Dealing with mixed races

Source: Daily Telegraph.

Source: Daily Telegraph.

Over the years I’ve seen a number of companies forced by consumers to “stop being racist”. They don’t think they’re being racist, they’re just doing what they always did, but because of demographic changes their use of certain icons become out of touch with modern thinking – and just as importantly, the mixed ethnic origins of their clientèle!

The famous example from the UK involved Robertson’s Golden Shred marmalade, complete with brand mnemonic. Over the years they’d stopped calling the symbol a “gollywog” (the last syllable of this word is extremely offensive to black people). But you could still save up vouchers for the badge and toys.

After much pressure, the mascot was finally dropped in 2001, 18 years after the Greater London council boycotted the brand for being offensive.

Darling, you've changed

Darling, you’ve changed

This later example, right, comes from China and was then rolled out to a few other Asian countries. The brand was introduced in 1933 in Hong Kong, then a UK colony. Once Colgate-Palmolive bought 50% of the company in 1985, they left it for a while, until people back in the States got wind of the brand name “Darkie” in the range and got the firm to change it to Darlie. The logo was also adapted. The Chinese never saw it as offensive. It was a black man with bright teeth. In China they call people from the West long noses. I’ve never taken offence at that – we do have longer noses. But pressure groups push and push, and if a groundswell of opinion picks up momentum and the pressure becomes unbearable, companies just have to comply with the new social trend. The new generation of brand users won’t miss the old name. If it’s a good brand, it’ll survive.

Negerbrot - Austria (negro bread chocolate)

Negerbrot – Austria (negro bread chocolate)

So. Allow me to introduce you to my all-time favourite shocker, which I discovered in a shop while on business back in 1998: Negerbrot.

Before you get too upset, it needs to be remembered that neger in German is cognate with negro, not the even more offensive word (which I can’t even bring myself to write). Despite this, I was shocked when I first stumbled across the brand in a village shop. I decided to keep a pack for the archives. It was made by Heller, which in the meantime has withdrawn both the product and the brand. I wonder why…

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3 responses to “Dealing with mixed races

  1. Nice material! It’s funny – I’d claim to be almost totally relaxed about word-bandying, I might insist that you could throw any word at me without my taking offence, but like you I would decline to use the N-word where you backed off. Fact is, we’ve all been exposed to too much proscriptive complaining to hang on to our old habits.

  2. It´s so sad that Negerbrot isn´t available anymore for sale in stores….I loved it as a child…the taste of pure peanuts with chocolate was great…missing it soooo much…

  3. Avatar Michael Anonymous

    I miss “Negerbrot” too. Too sad. We used the word “Neger” as kids not as a bad word. It’s so moderate, that kids, wo want to offend black people, take “N****r” [actually word edited by admin] instead. In the last decades the word disappeared because of political incorrectness. You must know that, due to the loss of WWII, we have a long tradition of hypocrisy in Austria.

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