The art of the rename: How brands decide what to call themselves next

July 9, 2021
By Phoebe Bain

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From football teams to pancake mixes, a lot of household names opted for new monikers over the past year.

Some of them, like Pearl Milling Company, Washington Football Team, and Ben’s Original, renamed to rid themselves of racial stereotypes and slurs in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement that arose last summer. …

“Renaming a company is a big deal. It’s very expensive and it takes a lot of effort, so there has to be a really good reason to change it,” Laurel Sutton, president of the American Name Society and cofounder of naming agency Catchword, told Marketing Brew. Catchword has worked on naming projects with brands such as Asana, FireEye, Upwork, and more.

She said there are three reasons why companies typically choose to rename: a change of business focus, legal requirements, or when a name has become inappropriate for cultural reasons. …

“With Aunt Jemima, both parts of that name were offensive,” Sutton explained. “The ‘Jemima’ part is this very stereotypical, almost minstrel-show representation of African-American women. And then the ‘Aunt’ part of it was the word used for Black women who were slaves or servants. So there was no way they could have kept either part of that.” …

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