Rebranding as a strategy to avoid racism in representing corporate identity: from “Negrita” to “Umsha”

Fabrizio Bullón, Francisco Arbaiza, Miguel Sánchez

Rebranding as a strategy to avoid racism in representing corporate identity: from “Negrita” to “Umsha”

ICONO 14, Revista de comunicación y tecnologías emergentes, vol. 21, no. 1, 2023

Asociación científica ICONO 14

El rebranding como estrategia para evitar el racismo en la representación de la identidad corporativa: de ‘Negrita’ a ‘Umsha’

Rebranding como estratégia para evitar o racismo na representação da identidade corporativa: de “Negrita” a “Umsha”

Fabrizio Bullón *

School of Communications, Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas (UPC), Peru

Francisco Arbaiza **

School of Communications, Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas (UPC), Peru

Miguel Sánchez **

School of Communications, Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas (UPC), Peru

Received: 16/september /2022

Revised: 01/november /2022

Accepted: 01/february /2023

Published: 11/April /2023

Abstract: Activism against the social gaps and systemic as well as structural racism during the last years of the 20th century has led to erroneous representations of minority ethnic groups in Peru being revised within the context of advertising and in every other social sphere. Consequently, brands, regardless of their trajectory, have opted to apply strategies such as rebranding. These strategies enable them to reconsider their identity and perfectly fit within the contemporary market context. The objective of this study was to perform a phenomenological study that helps understand the application of "Negrita" rebranding, a Peruvian brand that belongs to the Alicorp Corporation, which has 60 years in the market, to "Umsha" to make apparent their commitment to diversity and opposition to racism. The analysis was addressed from the perspective of Afro-Peruvian activists' parents to demonstrate structural racism underneath the use of rooted stereotypes in Peruvian advertising. It was concluded that the "Negrita" case, by banishing the elements from its previous image, met the demands for change regarding anachronistic archetypes with which Afro-Peruvians are represented. Ultimately, this change was positive despite the brand assets that would be left aside.

Keywords: Rebranding; Racism; Representation; Corporate Visual Identity; Brands; Brand identity.

Resumen: Las brechas sociales y el racismo sistemático y estructural, durante la última parte del siglo XXI han dado pie a que se revisen, en la publicidad y en cualquier espacio social, las representaciones erróneas de los grupos étnicos minoritarios en el Perú. Esto ha generado que las marcas, independientemente de su trayectoria, opten por aplicar estrategias –como el rebranding– que les permitan replantear su identidad y ubicarse adecuadamente en el contexto comercial contemporáneo. El presente trabajo se planteó realizar un estudio fenomenológico que permita entender la aplicación del rebranding de ‘Negrita’–marca peruana de la corporación Alicorp con 60 años en el mercado que anunció que pasaría a llamarse ‘Umsha’– con el propósito de patentizar un compromiso con la diversidad y oposición al racismo. El análisis se abordó desde la perspectiva de padres y madres de activistas afroperuanos para evidenciar el racismo estructural bajo el uso de estereotipos enraizados en la publicidad peruana. Se pudo concluir que ‘Negrita’, desterrando los elementos de su antigua imagen, atendió la necesidad de cambio de los arquetipos anacrónicos con los que son representados los afroperuanos y resultó siendo positivo a pesar de los activos de marca que se dejarían de lado.

Palabras clave: Rebranding; Racismo; Representación; Identidad Visual Corporativa; Marcas; Identidad de Marca.

Resumo: Durante a última parte do século XXI, as lacunas sociais e o racismo sistemático e estrutural levaram a uma revisão, na publicidade e em qualquer espaço social, das representações errôneas de grupos étnicos minoritários no Peru. Isto levou as marcas, independentemente de sua história, a optar por aplicar estratégias - como o rebranding - que lhes permitem repensar sua identidade e se posicionar adequadamente no contexto comercial contemporâneo. O objetivo deste estudo era realizar um estudo fenomenológico para compreender a aplicação da rebranding da ‘Negrita’ - uma marca peruana pertencente à corporação Alicorp com 60 anos no mercado que anunciou que mudaria seu nome para ‘Umsha’ -com o objetivo de demonstrar o compromisso com a diversidade e a oposição ao racismo. A análise foi abordada da perspectiva dos pais dos ativistas afro-peruanos, a fim de destacar o racismo estrutural através do uso de estereótipos enraizados na publicidade peruana. Poder-se-ia concluir que ‘Negrita’, ao banir os elementos de sua antiga imagem, abordou a necessidade de mudar os arquétipos anacrônicos com os quais os afro-peruanos estão representados e se mostrou positivo apesar dos ativos de marca que seriam deixados de lado.

