In light of renewed discussions around anti-Black racism and police brutality, several well-known brands like Aunt Jemima have recently decided to change their name, logo and internal structures in an effort to eliminate stereotypes and discrimination.
While these long-overdue changes may seem superficial, experts believe they will have a lasting impact on consumer culture.
“We’re heading into an era where people have to be discerning. We cannot be what they used to call the ‘passive plebes’ anymore,” said Cheryl Thompson, a creative industries professor at Ryerson University.
At the very least, Thompson says, these changes will encourage consumers to think about what they’re buying and what it represents — leading people to demand more of companies.
A time for change
Aunt Jemima, owned by PepsiCo Inc., was one of the first brands to get a facelift — both the name and logo are set to change in the fourth quarter of 2020.
The logo of the more than 130-year-old brand features an African-American woman named after a character from 19th-century minstrel shows. The offensive caricature is rooted in a stereotype of a friendly Black woman working as a servant or a nanny for a white family.
The brand faced social media backlash and calls for a boycott amid protests over the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died while in police custody.
“We recognize Aunt Jemima‘s origins are based on a racial stereotype,” said Kristin Kroepfl, vice-president and chief marketing officer of Quaker Foods North America, in a statement.
“As we work to make progress toward racial equality through several initiatives, we also must take a hard look at our portfolio of brands and ensure they reflect our values and meet our consumers’ expectations.”
PepsiCo simultaneously committed to a set of initiatives worth more than $400 million over five years to support Black communities in north america? and increase Black representation in the company.
The makers of Uncle Ben’s rice and Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup also joined Aunt Jemima in pledging to review their long-standing brand images.
Mars Food, which makes Uncle Ben’s rice, announced on June 17 that it would “evolve” its brand from the current presentation, which features a smiling older Black man on an orange package.
Meanwhile, sports teams like the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos and the NFL’s Washinton Redskins have also placed their brands under review. Advocates for change argue that both are derogatory terms for Indigenous people in Canada and the U.S.