we sat down at the table as a hungry six-year-old.
That’s why this is a big deal. Macaroni and cheese is something generic you get on the kid’s menu at a fast-casual restaurant. Mac and Cheese is something you have after school while you finish your homework before soccer practice. It’s something you have sitting on the couch in your dorm room watching a movie with your roommate. It’s comfort food. That’s its brand.
It’s actually a funny lesson, really. Just because you carefully craft a name and a logo and a package design, doesn’t mean anyone will care. They’ll just call your product what they want, anyway. After a while, it doesn’t matter what it says on the box, what matters is the story your customers tell themselves. At some point, it seems silly not to go along with that story.
By the way, I’m not here to debate the culinary value of processed cheese and pasta noodles. The reason people love Mac and Cheese isn’t that it’s necessarily the greatest meal you can get in a box. It’s about the story. It’s comfort food. Kudos to KraftHeinz for recognizing that, and owning it.