Palavras-chave: Rebranding; Racismo; Representação; Identidade Visual Corporativa; Marcas; Identidade de Marca.

1. Introduction

Peru is self-defined as a multicultural country: “a country of all bloods” (Arguedas, 1973), but this definition cohabitates with persistent racism in society (Avilés, 2021). To Braveman et al. (2022), Peru experiences systemic and structural racism as it is generalized and deeply rooted in the system, laws, and beliefs that produce, approve, and perpetuate unfair treatment and oppression of people. This systemic practice is the most dangerous aspect of racism as it positions non-white people at a disadvantage. Concerning this, publicity and media use to reproduce content based on sociocultural stereotypes that categorize the different social groups that constitute society according to aspects, behaviors, or customs are the norm (Amigo et al., 2016). Despite this, in past years the representation of minorities on the different platforms has been reassessed thanks to social pressure and new social trends (Mosquera, 2019; Moreira, 2021).

Communication media reinforce structural changes in society through national and international broadcasting (Mut & Miquel, 2019). However, the media is still far from fulfilling that function as they remain the main channel through which stereotypes are produced, validated, ratified, and made accessible to everyone. Consequently, this affects how people perceive, and relate to, one another (Panis et al., 2019; Tipa, 2020).

On the other hand, within the marketing context and symbolically speaking, brands tend to perpetuate values associated with beauty standards and stereotypes based on Western standards (Fernández, 2020). Similarly, according to Avilés (2021) publicists, who carry out campaigns for brands, have the short-sighted conviction that people in Peru aspire to have white skin. Therefore, a marketing spiel is maintained in which degrading forms of social integration are still evidenced and frequently expresses structural components of racism (Mosquera, 2011; MINCUL, 2018). Likewise, for Vich (2019), in Peru these racist practices are understood as a mechanism of power that builds distorted identities, strengthens relations of domination, and limits the functioning of collective life.

This representation of minorities in the media and advertising tends to create a negative bias in society. Promoted by such atavistic representations, some companies, associated with these practices, choose to modify some aspects of their brands, such as name, logotype, packaging, colors, and other elements, regardless of whether these aspects are related to its identity (Iancu & Iancu, 2017; Hernández-Gil et al., 2018). Many of them have even turned to creating a new image and position in the mind of the consumer by establishing a new name, slogan, motto, or design that enables them to maintain customers' loyal clientele (Bamfo et al., 2018; Išoriatė, 2018; Hakala et al., 2020).

Considering the above, this study analyzes the brand of purple corn pudding, a typical Peruvian dessert. This dessert was called "Negrita" and has been renamed "Umsha." Within the desserts category, this brand turns out to be symbolic for Peruvian people since it has more than 60 years in the market and its original purpose was to inspire, stand out, and praise Afro-Peruvian communities. However, in 2020, Alicorp, the corporation that distributed and owns the brand, surprisingly decided to change its identity radically, based on the fact that this was against their vision: to inspire inclusion and respect for what might be considered positive before but inappropriate today (Alicorp, 2021).

With this aim, this research focuses on exposing the perception of activists’ parents from the Afro-Peruvian community in relation to the original identity of the “Negrita” brand. The aim is to evidence structural racism underneath the use of exposed stereotypes throughout the years, through different media and communication channels, advertising, and content. Therefore, the following research question is presented:

  1. RQ: As consumers, what is the Afro-Peruvian activists’ perception in relation to the rebranding of "Negrita"?

Likewise, to make this study more precise, the following specific questions were presented, enabling the gathering of complementary information:

  1. SQ1: How does the development and application of rebranding give an advantage to the value of the new brand?

  2. SQ2: How are Afro-Peruvian stereotypes in advertising built and represented?

2. Theoretical Framework

2.1. Strategic use of rebranding

The visual representation of a brand, its identity, and its value are valuable assets for companies. Therefore, its design and application to the different platforms are essential, given that when these are developed together, strategies focus on growth, contribute significantly, and avoid losses in the business (Erjansola et al., 2021). However, for Mihajlović et al. (2016) and García (2019) the ongoing technological progress, the consumers’ demands and the need for change have boosted some modifications in the image of companies. Furthermore, for Rocha (2016); Foroudi et al. (2019); Panigyrakis et al. (2020); and Keller et al. (2020), adjustments go beyond the shell shown by the brand. This is mainly because the reputation built throughout the years needs to be maintained.

