Reckoning with Jemima: Can the Brand Be Remade for Good?
(10 pages of text)
In June of 2020, pressure mounted on Quaker Oats and their parent company, PepsiCo, to make changes to their Aunt Jemima brand. The brand’s origin was rooted in the legacy of slavery; the character of Aunt Jemima was an encapsulation of the “Mammy”, a proud, but subservient caricature of Black women. Despite calls to remove the brand for decades, Quaker Oats’ responses resulted in modifications to the brand over time that kept the mascot more contemporary, without changing the overall brand themes. Following the police killing of George Floyd, online activists again criticized the brand, with one prominent viral video including: “Black lives matter people…even over breakfast”. On June 16, PepsiCo announced a series of plans to “address issues of inequality and create opportunity” including sourcing from Black owned businesses and funding scholarships for minority students. On June 17, Quaker Oats announced that the Aunt Jemima character would be removed from the product’s packaging and that the brand name would be changed, though plans for a revised brand name were not announced. This case focuses on Quaker Oats’ branding decision (i.e., developing a completely new brand or derivative brand or making use of an existing brand), and how this brand could be a force for good.
Fostering difficult, but productive discussions regarding race, brands and corporate social responsibility within business schools.
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