(TMU) – A number of iconic brands are looking to rebrand their image following the racial inequality protests in the U.S.
The companies, some of which may be rooted in racism, others just poorly named, are being forced to rebrand their mascots and logos that have long been criticized as racist.
Six brands thus far have announced plans to change or are considering changing their mascots and names in 2020. These are: Land O’ Lakes Butter, Aunt Jemima Syrup, Uncle Ben’s Rice, Mrs. Butterworth’s Syrup, Cream of Wheat Oatmeal, and Darlie toothpaste.
In addition to those six, Nestle has also announced that it will change the names of two of its products: Red Skins and Chico’s sweets. This is due to “Redskin” being a derogatory term for Native Americans and First Nations Canadians, while “chico” can be an offensive term for people of Latin American descent, The Guardian reported.
Parent companies have committed to entirely overhauling their brand, as in the case of Aunt Jemima, which announced it would lose both its name and brand image due to racist connotations.
While this may seem sudden, criticism has long plagued brands such as Aunt Jemima and Cream of Wheat for decades. However, the recent killing of George Floyd and other black men that have sparked protests across the U.S. are helping force companies to make changes as soon as possible.
First, Quaker Oats said it would retire Aunt Jemima from packaging on its brand of syrup and pancake mixes, acknowledging its prior work to update the mascot was “not enough.” Then in rapid succession, the owners of Uncle Ben’s, Mrs. Butterworth’s, and Cream of Wheat said their products’ packaging would also face scrutiny and a rebranding process.
The decision to rename and repackage Aunt Jemima came a day after a TikTok video from singer Kirby titled “How To Make A Non Racist Breakfast” went viral.
— KIRBY (@singkirbysing) June 15, 2020
In the short video, Kirby gives a well-deserved history lesson of the 131-year-old brand, noting the name means “slave mammy on the plantation South” and that the brand was founded by a white man Chris Rutts who got the name after attending what’s called a “minstrel show,” (think blackface).
Cream Of Wheat is also rooted in racism, the brand has long been criticized for the use of a grinning Black chef on its packaging since the 1890’s. The mascot on early boxes was known as Rastus, a caricature of a happy former slave often featured in those same minstrel shows.
Uncle Ben’s rice brand is linked to the practice of white Southerners calling older Black people “aunt” and “uncle” because they refused to use “Mr.” or “Mrs.”
Similar to Aunt Jemima, the Mrs. Butterworth’s brand has been criticized for years for perpetuating the offensive “mammy” stereotype, which positions Black women as subservient.
Darlie is a Chinese toothpaste owned by Colgate, the toothpaste quite literally translates to “Black person toothpaste” and used to feature a man in blackface as its logo.
In April, shortly before the protests started, Land O’Lakes announced it was removing the Native American woman’s illustration that embellished its packaging since 1928 and is replacing it with “lands and lakes.”
Land O’Lakes failed to mention the illustration when announcing its move but rather focused on the company being “a farmer-owned co-op” and the need to “better connect the men and women who grow our food with those who consume it.”
These aren’t the only brands that are now considering a name change, ‘Eskimo Pies’ has also announced that it will change its name following backlash to its stereotype of Eskimos, USA Today reported.
The unjust killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many other members of the Black community have caused protests across the country, with millions of Americans demanding the abolishment of police and institutional racism. This movement has also targeted the parent companies of popular brands, asking them to wake up and change their products’ image, especially if they were built on racist foundations like the ones listed above.
As the year continues we can only expect more and more brands to re-examine their image and possible racist history and rebrand for the sake of saving face. We should expect a growing list of brands to rename or modify their mascots for the modern era.