Classic Brands that Need to Re-brand to Survive in the Market
As a result of the BLM movement, many companies announced commitments to rebranding products that have been known to be insensitive or to display racial stereotyping to the BIPOC communities. As new brands are released, I’ll update this and share my insights about the rebrand that they are moving forward with.
Aunt Jemima -> Pearl Milling Company. February 2021.
PepsiCo, owns Aunt Jemima's parent company, Quaker Oats abandoned the 131-year old brand name. The name "Aunt Jemima," has long been criticized as a racist caricature of a Black woman stemming from slavery. It was founded in 1888 by Chris L. Rutt who named the original company after "Old Aunt Jemima," an 1875 song from a minstrel show that featured performers in blackface who wore aprons and bandana headbands.
The new name came from the Pearl Milling Company was a small mill in the bustling town of St. Joseph, Missouri. They produced flour, cornmeal, and, beginning in 1889, the famous self-rising pancake mix that would go on to be known as Aunt Jemima. The new packaging features a rendering of a mill with a water wheel and still uses the same red, white and yellow color scheme. Both the pancake-mix box and the syrup bottle included a label that says, “New Name Same Great Taste Aunt Jemima.”
"This name is a nod to where our delicious products began before becoming a family-favorite breakfast staple," PepsiCo said of its new Pearl Milling Company branding. "While the Aunt Jemima brand was updated over the years in a manner intended to remove racial stereotypes, it has not progressed enough to appropriately reflect the dignity, respect, and warmth that we stand for today."
PepsiCo said Pearl Milling Company will also announce an annual $1 million commitment to empower and uplift Black girls and women. This investment is in addition to PepsiCo's $400 million, five-year commitment to advance and uplift the Black community, the company said.
Cream of Wheat -> Cream of Wheat. September 2020.
A day after Ben’s Original was released, B&G announced that the rebrand of Cream of Wheat will simply remove the black chef from the logo. The new packaging is expected to appear in stores in the first quarter of 2021.
It’s believed that the chef character known as Rastus may be based upon an actual chef named Frank White. There are mixed reports whether he was from Chicago or Michigan. The character conveyed stereotypes of African-American people in subservient forms of employment providing a service to white people.
“We understand there are concerns regarding the Chef image, and we are committed to evaluating our packaging and will proactively take steps to ensure that we and our brands do not inadvertently contribute to systemic racism,” the company said in June. “B&G Foods unequivocally stands against prejudice and injustice of any kind.”
Yes, this is a step forward. So far the market is accepting these minor fixes even though, the brands’ are still a nod to the original.
Dixie Beer -> Faubourg Brewing Company. November 2020.
Dixie Beer is New Orleans’ oldest brewery. They have asked for the public’s help in picking a new name to shed any connotations of slavery.
A post on their Facebook page from June 2020 reads, “We want to take a moment to acknowledge the tremendous outpouring of emotion, frustrations, and words of encouragement over the decision to retire the name Dixie from our brand. For some, we’ve gone too far, and for others, we have not yet done enough. This transition will not be perfect, but we’re doing what we believe is the right thing for our customers, our employees, and the general public. While change is always uncomfortable, retirement allows us to celebrate the 113-year history while we plan for the future of the brand. Regardless of the name on the side of our building, our investment in the brand and in New Orleans is unyielding. Our top priorities in bringing production back to New Orleans have always been quality and jobs. Not a single thing has changed since that decision was made two years ago, and the announcement of the retirement of the name does not change our civic ambitions. The decision was the result of tireless work from our entire team and listening to our partners, customers, and staff. While it may feel like the end of an era, the process is only just beginning, and the evolution will take time. For this reason, you’ll continue to see the brand as is during this time. For now, we stand by the fact that our number one priority will continue to be making the very best beers, creating jobs, and working to represent our entire community while we plot the future of our next 100 years.”
