Editor's note: Kelly Jasper is vice president, strategy and insights, at research firm AMC Global. 

Amid a rising conversation surrounding social justice and systemic racism, some of the world’s biggest brands are scrutinizing their images and their communication practices in order to meet the call for inclusion and equality. This is a big deal for established brands who have to navigate years of brand equity and label recognition – and balance that with their customers’ expectations, along with their own company’s social responsibility and the bottom line. 

Research has found that consumers are indeed looking to brands to take a stand1 on these important issues. This is a movement that has been many years in the making and it is not a simple flash in the pan. Many brands are facing the challenge head-on by taking another look at product names and labeling that may be considered offensive. 

Some of the most high-profile changes have been well-documented2 recently, with brands like Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s shifting imagery, packaging and names to eliminate any perceived racial bias. After more than nine decades with the imagery, Land O’Lakes has removed the Native American woman, Mia, from its packaging – rolling in the change as part of a 100th anniversary celebration. Many other iconic brands are also discussing label and name changes. 

Some brands have chosen a different path and decided to keep existing brand names. Trader Joe’s, for example, had originally said it would stop using the designation Trader Jose’s for its Mexican food and Trader Ming’s for its Asian food. Ultimately, though, the chain said it didn’t find the labels racist and decided to keep them in play.3 

How can brands decide the best course of action for branding or visual identity changes? A deep understanding of the wants, needs and perceptions of a brand’s target audience is the first big step in the right dire...