Ever since the George Floyd police brutality incident happened, the Black Lives Matter movement regained its momentum, causing a new wave of awareness and boycotts towards brands that are deemed racially or gender offensive. This movement, dubbed the ‘Cancel Culture’, has thus far forced several major brands to redesign or reinvent their trademark and branding.
Hang on, what is this ‘Cancel Culture’ about?
According to Dictionary.com, Cancel Culture “refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.” The term, which purportedly started in mid-2010s, has also drawn much criticism for encouraging social media users to judge a person or company with high standards of political correctness quickly, even if said mistake was committed many years ago.
According a survey conducted by YPulse on Gen-Z and Millenials, 69% of young consumers believe brands need to make an effort to be politically correct today, and 65% actively avoid brands that oppose the causes you support. When asked “Which of the following makes you feel you can trust a brand more?”, their top answer was “Being honest about making a mistake.”
Century-old Brand Rebrands Amid Political Sensitivity
Most recently, Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix, a pancake mix brand founded in 1889 and now owned by Quaker Foods, has announced that they will discontinue the brand after it trended on Twitter for its widely-recognizable logo of an African-American woman, which is associated to the practice of slavery in US history.
On an interesting side note, the Aunt Jemima brand is widely credited for setting a precedence in US trademark laws, as the court deemed that its competitors, which had also used the ‘Aunt Jemima’ name in their breakfast products, could potentially mislead consumers into believing that they were buying products from the same company.
Another brand that has fallen foul of the political correctness side is Mrs. Butterworth’s, a pancake syrup brand whose unique, matron-themed bottle design is said to be rooted in slavery-era stereotypes of African women being subservient to white families.
Like the pancake mix brand above, the brand owner Conagra Brands has told Forbes that ‘our actions help play an important role in eliminating racial bias and as a result, we have begun a complete brand and packaging review on Mrs. Butterworth’s, ‘.