Before the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the wave of brand responses that followed, Land O’Lakes quietly and with little fanfare removed the Native American woman from their packaging in February 2020. A dairy brand based in Minnesota, Land O’Lakes elected to emphasize the horizon line of the lake and their farmer-owned co-ops, both heritage assets tracing back to 1921. This redesign received very little attention its
first few weeks only to be later decried by social media trolls and, sadly, by some members of the design community intent on pulling each other down rather than praising this gallant redesign. Reading through comments on LinkedIn, I observed many designers playing Monday morning quarterback and offering suggestions of how their agency could have done much better with little to no understanding of the brief, which is easy to say and not so easy to accomplish. Fast forward through those initial weeks of panic buying during covid
-19 to the demands of higher accountability raised by the Movement of Black Lives protests and those same designers who were so quick to judge Land O’Lakes jumped on the band wagon
to remove offensive representations and names off packaging
. Pathetic! As time moves on and consumers qua demonstrators show no signs of letting up, brands continue to drop the assets that can on reflection cause offense and outrage.
The question I have is once the dust has settled who next? When will the religious evangelical right take a second look at the Apple logo? Interestingly enough, when people recall the Apple logo, they forget there is a bite taken out of the apple as a callback to Adam and Eve—who decided to think different and go against God’s wishes. Will religious consumers boycott their precious iPhones or is this offensive asset more excusable because it comes with three cameras? When will consumers realize that the Starbucks “mermaid” is actually a siren? For the Ancient Greeks, sirens were associated with sexual deviancy and leading men astray. Is the siren therefore offensive and needs to be dropped? Many brands have a hidden or murky past and very few understand the stories behind their meaning. In my opinion, merely dropping these vestigial assets is not enough to engage with consumers’ demands for change. While dropping an asset is a symbolic gesture to demonstrate a form of performative “wokeness,” changing what’s on pack does not mean the brand has changed, or that it has reconciled the dark, less evolved moments of the past with the vision for the future.