The ethics of renaming

By Laurel Sutton

June 2, 2021

For many brands, it’s way past time to re-evaluate their resonance in the 21st century. Laurel Sutton, linguist and co-founder of of naming agency Catchword, writes that the cost of renaming a company or product might be high, but weighed against the cost of losing business, bad press, and perpetuating oppression, it’s a small investment for the greater good.

Aunt Jemima. Washington Redskins. Uncle Ben’s. Eskimo Pie. For these US brand names, the time of reckoning had finally come, in the wake of 2020’s Black Lives Matter protests.

Laurel Sutton

Decades of demand for change finally lined up with widespread acknowledgement of the harm caused by everyday racism, compounded by very visible, effective criticism on social media. These names were always racist; but it took a nationwide social movement to get companies to acknowledge that fact, and concede that change was, in fact, possible. …

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