The year of brand corrections

2020 has been the year of increased social awareness of long time racial injustice, and finally some major brands have been caught in the cross-hairs of public awareness and are making changes to their long-time brands. 2020 will be known not only for COVID-19, but also for correcting some long lasting social discrimination both in society and also in marketing.

This swing in social justice is affecting marketers across a broad range of products on a global basis. 2020 has made brands question their names and images, and how it relates to the sensitivity and discrimination of people around the globe.

Change is happening on your kitchen table

In July 2020, Conagra Brands, who owns the pancake syrup line ‘Mrs. Butterworth’, which sold in a bottle depicting a black cook from the 1800s, will be doing a complete brand and packaging review, to keep pace with the Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s brands. All three major food brands have finally acknowledged what the public has been saying for years, thanks to the “Black Lives Matters’ movement, that their imagery is propagating racist caricatures.

PepsiCo’s finally heard the voice of public opinion on racial injustice and are changing their 130-year old ‘Aunt Jemima’ brand and logo, and acknowledged its origins are based on a racial stereotype.

Use of derogatory racial naming and imagery is hitting the ice cream sector as Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, the US owner of Eskimo Pie ice cream, which was launched in 1921, will finally change the product’s brand name and marketing.

Mrs-Butterworth-Syrup and aunt jemina
Eskimo Pie Iceream Package

Professional Sports are finally listening 

Washington Redskins helmet

After years of protest from First Nations groups and the public, the ‘Washington Redskins’ of the NFL have finally changed their name to the not so clever ‘Washington Football Team’ and have dropped their long standing logo which was a profile of a First Nations warrior.

In the Canadian Football League, the Edmonton Eskimos did a similar lame name change as Washington, and finally listened to Inuit people about the insulting use of the term ‘Eskimo” and changed their name from the ‘Edmonton Eskimos’ to the ‘Edmonton E’ with no logo change.

In the MLB the Cleveland Indians have announced that they are reviewing and considering a name change. This follows the organization finally dropping the use of their controversial Chief Wahoo logo in 2018 after years of public pressure.

Corporate America is waking up

In July 2020, Mutual of Omaha announced it was going to replace its longtime corporate logo, which for 70 years has featured a depiction of a Native American chief.

“We believe the decision to retire our corporate symbol is the right thing to do and is consistent with our values and our desire to help overcome racial bias and stereotypes,” Mutual of Omaha CEO and Chairman James Blackledge said in a news release.


“Use your own language.”

Alberta based Hell’s Basement Brewery learned a lesson in the importance of research before naming when they pulled negative global social media exposure for their naming of their beer ‘Huruhuru’. This Maori word is defined on online dictionaries as ’feather’. But Maori TV personality Te Hamua Nikora explained that the common interpretation of the word in a Facebook video is “pubic hair”. 

rock em sock em robots

He also went on to tell the brewery “Some people call it appreciation, I call it appropriation. It’s that entitlement disease they’ve got. Stop it. Use your own language.”

Hells Basement apologized and is renaming this 2 year old brand. 

Ungava Gin of Quebec accused of cultural appropriation
ungava ginuits

In Quebec a situation has been ongoing for years with Ungava Gin. Inuit groups and spokespeople called out the management for ‘appropriation of the Inuit culture’ due to the marketing and promotion of the gin on a global basis which was the commercialism of Inuit traditions without consulting or employing Inuit people.

Ungava’s founder Charles Crawford, apologized in writing in 2016 saying “We are deeply sorry and we will do better.” Later that year he sold the brand to Corby Spirits and Wines Ltd in Toronto for $12 million.

Years ago I worked with a Toronto based naming firm where I learned the importance of developing brand names and one of the best practices is to create new words in spelling and pronunciation. This is just another approach to owning a difference and thereby avoiding the utilization of anyone’s language, culture or tainted past and stereotypes.

It’s a big world out there and everyone is watching and listening, so think before you start using someone else’s words or images when you are developing brands.

Take care, and let us know what brands you think need to rethink their branding.


grant ‘the brand guy’ ivens

The Say What! ‘Science of Brand Chronicles’

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