April 21, 2020
Land O’Lakes Quietly Revises Branding
All company brands and logos evolve over time. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes brands just want a fresh look, something more in tune with current aesthetic tastes. Other times, the company is interested in rebranding or shifting a product focus, such as the recent changes to Dunkin’ Donuts. Other times, though, a company changes a brand to make a socio-political statement, or to send a very clear message… even if they do so with relatively little fanfare.
Take, for instance, the recent change to Land O’Lakes dairy products. The brand markets butter, cheese, and other familiar dairy products and has been on many grocery store shelves since the 1920s. Their logo, featuring the Native American woman known as “Mia,” has been a staple image in brand packaging for generations. But, a closer look at recent packaging shows Mia has gone.
Instead of the smiling young Native woman, consumers will now see either a new stylized Land O’Lakes logo or the smiling faces of some of the company’s client farmers. What was the reason for the change? The company’s CEO, Beth Ford, said they wanted to shift to a look that was more closely aligned to what the company is all about: “As a farmer-owned co-op, we strongly feel the need to better connect the men and women who grow our food with those who consume it…”
That’s a strong take, especially given what many people might assume about the nature of the change. Getting ahead of the likely commentary on the story, media reports about the shift were quick to point out it was a Native American artist who created the familiar image. Patrick DesJarlait was the Ojibwe who remade the Mia image back in the 1950s. A renowned American artist, his work was celebrated for decades on consumer packaging and in museums.
When asked about the news of the change, his son, Robert, said he had mixed feelings. “I’m sad to see it go, but I can understand… We live in a politically correct time, so maybe it was time… It’s certainly developed into a stereotype.”
Those comments certainly mirror what a lot of consumers and commentators have been saying. However, Land O’Lakes made the stronger choice in aligning the decision with the company’s values, rather than trying to make a political statement. Brands exist to help define a company in the marketplace. It’s likely that many consumers did not even realize the company was a farming cooperative at its core. In making this change for this reason, it gave the company the chance to tell the world and, potentially, reframe the company image in the minds of consumers.