Because of this digital revolution and considering the current social context, where the market is highly competitive, brands are constantly changing as they want to offer consumers unique experiences (De-Miguel et al., 2022; Ertemel et al., 2021). Additionally, for Moya (2018), the brand becomes an intangible asset that may evolve positively or negatively throughout time and according to the different dynamics present in the market. Therefore, rebranding is shown as an essential need for the brand’s image to be considered unique and different, as well as to be kept alive in the mind of the consumers (Syazali et al., 2019).

In this sense, Ali et al. (2019), Joseph et al. (2020), and Williams et al. (2021) consider that rebranding is the creation of a new name, term, symbol, design, or the combination of all of them to develop a new differentiated position in the mind of the consumers and competitors. Likewise, Hernández-Gil et al. (2018) and Mróz-Gorgón and Haenlein (2020) add that this strategy is focused on changing an opinion about a brand or company that may have deviated from the objectives initially set out.

Additionally, for Dixon and Perry (2017) the brands are not just constantly looking for their renovation to not lose positioning in the market, but they are considered "live brands" as they are more receptive, personalized, and smart. To sum up, we can define rebranding as a strategy that has the intention to reconsider the visual identity of an organization to competitively position the brand before its competitors, make it more attractive, become unique in the market and establish bonds of trust and loyalty with consumers (Del Río et al., 2017; Ponomarev and Ivshin, 2020). However, Gutiérrez (2019) considers that when applying this strategy, the suggested modification also impacts the internal structure, positioning, design, price, and relationship with the consumer.

On the one hand, the idea of revitalizing and repositioning the brand progressively by applying techniques or strategies that involve some modification arises as an answer to the search for the success of companies because markets become more demanding. Likewise, they intend to remain alive within the market (Setiadi et al., 2021). Along the same lines, Marques et al. (2020) consider that this change may only be effective if the interested parties (brand and consumer) accept the identity, vision, and renewed values and if, when adapting, they manage to fulfill the requirements of the market context.

Mróz-Gorgón and Haenlein (2020) establish two degrees of rebranding. First, the revolutionary is the level at which all elements related to an old negative visual perception are destroyed. And, second, the evolutionary, a degree that does not involve drastic modifications but changes some attributes without affecting the brand positioning. This means that the main change could also apply to the logotype since the intention is to satisfy the brand's needs while providing an aesthetic refresh (Williams et al., 2021). Likewise, Marques et al. (2020) establish that the application of this strategy regardless of the degree chosen by the brand provides positive effects and may be used as a marketing tool to gain competitive leverage plus positively affect a company's financial performance.

2.2. Representation of racism addressed to Afro-Peruvian people in advertising

Racism is the starting point to understanding the representation of Afro-Peruvian groups and how, despite being in the twenty-first century, some old colonial divisions based on the superiority of "the white" is still in force (Soler, 2019). This racism is an ideology based on inferiority where social resources are assigned differently to several groups within the population (Dhaliwal et al., 2022). According to Shiao and Woody (2021), this racism is developed under four social constructs: (i) individual attitudes, (ii) cultural scheme, (iii) preexisting inequalities, and (iv) the processes that create or maintain racial dominance, which facilitates the maintenance of the status quo in society.

In the Peruvian context, Avilés (2021) asserts that Peruvians are used to considering the color of their skin, hair, and last names. But at the same time, they immediately deny this practice. Vich (2019) affirms that in Peru's citizens classify, stereotype, and marginalize each other because there is an atavistic and unconscious need to place people within a spectrum of possibilities, and according to it, they can interact. Likewise, Pineda (2016) points out racial segregation and discrimination as having favored more subtle and almost imperceptible conditions within the fabric of society.

Particularly within the context of communication, specifically in advertising, Foster (2018) affirms that racism is entrenched at all levels of society, coating in the different entities, among which communication media and marketing agencies can be found. For Tipa (2020) the reproduction of specific social imaginaries in communication media is detrimental since people belonging to minority groups tend to underestimate their ability to relate to others because their identity is subject to ongoing questioning.

