- HUL’s recent attempt at rebranding Fair & Lovely into Glow & Lovely was appreciated by some experts while others called it merely an eyewash for the audience.
- HUL has launched its first advertisement to communicate its transition from Fair & Lovely to Glow & Lovely. It bolsters the fact that the value proposition and the brand narrative stays exactly the same.
- We speak to experts to find out if its new communication stands true to what HUL had claimed when it rebranded or if the exercise was merely lip-service.
It announced that it will drop the word ‘Fair’ from its name and restrict using discriminatory ‘White/Whitening',’ ‘Light/Lightening’ from all its packs and communications. It soon renamed the brand to ‘Glow & Lovely’ as a reactive measure to an uprising. A few experts rejoiced this move, while some expected HUL to drop the product completely that stands for colourism in India.
To announce its new rebranding exercise to consumers, HUL has dropped a very in-your-face TVC that establishes how nothing has changed and it still offers something “More than brightness and now gives HD glow skin.” Its advertisement just feels like the giant is selling its old wine in a new bottle. The only thing that has changed this time is that they got rid of the shade card.
This made us question if glow is just a synonym for selling white-skin to consumers and if consumers will be able to see through their charade?
“Fair, glow - it is all the same - all about bright and white skin. The re-branding seemed (pardon the pun) more a cosmetic exercise, perhaps to mitigate some of the flak faced over the years. The name may have changed, but the positioning remains the same. The audience will buy the cream irrespective. Unfortunately, that's how ingrained the whole idea of fair skin is,” said Srishty Chawla, Founding Partner, One Source.
To make sure consumers don’t forget Fair & Lovely is now Glow & Lovely, the advertisement illustrates the transition to the new name twice -- to really hammer it in the consumer's minds.
Vani Gupta Dandia, Founder, CherryPeachPlum Growth Partners - a marketing-led business consultancy said the steps HUL took till here -- to establish its transformation -- were fine.
Telling us further how she would have gone about establishing the identity change in the market, Dandia said, “If I were the business head, I'd first spend a lot of money on just ensuring that the name change be registered. I'd do that with small edits - 5 and 10 seconders. And use other media similarly. High frequency, high recency modeling. However, quickly justifying the name with a tacky reason to believe undermines the intelligence of consumers. It does sound like the same old in a new bottle - worse still justified with the same old science. So are you telling me you can provide just about any benefit with the same old science? What is the difference between Fairness and Glow? If we were to respect consumers' intelligence, would we not like to explain why glow or radiance is aspirational?”
Fair & Lovely advertisements from the late 90s and early 20s often portrayed women with darker skins as failures, these women would ace their presentations, crack interviews or be able to upload their profiles on matrimonial websites only after applying a cream. They started by selling ‘gori twacha’ (fair skin) and moved to using alternatives like ‘nikhaar’ (glowing skin), which hinted that confidence is a by-product of
So, Vani Gupta Dandia also expected to see a bolder advertisement this time, that truly empowers women.
She said, “I understand it's a tough job for a brand that has for centuries advocated skin lightness must now transition to glow. But consumers want to know what is glow? Why did you change? Has fairness become dated? No one in India relates to 'black lives matter'. The brand could have taken a tall bold stance to say -- after promoting fairness for years, we'd like to continue empowering you, not with skin lightness but with natural radiance. Natural glow. Our cream now has (suggest a change in the formulation) that works to make skin healthier from inside so the best of you can shine. But this communication should have followed after a while. Not immediately. The super quick airing of this commercial suggests that the brand merely changed name and VO on the film and made a fool out of me. But consumers are smarter than that I believe. They'll see through the charade.”
Fair & Lovely has offered glowing skin in the past as well and its packaging style hasn’t changed either.
Shashwat Das, Founder, Almond Branding, also said that the audience is smart enough to understand that the rebranding move was just an eye-wash.
