Quaker Oats, parent company to Aunt Jemima, announced this week that it will be rebranding the well-known pancake mix and syrup brand. This is in a long-overdue attempt to get rid of its problematic reference to racial stereotype, as the product was branded after the minstrel song “Old Aunt Jemima” and its imaging was based on a racialized caricature.
Across Aunt Jemima’s 130-year history, the company has attempted to improve its branding twice in the past. In 1968, the logo’s character was updated by removing her headscarf in place of a headband and once again in 1989 to add pearl earrings and a lace collar. While well-meaning, past updates never quite hit the mark.
As we continue seeing companies and brands holding themselves accountable in response to the recent push for racial equity, it’s crucial for communications professionals to evaluate existing branding, images and products to ensure they not only reflect core values, but do not perpetuate racial stereotypes or problematic references.
While Aunt Jemima is taking a step in the right direction, it’s also important to realize that the company took almost 80 years to acknowledge a problem before its first update in 1968.
The updated logo will appear towards the end of the year, and will be followed shortly after by a name change.
PR Pros –have you checked in with your company or clients to review long-standing images, policies or products?