That being said, López (2019) points out that the different advertisers have evidenced a noticeable change in the last years due to the demands of building more human-wise brands, sometimes due to commitments undertaken for specific values and other times to distinguish from the competence by offering better ideas associated to a positive social impact. Likewise, several experts agree that strategic activism has emerged, where brands search to influence consumers-citizens through campaigns created to establish communication management practices in the company (Manfredi, 2019; Mukherjee and Althuizen, 2020).

3. Methodology and Procedures

To better understand the course of the research, the rebranding of the “Negrita” brand has been interpreted from the perspective of Afro-Peruvian activists’ parents. This brand, with more than 60 years in the Peruvian market, has been initially characterized using the image of an Afro-Peruvian woman carrying a red turban on her head (Figure 1). This representation referred to the black people back then, showing them as specialists in Peruvian cuisine. The rebranding of 2020 provides a new graphic proposal: the term “Umsha” next to the Umsha, a regional tree that represents the “yunza” (this is a typical Peruvian celebration where a tree full of presents is cut down); this aims to invoke unity within all ethnical groups in Peru (Alicorp, 2021).

“Negrita” and “Umsha” logotypes
Figure 1
“Negrita” and “Umsha” logotypes

Source: Alicorp, 2021. Note: Traditional logotype of the “Negrita” brand and the new logotype of the “Umsha” brand.

The following objectives were suggested considering the above scenario:

  1. MO: Determine the role of “Negrita” rebranding in the consumers’ perception from the point of view Afro-Peruvian activists’ parents.

  2. SO1: Identify the types of rebranding and the advantages granted to a new brand.

  3. SO2: Determine how Afro-Peruvian stereotypes are built and represented in advertising.

3.1. Study design

The analytical proximity in this study was reckoned following a phenomenological study. This design incorporates the elements that determine the world and life of individuals, and their rational understandings, subjective meanings, and social action (Graneheim and Lundman, 2004). A qualitative technique was used through interviews with semi-structured questions, built following the research objectives and validated by tests. Furthermore, the informed consent protocols were strictly followed when recording the interview as it is essential to have a digital record to verify the content. The sampling technique was the snowball because this method allows identifying other people with similar characteristics that may provide precise input to the research (Creswell, 2013).

3.2 Sample

The purpose of sampling in qualitative research is to gather helpful information to understand the complexity, depth, and context surrounding a phenomenon, instead of making more general assumptions as in the case of quantitative studies (Gentles et al., 2015). As indicated by Palinkas et al. (2015), to obtain helpful information, the strategies for qualitative sampling should be addressed to select people or sources of data considered "rich in terms of information."

"The participants in this study were 14 Afro-Peruvian activists' parents. This population profile was specifically chosen for research to answer the research question because they know the subject; they are active citizens in terms of political, cultural, and other related topics linked to the project. Furthermore, their age, between 40 and 60, becomes an advantage since they know the different stages the brand has gone through, and finally, they are aware of the representation topic.

Likewise, participants were selected for the study through intentional sampling. Intentional sampling is selecting cases rich in information for the in-depth study. From these studies, those from which knowledge about the main topic can be gleaned are analyzed (Patton, 2002).

To identify participants considered relevant sources of information, a series of inclusion criteria was defined. Only those people fulfilling all of these criteria were able to take part in this study. The inclusion criteria were: (i) being Afro-descendant, (ii) being parents of Afro-Peruvian activists, (iii) knowing or consuming the brand, (iv) being part of the medium socio-economic level and (v) living in Peruvian cities.

3.3. Data gathering and procedure

Data gathering was carried out through in-depth interviews. This tool enables a fluent conversation with the participant without losing the research approach. In-depth interviews are generally used in phenomenological studies, given the interest aroused by knowing the phenomenon as it is experienced by others.

The interviews were carried out individually with each participant by the same researcher from June 28–August 9, 2022 according to the planning schedule. The researcher had no prior interaction with the participants. The interviews lasted between 30 and 40 minutes, and all of them were digitally recorded to be transcribed later.

For the ethical aspects of the research procedure, anonymity and confidentiality of the participants' information were preserved by assigning them a code. The participants' involvement was voluntary and were briefed before signing informed consent. During the briefing, participants were explained about the advertising study and the changes in traditional brands. Just after the interview, each participant was debriefed, offering more detail about the study’s objectives. Neither of the participants refused to continue with the study nor requested to withdraw the information provided. No incentive or compensation was offered to the participants.

