In 2020, following the death of George Floyd and the renewed national focus on racism, many food brands with racist names and packages announced they would rebrand. Brands differed in their extent of rebranding (some only removed an image, whereas others also changed a brand name) and differed in the reasons they gave for the rebranding in PR statements and news interviews. At this point, little is known about how consumers responded to these branding changes. To address this, we conducted an online experiment using the case of Aunt Jemima pancake mix to evaluate how changes in the extent of rebranding and the reason for rebranding impact consumers' likelihood of purchase, expected taste, brand liking, and brand trust. We find that removing the image of Aunt Jemima brought moderate reductions to likelihood of purchase and expected taste and no changes to brand liking or brand trust. When the brand name was also changed to Pearl Milling Company we find larger reductions to likelihood of purchase and expected taste and reductions to brand liking and brand trust. Additionally, we find that informing consumers the change was done to address racism partially mitigated losses in likelihood of purchase following renaming the brand but provided no protection when only the image was removed. The information also had no impact on expected taste, brand liking, or brand trust following either image removal or brand name change. Last, we find evidence of heterogeneity in consumer responses across political ideologies, with liberals reacting more positively to the rebranding and conservatives reacting more negatively.
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