Pearl Milling Company Brings Aunt Jemima Into 21st Century

Kimberly Surico |
 03/11/21 |
4 min read

Pearl Milling Social Mood Chart

As more brands focus on inclusivity and diversity, imagery and logos rooted in hurtful histories are slowly being replaced. And a recent addition to this list is the Pearl Milling Company, as it transitions away from its Aunt Jemima brand and into the 21st Century.

Consumer and Market Intelligence will help us explore this subject, including:

  • Ways popular and beloved brands face up to accusations
  • How sentiment leads the parade in brand conversation
  • Doing homework so your brand doesn’t flunk its consumer 101 class

Within the past year the conversation around changing offensive logos has been growing, more specifically we’ve seen:

  • 87% of consumers said they’d purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about
  • More than 75% would refuse to purchase a product if they found out a company supported an issue contrary to their beliefs.
  • Confidence in organizations to drive change is low.

Brands Acknowledging Backlash

The conversation around diversity and equity has been growing in the past few years. And with it, the subject of racism and appropriation. Brands felt the heat to not only diversify within their teams, but also to re-examine their brand logos and names. Pearl Milling Company, formally Aunt Jemima was one of the first to step up and acknowledge that their imagery was not in line with their belief in equality.

Market research illustrates how the conversation has dominated the space, with media zeroing in on sports. We see high school mascots; food brands like Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben; and even spas felt the heat to reconsider their brand names, as well as their imagery.


The Washington Redskins conversation is pervasive, and can even be found within some of the other categories. And this is largely due to the long history of resistance from co-owner Dan Snyder to rename the football team. Fed Ex urged Snyder and finally threatened to remove their signage from the stadium, as well as their support, if a change wasn’t made. Fed Ex also urged both Nike and Pepsi to end their partnership with Snyder as well. On July 3, it was announced the football team name would be changed, joining other teams who had already done so.

How do consumers view this type of change? Working to replace logos and names is all well and good, however consumer intelligence reveals that consumer belief in organizations’ commitment to driving real change is low.


So, nine months ago, Aunt Jemima, didn’t just change pledge to change their name, they pledged one million to uplift and empower black girls and women. This was in addition to PepsiCo’s $400 million fund to support Black businesses and communities as well as increase Black representation at PepsiCo. This was a wise choice, as 88% of consumers want brands to help them make a difference and are more aware of inequalities.

Strong Consumer Sentiment 

Many brands have had a turn in the racial insensitivity spotlight: Uncle Ben’s, Cream of Wheat, Eskimo Pie and even Mrs. Buttersworth. And a consumer sentiment analysis provides detailed intel on how these brands are perceived by consumers across the board, as a result.

Here, we can see how authentic each appears – and the level of trust consumers have for each since their naming debacles:


If consumers feel that brands shifted views just to appease them and not for any real long-term change, that’s a messaging problem. And brands will need to convince their audiences that they stand in solidarity.

This offers lessons for any brand facing a renaming – or even an initial naming. Know that consumer and market intelligence can help you avoid missteps, or recover from one, so be sure to make that intel part of your process. Let’s see it in action:

The Renamening: Tips for Brands to be Proactive

Eighty-seven percent of consumers said they’d purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about. However, more than 75% would boycott a product if they found out a brand supported an issue contrary to their beliefs. And Kim Kardashian found this out the hard way. 

Kim Kardashian West’s SKIMS were initially named “Kimono,” but cultural appropriation concerns caused the mega star to pivot and rename. She was caught off-guard and could have saved valuable time and resources using consumer intelligence. When exploring “kimono,” we can see people are still talking about it in that context. These affects linger for a long time, as this situation happened back in October of 2019:


And filtering by sentiment around the topic “cultural appropriation” and Kimono, we can see that Kim is generating some level of forgiveness. Just because you make a mistake, it doesn’t mean you can’t pivot to correct. Having the right tool can aid you in doing this quicker and more effectively, as you can see the sentiment counts over time and if it’s waxing or waning, which can feel like it depends on the phase of the moon with some audiences! (It doesn’t.)


Seeing sentiment alone isn’t enough though. You need to understand the posts behind them. For example, we pulled this post directly from the bars above to analyze.

Kim’s flub should be another brand’s lesson. The kimono flak is far from over – if anything, it brought an important issue to light. And it’s one that designers and brands using the term should be aware of. Are there naming issues in your industry that you’ve been blissfully unaware of? It’s time to sort that out!

Having a social listening tool that allows you to click through and see the whole picture, even on the smallest details can help avoid pitfalls, or recover from them.

If you’re ready to work smarter, not harder, reach out for a demo and see how your company can be ready to pivot in a moment’s notice, make a difference and win consumer love.

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