4. Results and Discussion

After carrying out the process of descriptive coding with the data gathered during the interviews, answers to the questions contemplated initially in the research could be found.

4.1. CQ1 What is the perception of “Negrita” rebranding in consumers from the Afro-Peruvian activists' parents' point of view?

Participants agreed that the main reason for ‘Negrita’ rebranding is for the Afro-Peruvian community to feel identified, accepted, and appreciated in a society that, currently, creates only barriers and distance among people. Likewise, some affirm that rebranding may represent only good intentions and that the strategy is not enough to solve the conflict with the brand. The opinion is that the new proposal, “Umsha,” is shallow, having no background and failing to defend minorities' representation. Furthermore, for many of the interviewees, there is still a nostalgic bond toward the brand, despite the racial bias:

  1. About "Negrita," I remember that this was a black woman with a turban, but the representation was so harmful that my parents avoided buying this brand because it was not right. I have all these elements (music, representation, and icon) in my mind because these were the things I was being bullied at school for, especially with the corn pudding and the Doña Pepa nougat. [I10]

  2. This is an icon for everyone in my generation and it is almost impossible that nobody remembers it. I have not seen it much on television lately, but this is my childhood. [I12]

Regardless of all associations created concerning the brand, consumers still think about it as though the product was still being sold in local markets. However, they acknowledge that Alicorp has launched a new idea to create a new identity that helps them to disassociate the brand from all stereotypes created around it. Furthermore, they recognize some characteristic elements in the initial proposal (“Negrita”) that e not been considered due to the associations involved.

  1. When you ask me, the only visual element I remember is a black woman with a headscarf, and I am telling you this because it is quite notorious. [I7]

  2. What calls attention is the image of the black woman with a headscarf in her head. I remember it was similar to “Ña Pancha,” a dish soap brand, both of which very much used the black woman stereotype who was a cook, laundry woman, or homemaker. In short, the representation of the black woman is seen as the house cleaner. [I11]

Likewise, several of the interviewees expressed to be against the new proposal, since the brand loses identity and the idea is only partially clear if it is shown with the advertising supporting the rebranding through the different platforms. However, they support the idea that the whole country should be united, regardless of the ethnical group people belong to. Furthermore, they mentioned that the new proposal is complicated to pronounce because the name is linked to the Quechua language.

  1. No, I would not have chosen that name: “Umsha.” I might have chosen a different one, I do not know exactly which one, but for sure, that would not be my choice. I do not feel this name is the right one, despite watching the commercial on television; the brand not only associates it with the Andes but also with something of “all bloods.” [I01]

  2. Not entirely, and I am talking about the name because it does not call my attention, and it is difficult to pronounce at first. However, I believe it was the right decision if we look at it in terms of global change and the impact it has on representing a specific ethnic group. [I02]

Finally, the interviewees were asked whether the change suggested by the brand affected the representation of people part of the community. They were also asked whether this increased or decreased visibility as seen by others. However, opinions were varied since some considered these changes not transcendental given that the solution to the problem was only superficial.

  1. Brands only make advertising-related changes, but then they forget about us. No changes go beyond (…) and considering all that is happening, you can tell this is just a speech to sell. (…) black and racialized people work as cleaners or have basic jobs, but they do not play in the higher leagues [they do not have managerial positions], and when we try, we face many obstacles. [I10]

  2. The reproduction of stereotypes here was related to opportunities. The brand decided to take the chance of using this aspect of the community and exploited it until the point it became something negative. [I11]

To sum up, resentment was present when recalling the brand. Upon understanding the market social demands and the new proposal for the brand identity established by Alicorp, the brand has become less important, given that, according to the interviewees, it has been forgotten. Likewise, despite the above, the participants agreed on the necessity of its rebranding decision, given that the identity fulfills its communicative function. Additionally, interviewees consider that the Afro-Peruvian community has been ultimately released from reinforcing negative stereotypes about them.

4.2. SQ1 Which are the existing rebranding types, and which are the advantages provided to the value of a new brand?

Considering this aspect, most of the participants indicated that modifying a brand’s identity, communication, and logotype could enable positive associations with the new brand.

