06:25:37 am on
Saturday 20 Jul 2024

Overdue Re-branding
Matt Seinberg

For too many years, certain products and brands have been charged as racist in nature. After the murder of George Floyd, those protests have increased in volume, drastically. Let's start with the easy ones if there is an easy brand to reconsider.

Redskins, Chiefs, Indians and Braves.

In sports, there are three teams that are under pressure to change their names. In the National Football League (NFL), the Washington Redskins have been asked, for years, to change its; owner Daniel Snyder as strongly resisted. It was only this past week that FedEx, which has the naming rights to team’s stadium in Maryland, came out in favour of changing the teams name.

The team reported it would review possible names for the demanded change; in other words, a name change is under review by the team. What of the Kansas City Chiefs? The team has been quiet on this subject, although it far less offensive a name far less incendiary that Redskins; there are police chiefs and fire chiefs, for example.

In Major League Baseball (MLB), the two teams under most pressure are the Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves. Native Americans are building up pressure to change those names, no matter what long-time fans may think. Even Indians manager, Terry Francona, says it's time to change the name, but admits it's a delicate matter.

The big controversies surround three well-known food brands. These are Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben's and Cream of Wheat. Most concern is with depictions on the food packages.

Aunt Jemima debuted in 1889 and was bought by Quaker Oats in 1926. Quaker Oats is now a subsidiary of PepsiCo. It was properly registered as a trademark in April 1937.

Performers included the following women who made personal appearances on Quaker Oats packaging and in print advertisements were Nancy Green, Lillian Richard, Anna Robinson, Anna Short Harrington, Edith Wilson, Ethel Ernestine Harper, Rosie Lee Moore Hall and Aylene Lewis. These women were mostly actors or models.

Image part of family heritage.

On 17June 2020, Quaker Oats announced its the pancake mix would be rebranded with a new name and image. The image would come off later in 2020 and a name change happening after that. The logical choice would just to call it Quaker Oats Pancake mix. I wonder if Quakers would object to that and then the entire company would have to change its name.

Descendants of Lillian Richard of Anna Short Harrington objected. Good or bad, the image of their ancestor was part of their family history. I wonder if there’s money involved, perhaps a royalty?

Next up for a change is Uncle Ben's rice, which was introduced in 1943 and is now owned by Mars Incorporated. The character is based upon a chef in a Chicago hotel, maître d’hôtel, Frank Brown. Also, on 17 June, Mars said they would be evolving the brands identity; they could keep the name and redo the picture or drop it all together.

The change that baffles me is why Land O Lakes dropped the Native American woman from its products. Were they expecting backlash after all these years and just decided to make the change before groups protested about it? It’s hard to know.

The last brand facing protests is Cream of Wheat hot cereal. It was invented in 1893 and is currently owned by B&G Foods. The character is named Rastus and was developed by Edward V Brewer based on chef Frank L White. Mr. White himself claimed it was him and on his tombstone is his name and an etching of the character from the box.

In part, protests are happening because these three brands are showing Black Americans in a subservient role that should no longer exist. Yet, is advertising going to be so homogenous that logos, slogans and names will be very generic? Will any people of colour be depicted in a real-life way and not as characters from days past? That will certainly put the entire advertising world in a creative tizzy.

Will protest groups come up with a list of Do's and Don'ts of what can or cannot be used in advertising? Will Free Speech continue to reign no matter what group may feel offended? Won’t there always be claims of being offended, if only to get attention.

Grammar may be the next target of protesters.

Let's face facts, almost any adjective will alienate one group or another. Let's see how long it takes protesters to move the country to make progressive changes. Perhaps the protesters will turn their attention to grammar.

Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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