Changing with progressive times: How businesses come unstuck by political correctness

Public standards in civility have shifted dramatically in recent years. Brands are forced to adapt to cultural sensitivities, or risk opprobrium. But doing so also invites criticism from those resistant to this kind of change who view political correctness with skepticism.

We’ve taken a look at how some brands and businesses have been dragged into the firing line in an increasingly corrosive environment.


Names carry weight. This truth is at the centre of Nestle’s current conundrum. The confectionary company just announced that it will change the names of its ‘Red Skins’ and ‘Chicos’ lollies.

Red Skins has been targeted for the derogatory connotations the term carries for Native American people, as has Chico for South American people.

The origins of the Red Skins candy are notably precarious by today’s standards, and so are the company’s attempts at fielding subsequent complaints. Original advertisements featured New Zealand actor Mark Wright, dressed in American Indian clothing and assuming an accent. Complaints were subsequently made, and upheld by the New Zealand Advertising Standards Complaints Board, despite Nestle’s insistence that the content was inoffensive.

When a Twitter user confronted the brand over its continued use of the Red Skin name, Nestle again, doubled down.

In the current climate, where issues of race and identity have been magnified by the Black Lives Matter protests around the world, Nestle has reacted by announcing they will change the names of both Red Skins and Chicos, adding:

“These names have overtones which are out of step with Nestle’s values, which are rooted in respect.”

While this decision will have satisfied some, others were quick to criticise it. Nick Cater of The Australian used it as an example of the left’s distortion of the race debate, through which he claims: “we are losing the freedom to think”.

“Last week, an innocent raspberry-flavoured confectionary found itself in the dock for possessing an allegedly derogatory, racist name”, said Carter.

For those resistant to change, the power of nostalgia seems to trump concerns of offense.

The Today show administered a poll, asking their viewers if Nestle should change the name of the candies and revealed an overwhelming preference against doing so (75%).

But the voice that is missing from these responses is that of the youth. Social and political activism is central to the identity of generation Z and millenials, who are also much more likely to consume lollies than their elders.

This Nestle saga is just one of many examples of brands responding to a shifting social zeitgeist, cognizant of audiences that will have the most impact on their reputation.

Colonial Brewing

Colonial Brewing Co have announced considerations of changing its name amid an anti-racism campaign that accused the craft beer company of “creating nostalgia” for a period in our country’s history in which First Nations Peoples were “killed on masse”.

Managing director, Lawrence Dowd, rejected this idea citing the name as a reference to their colonisation of the Margaret River region, which is renowned for its wine. Although there was reportedly no malice intended, the connotations were enough, especially given the plight of alcohol ravaged indigenous communities.

Yet once again, the decision was met with uproar, conservative commentators took aim in the form of acerbic newspaper columns and broadcast tirades.


Similar accusations of hypocrisy were mounted at comedian Josh Thomas, who ignited a debate over Coon cheese. People cited his flippant association with Indian people and 7/11 on a writer’s room panel as offensive. Coon is named after Edward William Coon, who patented a ripening process used to manufacture the original cheese, but the word has been used to belittle Indigenous Australians.

Inevitably, decisions such as these involve weighing conflicting concerns and making a decision that best reflects social concerns and long-term business goals. By aligning with the younger generation, brands may risk alienating some, but are ensuring their sustained alignment with the changing times.

If you or your business require advice on navigating sensitive social issues, get in touch with the Pesel & Carr team.



The most stylish dog in the world

It’s cold. I can feel it in my bones. My collection of chicken bones is as frosty as they were when Stuart grabbed them from the butcher’s freezer. Times like these make me wish I was a big hairy fluffball of a poodle, instead of the aesthetically groomed, fashionable poodle who paws these words.

Maybe it’s time I took it to the next level. I’m a sophisticated poodle, and this winter I’m thinking of owning that, while cutting the shivers out too.

There’s a dog currently doing the rounds on Instagram whose effortlessly sleek sense of style shows that dogs are capable of even the most refined sartorial looks.

I’m referring of course, to Bohdi the @menswear modelling dog. No, that isn’t a young Brad Pitt, Bodhi is a Shiba Inu who was first brought to the world’s attention in 2013, when a photograph of him modeling some dapper menswear emerged on the internet.

He has since graced the pages of The New York Times, GQ and Time Magazine, pairing his ruff around the edges charm with an endearing good boy energy.

The handsome hound has struck deals with major fashion brands like ASOS and Salvatore Ferragamo.

And dogs are taking notice. Look around.

Hit the park to peruse packs of proud pooches parading in puffer jackets.

Hit the cafes to catch cool canines in colourful coats.

Or hit the streets for hunky hounds in huggy hoodies.

Who knows, maybe I could be the next Bohdi, maybe not…