Following the global protests over the killing of George Floyd in June, Mars Food was one of several FMCG giants that promised to review its brands that could be seen as racially insensitive, with Uncle Ben’s coming under close attention.
When the brand first entered the market over 70 years ago “uncle” was used as a derogatory term against black people in the US south. Its familiar packaging supposedly featured Frank Brown, the head waiter at an up-market Chicago restaurant at the time.
Following the review, Mars announced it will change the name of the Uncle Ben’s by early 2021, rebranding it as Ben’s Original and removing the image of Frank Brown from the packaging. Mars further said it understood the inequalities associated with the brand and would be donating to scholarships for black chefs in the US.
New YouGov BrandIndex data suggests that the changes to the brand have been positively received. Following the announcement on the 23 September, Uncle Ben’s Word of Mouth Exposure score (whether someone has talked about the brand with friends and family in the last two weeks) grew 9.6 points to 12.3. Its Reputation score (whether someone is proud or embarrassed to work for a brand) also increased 6.1 points, while its Impression score (whether someone has a positive or negative impression of a brand) also increased by 6.9 points.
Additionally, the brand’s Purchase Consideration score (whether someone would consider purchasing from the brand in future) increased by 11.7 points in the week following the announcement. Although this has subsequently begun to even off, scores haven’t dipped to the pre-announcement levels. Its Purchase Intent score, which shows whether a brand is someone’s first choice when buying, also increased – rising from 1.7 to 5.6 at its peak.
In my previous column I looked at how brands are becoming increasingly more willing to take a vocal stance on social issues. The public reaction to Uncle Ben’s name change suggests that consumers are reacting positively and may purchase from these brands more often.