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24 Big Names That Changed to Avoid Being Canceled

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Time for a Change

More people, products, and companies are updating their images to make sure they're on the right side of history, especially after last summer's protests against racism and police brutality. These sudden image changes are nothing new, however — rebranding is a time-honored way to keep up with changing consumer tastes or recover from public relations nightmares like corporate scandals. Here are some of the most notable transformations, including a recent update to one of the most iconic board games of all time.


Related: 26 Biggest Retail Boycotts of All Time

Monopoly board game
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Mr Potato Head
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Mr. Potato Head

Excuse us: It's just "Potato Head" from now on. Hasbro has announced that one of its most iconic toys is officially dropping "Mr." from its name in an effort to broaden its appeal. The gender-neutral makeover will also include a play set that allows kids to create their own potato families, including with two moms or two dads, according to the Associated Press. 


Related: 20 Toy Brands That Are Still Made in America 

Aunt Jemima
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Aunt Jemima

In what might be the most prominent food rebranding related to last year's racial unrest, Quaker has announced that its eponymous Aunt Jemima syrup will be getting a new brand name and logo: Pearl Milling Company. The brand's origins were "based on a racial stereotype," executives have acknowledged, and the logo had already been tweaked several times, including to remove a kerchief from Aunt Jemima's head. 


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The Dixie Chicks

Years after stirring up controversy for their vocal opposition to President George W. Bush and the Iraq war, the Dixie Chicks have been back in the spotlight for their decision to drop "Dixie" from their band name — becoming "The Chicks" instead. They felt the word "Dixie," still widely associated with the Confederacy, simply didn't hold up in light of their efforts to promote racial justice.


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Lady Antebellum
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Lady Antebellum

The Dixie Chicks may have been spurred on by another big country group that beat them to the punch. Lady Antebellum, henceforth known as "Lady A," decided to shorten its name in June. The band said it had to consider the "associations that weigh down this word," including slavery. The name change then faced more controversy when the group ran afoul of a Seattle-area blues singer who has been going by the name "Lady A" for years.

Washington Redskins
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Washington Redskins

Rebranding an NFL team is a costly affair, but the Redskins decided this is the year, especially after prompting by major sponsor FedEx and other investors. Long considered offensive by many Native Americans, "Redskins" has been replaced with the most generic of temporary names: the Washington Football Team. New names that may be under consideration include the Warriors, Hogs, and Presidents, according to Sporting News.

Abercrombie & Fitch
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Abercrombie

Several years ago, the struggling Abercrombie brand had an image problem of its own making, with a CEO who reveled in excluding customers who didn't fit Abercrombie's oversexed mold, and lawsuits from employees over various issues, including being forced to wear company clothing without reimbursement. But starting in 2014, the chain embraced a more wholesome look, closed underperforming stores and beefed up its mix of products. The efforts eventually led to a big bump in sales, and the reborn chain was named Business Insider's Retailer of the Year at the end of 2018.


Related: 
20 Famous Brands That Refused to Die

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AirTran
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ValuJet

If the name "ValuJet" conjures the image of plane wreckage in the Florida Everglades, that's exactly why the company decided to change its name. After a crash killed more than 100 passengers in 1996, the airline — which had already been dogged by accusations that its safety procedures weren't up to snuff — merged with another company the following year and was reborn as AirTran. AirTran was then acquired by Southwest in 2014. 

Uncle Ben's
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Uncle Ben's

The box of rice in your pantry may soon be getting a new look. Mars, owner of the Uncle Ben's brand, says recent protests over racial injustice mean "now is the right time to evolve the Uncle Ben's brand, including its visual brand identity." It's unclear what the new logo will look like, but it's a safe bet that the bowtie-wearing Black rice farmer (whose image was actually based on a Chicago waiter) will be gone.


Related: 
Competing Brands That Are Actually Owned by the Same Company

Land O' Lakes
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Land O' Lakes

Notice something different about your butter? Land O' Lakes recently redesigned its logo, leaving off the Native American woman who has been on its packaging for nearly 100 years. While the brand publicly says the changes were meant to emphasize its relationship with dairy farmers, most observers see the rebranding as a convenient way to get rid of a "embarrassing, outdated, and downright racist" logo.

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GMAC Bank

GMAC played a pivotal role in the 2008 subprime mortgage debacle and subsequent housing collapse, eventually accepting a government bailout worth billions. Understandably, that left a bad taste in plenty of consumers' mouths, so the lender decided to rebrand itself as Ally Bank. By all accounts, the switcheroo has gone well, as Ally continues to rack up accolades for being one of the best online banks from publications like Money and Bankrate. 