  1. For me, it was important to realize that brands now consider essential the topic of representation [in the rebranding]. I disagree with the entire new proposal; however, I believe it is correct that they consider this as directly affecting Afro-Peruvian people. [I08]

For most participants, building a compelling message can be affected if the information about this change fails to reach consumers through the proper channels and stimuli. In this case, the brand's execution of the proposal might not have been properly conducted. Furthermore, it is essential that all details, advertising, and marketing used by the brand to communicate these adjustments are complete for the users to make decisions regarding the products they consume.

  1. This is mainly because there needs to be more communication from the brand in general. (…) I am sure that if more people watch the commercial, a great difference could be made. (...) However, the lack of presence in platforms or channels hinders the commercial to have the correct impact. [I07]

  2. This is a new product on the market (…) It has no history, there is no communication to support the new, they have nothing, and that puts them at a disadvantage in contrast to the existing brands [I12]

Likewise, concerning the name change, most participants pointed out that the brands are always looking to innovate in any aspect to prevail in the market. This is achieved by carefully listening to feedback and comments from their consumers to continue to be trending. And during this search trying to achieve first place within the brands of their category, they decide to slightly or drastically adjust some elements. However, many times this is questionable when the proposal is not related to the suggestions gathered initially or with the roadmap planned (Joseph et al., 2020).

  1. I do not think that the brand's association with the yunza and the jungle is related since this is an Andean celebration, and it is held in cities around that area. Additionally, I would suggest organizing all those elements to be more accurate because I do not fully understand the word [“Umsha”]. [I11]

  2. (...) I still do not get it because the name is vague, they have not had that much advertising, and they have not reached people in spaces such as supermarkets, markets, or grocery stores. Limitations due to the pandemic were detrimental to them. [I12]

In other words, for some participants, the rebranding did not render the brand precisely a better version as it lacks market solidity and communication. In addition, according to the participants' perception, the brand has failed to build a clear proposal for most consumers.

At the same time, it is necessary to understand that people's expectations are not met when all changes are made according to the company’s needs and requirements. However, all participants agreed that the change of identity for “Negrita” was the right decision, since from a social point of view, evidence that the term used by the brand had a racist connotation.

  1. Yes, it is important to take action on representation, equality, rights, and other topics because it is essential for all people to feel safe and comfortable where they live. There is no greater satisfaction than feeling that you can be yourself without fear of being judged by the way you look. [I13]

In short, the change has been quite drastic for the participants. They think it would be hard for consumers to recall the brand's new name due to its complexity. Likewise, they are aware that people should begin to question themselves more about representation, equality, and rights of the individuals living in society since, throughout the years, different scenarios where several minority groups were affected have unfolded.

4.3. SQ2 How are Afro-Peruvian stereotypes built and represented in advertising?

In this sense, the controversy arises due to the use of stereotypes in advertising and on several platforms (traditional and non-traditional ones) while “Negrita” was available in the market. For most participants, the incorrect representation of the black woman within that context was undeniable since she was placed in a detrimental position and considered the construction around the brand to have a racist connotation.

  1. I do not think this is the best way to present the community. I am a sixty-year-old woman and before we only accepted what the owners of big corporations put in the media and did not question it much. For example, there were products such as "the coal" and then placed a "negrito” [black little boy] next to it and other similar things. [I01]

  2. (...) What was wrong about it was the associations created around the brand. These gave rise to people making fun of me and all black people. This was the most uncomfortable aspect because you grow with that stuck in your mind. [I10]

Thus, it is essential to understand that from their point of view, the reproduction of stereotypes that refer to minorities and several ethnical groups in Peru has been normalized throughout the years (Vich, 2019). Furthermore, it is very common to use the word “negrita” [black woman] to exclusively highlight a specific physical characteristic but with a negative connotation.

  1. Negrita is used as a pejorative term within regular social conversations, and this is something about which we should begin questioning ourselves. I do not think this is related not only to “Negrita” but also to “Doña Pepa” and the representation of black women in other brands. [I02]

On the one side, all the participants consider that there is an implicit need for the brands or people to link Afro-Peruvian people to certain labors or jobs, and in the case of “Negrita,” this was done to evidence the black women's ability to cook.

  1. Yes, although it is true and cannot be denied, the Afro-Peruvian community is closely related to the gastronomic industry. However, there are other things in which we stand out. Therefore, by cutting ties with the name [that of “Negrita”], the brand positively affects the community since we are no longer classified. [I01]

On the other hand, despite the intent of the company to suggest a new graphic, communicational, and visual identity, it seems that this intent was not enough; the interviewees believe that this new proposal has no relation whatsoever and lacks direct associations with which to be communicated through their different channels.

