Rebranding well-known products is a tricky balancing act for companies

Newspaper ad for Eskimo Pie, on page 3 of the January 24, 1922 Duluth Herald.
Photo credit Public Domain / The Duluth Herald (Jan. 1922)

Kansas City, MO - Big company name brands that use imagery that originated in racial stereotypes are announcing that they will change their marketing and advertising.

In recent days, companies that own product brands like Aunt Jemima, Cream of Wheat, Uncle Ben's, and Eskimo Pie (pic above is from a 1922 newspaper ad) have begun the corporate process of 'soul searching' and are looking to re-brand their products. 

“It just takes an overall brand audit of if we’re bringing this new brand to life, what do we want to tap into from a historical standpoint what will still resonate with consumers but resonate in a positive light," says Garrett Street, the creative director with marketing firm MBB in Overland Park.

And for companies like Aunt Jemima, holding on to some of those historical ties will be a tricky balancing act.

“You need to figure out how you can make a positive impact for your consumers," says Street. "You need to think about how you can make a positive impact for the community and for society as a whole.”

 Street says not all consumers will be happy with a decision to rebrand, to make and sell a product under different labeling, but those companies are increasingly conscious of what the majority of consumers want.

“With some of the brand equity that’s been built up over generations, you’re going to probably lose some sales," says Street. "So you’re going to have to focus on how can I weave this message back to try to connect with consumers again, and try to rebuild our brand.”

Street says rebranding on a large scale takes months, even years, and can be rather expensive for large corporations.