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WWF

Back in 2002, the World Wrestling Federation discovered the hard way not to step into the ring with pandas. That's when the federation changed its name to WWE — World Wrestling Entertainment — after a lawsuit from the World Wildlife Federation. The wildlife group, known for its cuddly panda logo, accused the wrestlers of using its trademarked WWF initials a little too liberally, violating a previous agreement not to refer to itself as WWF except in very limited instances.


Related:
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Land O' Lakes
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Lance Armstrong Foundation

What's a charity to do when its founder and namesake becomes embroiled in one of the biggest sports scandals of the century? Change its name, of course. The Lance Armstrong Foundation, then only informally known as Livestrong, officially adopted its nickname in 2012 after Armstrong's doping scandal rocked the cycling world. Though his seven Tour de France wins were nullified and he stepped down as the group's chairman, he remained on the group's board.  


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Comcast

If the name "Comcast" sends a shiver down your spine, you aren't alone. In fact, you're in such good company that Comcast rebranded its cable service as Xfinity in 2010. Officially, the move was to better align its new products, platforms, and data speeds, but distancing itself from "notorious bad customer service and technical difficulties" was certainly a happy side effect. We're not sure it worked, as the website Comcast Sucks is still going strong.

Mrs. Butterworth's
Amazon

Mrs. Butterworth's

Aunt Jemima isn't the only brand of syrup in line for an update. Its Conagra-owned counterpart, Mrs. Butterworth's, is undergoing a brand and packaging review, a spokesman has told Forbes. Though the brand has said its syrup is supposed to "evoke the images of a loving grandmother," others say it perpetuates slavery-era stereotypes similar to Aunt Jemima.  

Victoria's Secret
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Victoria's Secret

This lingerie juggernaut has had a rough go of it in recent years, with customers increasingly turning away from the brand's image of unattainable beauty and supermodel-perfect bodies. In response, Victoria's Secret has been working to include more diverse faces and bodies in its advertising, including plus-size and transgender models. The jury's still out on whether it's working: Parent company L Brands is still at high risk of filing for bankruptcy, especially in the wake of COVID-19 store shutdowns. 


Related: 
Companies That Have Filed for Bankruptcy Since the Pandemic Began

blackwater academi
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Blackwater

This government contractor was so tainted by scandal that it changed its name not once, but twice. The private security firm became a household name when a group of its employees killed several Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007, an attack that investigators later determined was unprovoked. In 2009, the company switched its name to Xe; two years later, it became Academi and remains so today. 

Fair & Lovely
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Fair & Lovely

Though not as recognizable stateside, Fair & Lovely has long been a common sight on drugstore shelves in much of Asia. The Unilever-owned brand of skin-lightening cream recently said it will drop the word "fair" in recognition that "the words 'fair,' 'white' and 'light' suggest a singular ideal of beauty that we don't think is right." 

Eskimo Pie
Amazon

Eskimo Pie

What might have been your favorite childhood ice-cream treat will also soon adopt a new name. "Eskimo," considered offensive by indigenous groups like the Inuit, will get the heave-ho, and the same fate is likely for the product's mascot, a young boy in a furry hooded robe and boots. Parent company Dreyer's says it "recognizes the term is derogatory" and has been reviewing the brand, recently acquired from Nestle, for some time.

bausch and lomb
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Valeant

This prominent Canadian drugmaker became so mired in twin scandals that it had very little to lose with a complete rebranding. The company was involved in an accounting scandal, and it was also dogged by allegations that it was buying drugs and artificially inflating their prices. The toxic press sent its stock price off a cliff in 2015, after which the company decided to rebrand as Bausch Health, inspired by one of its most prominent product lines, Bausch and Lomb eye care. 

cream of wheat
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Cream of Wheat

This decades-old brand of hot wheat cereal announced over the summer that it, too, would perform "an immediate review" of its brand packaging. The label owned by B&G Foods includes the image of a smiling Black chef in a bowtie based on an offensive stereotype. The company says it "will proactively take steps to ensure that we and our brands do not inadvertently contribute to systemic racism."

Verizon Wireless
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WorldCom

Anyone who knows much about corporate accounting scandals would undoubtedly put WorldCom near the top of their list. The telecom giant fudged its books to the tune of some $11 billion, leading to what was then the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history in 2002. Two years later, the newly restructured company also adopted a new (old) name: MCI, the name of the company WorldCom had absorbed during a 1996 buyout. MCI was not long for this world, either, as it was snapped up by Verizon in 2005. 

Time Warner Cable
Time Warner Cable by Ildar Sagdejev (CC BY-SA)

Time Warner Cable

Comcast isn't the only cable company that has played the name-change game. Time Warner Cable also embarked on a rebranding quest in 2017, switching its name to the much-flashier Spectrum after merging with Charter. Arguably, its efforts have been more successful, with customers reporting much higher satisfaction levels with the "new" company.