The new name, Faubourg Brewing Co. is “a tribute to the diverse neighborhoods of New Orleans.” It comes from an ancient French term for settled areas outside a city. As colonial New Orleans grew from its historic core in the French Quarter, expanding neighborhoods were called faubourgs and many still carry the term, such as Faubourg Marigny and Faubourg St. John.
“We will be Faubourg through and through,” brewery manager Jim Birch said.
Eskimo Pie -> Edy’s Pie. October 2020.
The Nestlé-owned company, Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream is the first to announce a complete rebrand of the product. Eskimo Pies will now be rebranded as Edy’s Pie, a nod to one of the company’s founders, Joseph Edy. The new product is expected in early 2021.
“We are committed to being a part of the solution on racial equality, and recognize the term is derogatory,” head of Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream marketing, Elizabell Marquez said in a statement at the time. "This move is part of a larger review to ensure our company and brands reflect our people's values.”
According to the Alaska Native Language Center, while the word "Eskimo" is commonly used in Alaska to refer to Inuit and Yupik people, it's considered derogatory and was said to mean "eater of raw meat."
This is a bold move for a product that currently is ranked as 19th in popularity and has been declining for years. Whether they did it for the actual inappropriateness of the brand or are leveraging an opportunity to gain some publicity in a product relaunch, only they will know. I will say, they are the first brand to take this big of a risk and do a complete rebrand. I hope their efforts are rewarded by the market.
Land O'Lakes Butter -> Press Release announcing the change February 2020, New logo appears in April 2020
The Minnesota-based dairy company, Land O'Lakes released their new logo and packaging design. Before, there was a Native American woman known as Mia who sat central to the box with a beautiful lake, and scenery behind her. The "o" appeared as almost a halo. The new logo and box design aren't much different--the font is now straight instead of curved and oh yeah, Mia is missing. The box looks like something is missing. It's an incomplete design and now the "o" looks out of place.
Mia was replaced with the words "farmer-owned" and as Beth For, President and CEO of Land O'Lakes said, "As Land O’Lakes looks toward our 100th anniversary, we’ve recognized we need packaging that reflects the foundation and heart of our company culture — and nothing does that better than our farmer-owners whose milk is used to produce Land O’Lakes’ dairy products. As a farmer-owned co-op, we strongly feel the need to better connect the men and women who grow our food with those who consume it." Land O’Lakes has only publicly said the rebranding was motivated by a desire to focus on the farmers behind its products, the removal of the controversial figure has been garnering most of the attention. Many consumers did not realize that Land O’Lakes is a farmer-owned cooperative. “It’s not that we hid it,” Ford says. “We just thought that people knew.”
Umm...where are the cows? The pastures that the cows live on?
According to the Star Tribune, the female figure was first created by illustrator Arthur C. Hanson in the late 1920s. In the 1950s, Patrick DesJarlait, a member of the Ojibwe tribe, reimagined Mia. While DesJarlait's son said he understands the company's decision to change the logo, he told the paper that he was also "sad" to her go.
There are mixed reviews on it. Some politicians and activists are applauding it while others are claiming the company has gone too far to be politically correct. Removing Mia has prompted a social media meme: “They Got Rid of The Indian and Kept the Land.” That isn’t too far from the truth. In my opinion, this is a branding fail. The logo and packaging design doesn't work, and in this case, the work was actually done by a Native American so it also seems disrespectful. To be clear, this is a fail because it is just a bad design. It also shows poor leadership to launch a re-brand (even though it appears to have been planned in 2019) that involves cultural awareness and appropriateness without addressing the elephant in the room. They continue to not respond to media requests.
I wasn't able to find anything about why Mia was put on the package in the first place.
Mrs. Butterworth’s -> TBD
As of February 2022, this brand hasn't been updated.