  1. I feel that the connection they are trying to make between the dance and the corn pudding has no relation, I feel this is forced! (...) This could be the name of a product related to the celebration of the Pachamama or some food, but not related to the corn pudding. [I03]

In other words, it is essential for the brands that people remember the product to position it in their minds. People should choose it when grocery shopping so that the company's profitability grows. However, for other participants, to directly disassociate the Afro-Peruvian community and include other minority ethnic groups results as positive since it sends a more direct message.

  1. I believe this goes hand in hand and correctly communicates the message because the idea of integration hit me. I feel that now people do not only talk about “Negrita” but also about the whole community. [I07]

Moreover, despite the change suggested by Alicorp, the questioning is quite complex since this issue is deeper than that. In this sense, the intended result is to start questioning all that contributes to and enables change in people's state of mind. At the same time, this is done to identify how these prejudices are entrenched in society. However, the participants believe a change in the brand is unlikely to significantly impact people although they are aware that this is a first step.

  1. I am not sure if I eradicated prejudices back then, because this is a generational issue rooted in peoples' minds, but I believe it helps a lot. [I02]

  2. No, prejudices would not be eradicated overnight. Years and generations would pass until this changes, but this is still a first step in this historical fight. [I13]

As can be observed, the debate is bigger than this, and a simple change in a brand is not enough to make up for all the years the image of a group of people has been affected.

5. Discussion and Conclusions

In line with Elias and Almeida (2018), in this study, it has been proved that there are fundamental reasons demanding markets to motivate companies to carry out and apply new strategies inside and outside the company to prevail. Likewise, as stated by García (2019), the rebranding of “Negrita” has proven that updating the brand’s communication and reviewing all its elements should elicit consideration by all brands in the market. This should be done mainly by brands that use cultural references.

As can be evidenced, the Alicorp movement in relation to “Negrita” was revolutionary rebranding. This level of strategy has its basis in the destruction of all elements related to the old image shown by the brand to clear the way for a new identity that fosters personal acceptance, the importance of personality and not the image, and racial equality. In this sense, from the interviewee’s perspective, it is essential to acknowledge that “Negrita” would no longer be present in the market because a new brand has replaced it.

In the research carried out for this study, Afro-Peruvian people are demanding change concerning how they were represented by the “Negrita” brand and the associations generated by the brand’s image. Nevertheless, using these interviews it has been evident that this rebranding, aiming at fighting these racial stereotypes by changing the brand, fails to entirely solve the issue of prejudices around the skin color and identity conflicts which the original brand dragged. According to the participants, the new brand, “Umsha,” fails to fully complete a change toward a better proposal, resulting in only good intentions.

In short, the participants argue that the proposal should offer much more than a radical identity change since the representation and racism problems would not be solved just by deleting the icon of an Afro-Peruvian woman from the product's packaging. The urgency for Peruvian corporate communication to commit to banishing stereotypes and vindicating cultural and racial groups still prevails.

Author’s contributions

Fabrizio Bullón: Conceptualization; Investigation; Writing-Original draft. Francisco Arbaiza: Data treatment; Formal analysis; Project Administration; Validation; Writing-review & editing. Miguel Sánchez: Methodology; Project Administration; Supervision; Writing-review & editing. All the authors have read and agreed with the published version of the manuscript. Conflict of interest: The authors acknowledge having no conflicts of interest.


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Author notes

* Researcher

** Professor and researcher

Additional information

Translation to English : Enago, Crimson Interactive Inc.

To cite this article : Bullón, Fabrizio; Arbaiza, Francisco; & Sánchez, Miguel. (2023). Rebranding as a strategy to avoid racism in representing corporate identity: from “Negrita” to “Umsha”. ICONO 14. Scientific Journal of Communication and Emerging Technologies, 21(1).

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ISO 690-2
ICONO 14, Revista de comunicación y tecnologías emergentes

ISSN: 1697-8293

Vol. 21

Num. 1

Año. 2023

Rebranding as a strategy to avoid racism in representing corporate identity: from “Negrita” to “Umsha”

Fabrizio Bullón 1, Francisco Arbaiza 1, Miguel Sánchez 2