Good Humor enlists The RZA to address ice cream truck jingle’s problematic past

Dive Brief:

  • Unilever’s Good Humor ice cream bar brand hired music producer and co-founder of the Wu-Tang Clan, The RZA, to create a new ice cream truck jingle, according to a news release. The partnership comes as the brand looks to address the racist origins of “Turkey in the Straw,” a tune commonly used by ice cream trucks.
  • Inspired by memories of his childhood, The RZA created a new song that merges traditional ice cream truck music with jazz and hip-hop elements. Ice cream truck drivers can access the new song on GoodHumor.com and through ice cream truck music box makers Nichols Electronics.
  • Good Humor explains the problematic origins of “Turkey in the Straw” on its website, filling people in on the need for change. The RZA stars in a video explaining why it’s necessary to introduce the new song.

Dive Insight:

Unlike its sister Unilever ice cream label Ben & Jerry’s, Good Humor is not particularly well-known for cause-oriented marketing. But actions like reworking the ice cream truck jingle illustrate how brands that usually remain quiet on social issues are doing more to combat racism in the wake of the current racial justice movement, as well as to address problematic aspects of their image that have been baked in for decades.

“Turkey in the Straw” is a 200-year-old song with racists lyrics and a history rooted in minstrel shows, where it was typically performed by white musicians wearing blackface. Yet, the tune remains commonly used by ice cream trucks today.

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Good Humor, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, is hoping to use its clout in the ice cream category to educate the public and to remove the song from use in favor of a more progressive option.

The brand has not owned its own ice cream trucks since the 1970s, but works closely with current operators and is making its new tune available for free. The RZA is also an influential pop culture icon, and beyond his rap career, has a history of crafting soundtracks and songs for brands including Nike, Fila, Chipotle and Nintendo.

Other packaged foods brands, including Aunt Jemima, Mrs. Butterworth and Uncle Ben’s rice, have been actively reviewing their associations with racial stereotypes this year. Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, a competitor to Good Humor, is changing the name of its Eskimo Pie brand and will introduce new messaging to market the product.

Unilever has pledged $8 million to support organizations and activists working for social justice and racial equality this year, including Black Lives Matter, National Urban League, National Bail Fund Network and The Bail Project.

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