The existence of racism in brands had been an ongoing issue for decades. It is a widely known fact that multiple brands have monetized images and names with racial undertones for hundreds of years. However, the current rise in protests against racism has forced multiple brands to ‘prove’ that their products do not impose any indirect or direct racism. Nowadays, the ‘cancel culture’ is prevalent in millennials and Gen Zs. This is particularly true for brands or products that do not meet their advocacies. Afraid of losing their sales, and probably in a show of support for the movements, multiple American brands are pressured to reinvent their designs, mascots, and names.
Here are a few brands that had publicized their rebranding in support of the #BlackLivesMatter protests:
Aunt Jemima from Quaker (formerly PepsiCo)
A product line from PepsiCo, Aunt Jemima is famous for its pancake mixes and syrups. The brand has a smiling face of an African American woman. This character was originally based on a household slave from the mid to late 1800s. This is clearly a racial stereotype for African American women who worked for White households pre- and post- the liberation of slaves in the 1800s. For decades, the product has ‘toned down’. From the image of Aunt Jemima to an African American housewife. However, the original racial undertones in this brand seems to be unforgettable.
The word eskimo is actually a derogatory term that was used to refer to Yupik and Inuit people residing in the Northern areas of Canada, Alaska, and Greenland. It is considered an offensive word because it directly translates to ‘eaters of raw meat’. Just recently, the brand has announced that the product will be effectively renamed and that the derogatory term ‘eskimo’ is not anymore in line with the visions of their company.
Darkie (also known as Darlie) toothpaste brand
Although the product itself has been renamed to ‘Darlie’ decades ago, the origin of the Darkie toothpaste brand still was based on a derogatory idea. The term darkie used to be a derogatory term for people of African descent not only in the United States but also in the UK and Canada. The product mascot is a ‘blackfaced’ White American adorned with a monocle, a bow-tie, and a top hat. The man’s teeth were contrastingly white compared to the darkness of his skin. This was the reason why this image was used as a toothpaste mascot.
Chico from Nestle
Nestle also officially announced that both Redskins and Chico’s sweets would be renamed and rebranded in the soonest possible time. The word chico for those who do not know is a derogatory term pertaining to Americans of Latin descent. The company announced that this renaming was done to support their friends, neighbors, colleagues, and countrymen in the demonstrations against racism in the US.
Sambo’s had officially announced that they will be re-naming thousands of stores worldwide. This is in response to protests against racism. This is popular breakfast chain in the US. The name was based on a book entitled ‘The Adventures of Little Black Sambo’, which features a little black boy as its main protagonist. However, even if the book tries to paint people of color in a new light, there are multiple racial slurs and racist undertones from cover to cover.
Land O’ Lakes
Land O’ Lakes introduced the new face of their famous butter. This was just a few weeks after the US protests on racism began. Basically, the design and colors were maintained. However, the image of the Native American woman as its mascot was completely removed. The sad part about this image is that it does not even correctly depict the image of a Native American woman. This is in terms of features, dress, and accessories. The image was merely a stereotype of what colonizers think were ‘Natives’.
Bonus: Chiquita Banana
Although the main mascot is simply a fruit-lady, there are still many racial undertones in this product. Chiquita Banana is actually a character that sexualizes and objectified Latin American women.
Most of the products that are rebranding are food brands. There is also an age-old pressure for sports teams to change their brands or names. Among these would be the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians.
Why do American brands use images from ethnic groups and minorities? This is probably because many Americans from the early 1900s crave the luxury of exotic goods or products. These are products that are not naturally available in the country. Since ‘exoticness’ was a selling point, brands used different ethnic groups and minorities.
Finally, after hundreds of years of protests for rebranding, American consumer products finally recognized the need to remove all racial undertones in their marketing.