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It’s just not that black and white

30 July 2020

I’m entering dangerous territory - I’m hoping it won’t be controversial but I’m sure it will divide opinion, whether it’s at the dinner table, in the lunchroom, in the boardroom or across the nation.

I’m talking about Coon cheese.

This week in an effort to ‘eliminate’ racism the name Coon has been retired. On July 24th Saputo Dairy Australia released a statement which you can read here.

They’re working on developing a new name that will “honour the brand-affinity felt by their valued consumers while aligning with current attitudes and perspectives.”

The Coon brand actually originated in America - but Aussies soon claimed it and for me it’s up there with vegemite, kangaroos and meat pies (let’s not mention Holden cars). Vale Edward Wiliam Coon the original American cheese maestro.

We’re living in a new age and new era, so much so that, Coon isn’t the only brand responding to consumer pressure.  Amid weeks of global “Black Lives Matter” protests, brands are looking retrospectively at their core values and indeed how to address racism. Unfortunately for some of the oldest brands in history its impacting sales, offending the public and its now vibrating up to the boardroom.

I think it’s harsh to accuse these brands of being “out of step”. Perhaps it’s the uncertain times and our unknown future that makes us all reconsider our own values and what’s important to us, so it makes sense that brands are reassessing their values.

Forbes counts at least nine household brands that have announced changes due to the racist origins of their names or imagery. Eskimo Pie Ice Cream announced it would change its name after nearly 100 years. It appears the term “Eskimo” is considered derogatory by the native people of the Arctic.

Allen’s confectionery is rebranding Red Skins and Chicos for fear of offending. It looks like Red Frogs are safe for now.

Brands don’t set out to marginalise or divide but this does bring to light that a brand name is the window that represents the core values and is seen to be at the heart of what a company does and what it stands for. Brand names help frame the story and helps brands resonate and connect with their target consumers.

So from a brand perspective let’s remember that “core values matter” they serve as a reminder that behind every brand or business is a human being.

Now I’ve renamed and refreshed a few brands in my time and it’s not something to enter into lightly so I wish them all the best of luck, it’s not easy (remember the isnack 2.0 fiasco, feel free to read last weeks blog). I’m sure they’ll have some good strategic thinking in the room because they won't want to do it twice!

PS: I’m perplexed - because I’m wondering how to order my next coffee. Whether I order a long black, short black or my flat white. I hope I won’t offend anyone. Trouble is, I just don’t know what else to call it.

Over to you.

My opinion only, I value yours, so feel free to get in touch or leave a comment

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