My 4-year-old was eager to pick out a treat at the grocery store last week, and as we wandered down the cookie aisle, he zeroed in on that well-known red box with circus animals on it. “Mommy! These! I want these.” Since I figured they weren’t as bad as some of the other options out there, I agreed, and as I was placing the box in the cart I noticed something distinctly different about this box. Gone were the cages! No circus animals behind bars! Just animals running free in the wild.
Mondelez International, the company behind the Barnum’s Animal Crackers, felt 2018 was the right time to redesign the box. The public’s waning view and the eventual end of the animal circus, along with pressure from PETA, all contributed to the realization it was time for the iconic packaging to make a change.
This got me thinking about social pressure and how it often dictates when a brand is no longer relevant or favorable. While you want to stand firm behind your brand and avoid changing with every whim or fad, you also need to be keenly aware when society and values have changed with the times. How can you alter your brand so as not to lose what made it iconically known? Barnum Animal Crackers didn’t just scrap the packaging altogether, they simply took the animals out of the cages and updated the illustrations.
When the Washington Bullets basketball team realized their name was too closely associated with the street violence that was occurring all around their hometown, they knew it was time for a name change. They even held a contest where fans could submit their suggestions, allowing them to feel involved and part of the evolution of the team. In 1997 they officially became known as the Washington Wizards. The city’s football team Washington Redskins has also been under scrutiny since the 1990s, with a lot of public demand to change their name that is viewed as derogatory and disparaging. They have yet to bend to social pressure but it is still a widely talked about topic.
With more educated consumers demanding to know exactly what is in their everyday household products, brands like Revlon have decided to take steps to become more transparent by publishing policies that state how they eliminated certain cancer-causing chemicals. Before they took this step, the Breast Cancer Fund had called them out for using these chemicals. Ironically, Revlon had already started eliminating these ingredients, they just weren’t doing a great job of promoting it. It’s a good reminder to get the message out about positive changes you make to enhance your brand.
In the 1990’s Nike was embroiled in a controversy over slave wages and horrible working conditions in their factories overseas. The CEO at the time, Phil Knight, decided the public outcry was enough to “set up an extensive and expensive system for monitoring and remedying factory conditions in its supply chain – and the rest of the footwear and apparel industry followed.” Today they are one of the global leaders in fair wages and conditions for workers.
While on the subject of Nike, you can’t avoid the controversy of the recent ‘Dream Crazy’ campaign with Colin Kaepernick, among others, with the message of “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” It brought about quick and ferocious criticism. Kaepernick, a former NFL player, is known for the controversy he started by taking a knee during the national anthem at the start of NFL games. He says he did it as a protest of the racial injustice that is rampant in America. The new campaign angered many NFL fans and the public, seeing as Kaepernick was no longer even a player, let alone that he didn’t stand for the national anthem. Some even burned their shoes and apparel in protest. But Nike seems to be sending a message of support for social injustices and the individuals who stand up against those injustices. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the campaign plays out with Nike being such a large global brand, and a majority of their customer base in support of the campaign. I think they know exactly what they are doing marketing wise, and in the end this will not be an example of a brand bending to social pressure. It nevertheless stirred up the public, and after all isn’t that marketing at its best?
Whether it’s redrawing your iconic illustration, changing your name altogether, or simply notifying the public you are taking steps to becoming more health and safety conscious, being able to change with the times is what keeps a brand strong and prosperous. If you have a solid foundation, these changes shouldn’t break your brand. Rather, they will serve to show that your brand is progressive and proactive. And shaking things up is almost never a bad thing, even if a few people burn their shoes over it, and wild animals are set to roam free.
Erin Rogers, Creative Director at Jet Marketing
Erin appreciates the time and detail spent in crafting all brands, and understands that all brand philosophies change with time.