Fair & Lovely advertisements from the late 90s and early 20s often portrayed women with darker skins as failures
- HUL’s Glow & Lovely, the erstwhile Fair & Lovely, has been focusing on repositioning itself in the market since June 2020.
- It recently launched a new advertisement lauding women athletes who participated in the Tokyo Olympics. Some experts are saying that it is a step in the right direction, while some said it is too little, too late.
- We speak to young women from the advertising industry and experts to find out whether consumers will resonate with Glow & Lovely’s recent advertising campaign.
Previously known as Fair & Lovely, the company announced its revamp strategy on June 25, 2020. It was shortly after protests against racial discrimination took over in the US and facing prolonged backlash on social media for building unrealistic beauty standards and stereotyping skin tones in India. It dropped the word ‘Fair’ from its name and has stopped using discriminatory words ‘White/Whitening', ‘Light/Lightening’ since then.
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 fairness creams.
However, after its transition to Glow & Lovely, HUL has been attempting to take baby steps towards inclusivity. Its first ever ad as Glow & Lovely featured brand ambassador Yami Gautam. Following that, Glow & Lovely released a rap video with Deepa Unnikrishnan, a.k.a. Dee MC, that targeted younger women and encouraged them to never shy away from pursuing their dreams and be confident in their own skin. Now, after India’s incredible performance at Tokyo Olympics 2020, the ‘brightening cream’ has released a new campaign that celebrates India’s athletes.
Josna Joseph, Creative Director, Tonic Worldwide calls Glow & Lovely’s latest campaign a good start.
“The new strategy has definitely defined a more progressive perspective and brand purpose. It is interesting to see Glow & Lovely talking about a change in behaviour to empower its audience. It’s a start. The consumer today expects a lot more from brands. They are constantly asking - What is in it for me? And why shouldn’t they? For me, as a marketer, it’s a nice ad. As a woman, it could do more to create a distinct brand identity and stronger recall. If it was a race, chances are Glow & Lovely would end up getting a participation certificate,” said she.
For Schbang’s Creative Lead, Akshara Vasavda, it is too little, too late. “I think (and I may be biased here) as long as the brand exists, in whatever shape or form, there will be damage. Doesn't matter what they do with their communication, and really they're doing the bare minimum.”
Since the revamp, Glow & Lovely is trying to make it a point to include women of different skin tones and professions. However, does that really serve the purpose of portraying the brand as one that is more inclusive and progressive? Vasavda said, “The cast actually made me laugh. They just really can't bring themselves to cast a dark skinned girl. This brand should be boycotted culturally (by not making their ads and marketing efforts a conversation at all) and hopefully in the market by literally boycotting their products. It's a reach, I know, they have the country in a chokehold, but one can hope.”
Shradha Agarwal, COO and Strategy Head, Grapes Digital was delighted to see a new approach. She said, “Slowly and steadily, Glow & Lovely is trying to change the notion of being fairer to developing self-confidence. The brand's earlier advertising was perpetually obsessed with having a fair tone, but the latest ad is a good move depicting women athletes who represented India at the Tokyo Olympics. It is indeed positive to see that the brand has adopted a new strategy and intends to build an entirely fresh identity. The best part of the ad is, they have taken a simple storytelling approach and real-life champions rather than associating with a celebrity, which makes it quite encouraging and appealing for the audience. It is a noble effort in the right direction to correct the definition of beauty. Last year also the brand launched an ad with popular rap artist Dee MC spreading the message that a persons' beauty is not linked to skin tone alone.”
She further said that the brand should continue focusing on bringing about change to win their audience.
“It will take time for the brand to shed its earlier image, which was mostly surrounded by regressive values. But what matters the most is how the particular product is changing the narrative and breaking the stereotypes that have been associated with them for so many decades. It will not be a very smooth ride for them, the brand is under scrutiny and they can’t afford to make any mistake. They have a larger responsibility in bringing the change. The brand should come up with such campaigns if they want to change the perception among the masses,” added Agarwal.
Fair & Lovely has been in India for over 45 years now and has been one of the best-selling creams. According to media reports, 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.
While only time will tell if consumers will appreciate Glow & Lovely’s new identity and repositioning in the market, we hope this repositioning is not just to please critics but also to change the narrative and bring about real change, and do some damage control.