Das said, “The Glow, which is meant to sound like “a more holistic and inclusive measure of healthy skin” is only a surrogate for fairness, brightness and radiance – call it by any name. So the consumer is left perplexed in the end as to what really has changed then. Brands should never under-estimate the consumers. They are smart enough to decode that this is an eye-wash. Same old cream and narrative being sold to them under a new name. Looks like this is deliberate and part of the plan so that it doesn’t alienate the current consumer base. The earlier announcement from HUL did claim that their ads are going to evolve to feature women of different skin tones as a representative of the diverse beauty across India. Where’s that diversity? I was expecting them to walk the talk.”
This was an opportunity for HUL to include darker-skinned models in the ad and win millions of hearts. It wasn’t something new that a brand in India would have experimented with. Dove India has changed its narrative from selling milky skin to offering a bar that cleanses. However, there is still a void for an inclusive beauty brand in India that celebrates diversity, skin colours, body types and body hair in its truest form and HUL, a giant that holds a lot of influence in our country, could have led that narrative.
“Dark skin can also be healthy and can have the glow, right?” asks Das. He added, “That would have actually demonstrated the real change in intent that the brand wants to be more inclusive and “celebrate a diverse portrayal of beauty. They already have a global campaign for Dove - ‘Real Women Real Beauty’ that became extremely popular. The diverse skin tone angle would have made more people talking about the new branding and would have earned them some good brand value (read karma) after all the harm they have done to young minds all these years."
Fair/Glow & Lovely's actual buyers are mainly dispersed in the small towns of India. Karthik Srinivasan, Social Media Expert and Independent Brand Consultant, said that Glow & Lovely’s target audience perhaps doesn't really care for its name, they care more about making their skin whiter or fairer.
Srinivasan said, “The product, no matter what it is called, has set the notion that being fair is the ticket to success in life. The change in name was mandated by global standards of 'saying the right thing' and is hardly indicative of the product's or the parent company's stand to offer meaningful change on the ground. The addition of that laughably silly assertion - that you will now get HD glow - further hammers the fact that there is no change, beyond a name. It also leads one to question, albeit pointlessly, if the earlier named cream offered only standard definition glow! Beyond very few marketing media, I really don't think anyone really cares for either the name change or the new ad. And HUL knows this all too well - the actual consumers of the product only see the product benefit that is imprinted in their mind.”
Fair & Lovely has been in India for over 45 years now and has been one of the best-selling creams. According to The Drum, Fair & Lovely had entered the Rs 200 crore market back in 2017 and held a 60-70% share of the skin whitening industry.
So to not lose a sense of familiarity with its consumers, the packaging, colour theme and celebrity haven’t been changed.
Ronita Mitra, Business Consultant - Founder, Brand Eagle Consulting, said, “The new communication is a rational communication with its primary objective being an announcement of the change in brand name. The name change through the branding on the pack as well as the TVC is being communicated very emphatically. One can see that continuity has been maintained in all other aspects, understandably so, in order to seamlessly migrate existing consumers and equity to the new brand. In the foreseeable future, the identity in the consumers' minds will, in all probability, continue to be that of the erstwhile Fair & Lovely identity.”
Highlighting how consumers are evolving, Mitra added, “Any re-branding and brand building exercise is of a long-term nature. It remains to be seen whether, in the long term, the identity shifts significantly from the erstwhile identity of Fair & Lovely and whether a new identity and positioning are appropriated by Glow & Lovely which will truly be in consonance with the evolving belief system of the modern consumer whose sense of self worth is beyond superficial aspects such as skin colour.”
Chawla thinks dark-skinned women of our country deserve an apology from fairness skin brands.
Suggesting how HUL can undo the damage it has done, Chawla said, “The brand has a great opportunity to break the barriers of social conditioning pertinent to skin colour, and perhaps repair the damage done over the years to the psyche of dark skinned women. They can do so many things - from issuing a simple apology, to repositioning and overhauling the brand name, colours, key messaging. Conglomerates have the potential to change social perceptions. It is time they invested in the same. And on the social media front, the ad has a lot of potential to invite sufficient trolling and criticism, but honestly, the beauty of this change needs to go beyond skin deep.”