Companies struggle to find effective replacements for racially insensitive branding

As companies distance themselves from hurtful branding, developing effective replacements can be a challenge.

As the Washington Redskins announced the team will 'retire' its name and logo, and select new ones, the move joins a growing list of brands making changes to distance themselves from insensitive histories. The challenge, for these companies, is just beginning.

"Branding is a promise," says University of Houston marketing expert Paul Galvani, who notes says companies can invest millions of dollars in developing a brand that distinguishes them from competitors.

Choosing to change direction does not happen lightly, even when the original brands perpetuate tired, hurtful stereotypes like those that will soon disappear: Aunt Jemima syrup, Uncle Ben's rice, Eskimo Pie ice cream, and Land-O-Lakes butter.

Galvani suspects some of the changes have been in the works awhile. "I can tell you that these companies have had these changes discussed in their boardroom, for many years," he says, "It just so happens that we are in a point in time, now, where it is acceptable for these brands to jump on the bandwagon."

Still, the bandwagon can be an expensive ride. Estimates suggest the basic mechanics of replacing the Redskins logo and branding will cost $10 million dollars. Like all the changing products, that's before the cost of introducing and selling a new identity that customers can accept and embrace. They are decisions guided by simple economics.

"They've got this one moment in time," says Galvani, "If they're ever going to do it, now is the time."

The next test is deciding how to replace these brands with something that consumers and stakeholders can accept.

Ultimately, it will come down to whether the product delivers on the same promise that it offered before the change.