Mutual of Omaha. November 2020
Mutual of Omaha went from a native head emblem to an emblem with a lion's head. Their website says "We chose the symbol of the lion to more consistently reflect our mission, values, and loyalty to our customers, associates, and community, as well as to better connect with our Wild Kingdom heritage. Not only does the lion symbol link us to the memorable history of Wild Kingdom, but it will also take us into an exciting new chapter in Wild Kingdom's future."
Since when are lions native to Omaha? Hmmm? I must have missed that part in geography and then again in natural science class. Ok, I'll be fair, they are a longtime sponsor of the wildlife television program "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom", but still.
From a design perspective, it is a nice and strong design. The lion emblem is a better complement to the Mutual of Omaha font. For some reason, it does remind me of the Prudential logo.
Overall, I'll give it a thumbs up.
Trader Joes. July 2020.
Originally, Trader Joes announced that it would consider changing its brands, Trader Jose’s and Trader Ming’s due to an online petition that claimed they were racist. Trader Giotto’s, and Trader Joe San were not mentioned in this petition.
“We want to be clear: we disagree that any of these labels are racist," the popular grocery chain said in a statement posted on its website. It added, “We do not make decisions based on petitions.”
Trader Joe’s believe these brands represent lighthearted efforts at inclusion, adding that its customers say they still like them. “We thought then — and still do — that this naming of products could be fun and show appreciation for other cultures,” the company added.
Trader Joe’s has dropped some names over the years, including Arabian Joe's and Armenian Joe's, and may drop others in the future. But, they say, that will be solely on input from its employees and customers and not an online petition.
I have to agree with Trader Joe’s on this one. Their international foods are anything but authentic, and they do a great job of clearly aligning the products to their brand. To me, the online petition was an attempt at publicity in riding a trending wave.
Quaker Oats -> TBD
As of February 2022, this brand hasn't been updated.
Uncle Bens -> Ben’s Original. September 2020.
Mars, Inc. says “the change signals the brand's ambition to create a more inclusive future while maintaining its commitment to producing the world's best rice." They were the first of all companies who committed to a rebranding to announce the new brand. This means, that they will get off easy. The market is just seeking to see how serious these companies are about their commitment to end racial stereotyping.
Mars, Inc. removed the image of the elderly black man, removed the term “uncle”, and added the word “original” in the same font. They kept everything else the same. "We've listened. We've learned. We're changing," Mars said. Mars has also set a goal of increasing the ranks of racial minorities in U.S. management positions by 40% though they did not give a timeframe for reaching that number.
It is believed, the name originated from a well-known Texas rice farmer with the same name. The photo of the man was the head waiter of an exclusive Chicago restaurant. The reason the word “uncle” was removed is that is a term that was given to slaves who worked in the house instead of in the fields. So, while it sounds like a sweet reference to a loving family member, it actually wasn’t.
Yes, this is a step forward. Is it enough? Will the market accept it? To start it seems acceptable, but long-term I question if this strategy is nothing more than a band-aid fix.
Washington Redskins -> Washington Football Team. July 2020.
The franchisee agreed to change the name and logo after decades of criticism that it is offensive to Native Americans. This will be the NFL’s first name change since the late 1990s when the Tennessee Oilers became the Titans two seasons after moving from Houston. This is not the final rebranding for the team. It is simply the brand that will be used until the adoption of a new name and logo in the future.
A team statement read: "For updated brand clarity and consistency purposes, we will call ourselves the "Washington Football Team" pending adoption of our new name. The Redskins name and logo will officially be retired by the start of the 2020 season. We encourage fans, media, and all other parties to use the "Washington Football Team" immediately.
"The decision to use the "Washington Football Team" for this season allows the franchisee the ability to undertake an in-depth branding process to properly include player, alumni, fan, community, and sponsor input. To date, we have been pleased to see so many people putting forward their vision of what the new name and design should be on their social media channels and we look forward to including their feedback as this process progresses.
The rebranding process is still underway and expected to announce its choice for the 2021 season. It is believed that they will simply stick with the temporary branded name. Here is the timeline.
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