Why Unilever’s latest Glow & Lovely campaign was a missed opportunity
By Pritika Gupta, Kulfi Team Member
Earlier in October, Unilever came out with a new commercial for their recently rebranded ‘Glow and Lovely’ cream. Despite best efforts to rebrand, everything—from the packaging to brand colours and even 66% of the name—is entirely the same. What is most disappointing is the fact this feels like a major missed opportunity to affect change at a massive scale.
How often does a company, with the reach and distribution and brand that Unilever does, have the chance to affect a whole new generation of beauty standards?
Let me tell you, it isn’t often at all.
In July 2020, Unilever, a leading consumer products company in India infamous for its industry leading fairness cream, ‘Fair and Lovely’, rebranded its best selling products to ‘Glow and Lovely’. The backlash on social media was immediate. (Tired) Women took to Instagram to express their frustration with everything to do with colourism that they’ve seen as a cornerstone of Desi culture (on the heels of Beyonce Sharma Jayegi no less but that is truly a topic for another day). And one key manifestation of that colourism has been the commercialization of the insecurity that has long accompanied it through fairness products.
Unilever’s website offers an explanation for the change in branding: “Previously called Fair & Lovely, we changed our brand name to Glow & Lovely to embrace a more inclusive vision of beauty. The new name reflects the progressive changes we have been making to the brand over the years and our ongoing evolution to celebrate the diversity of beauty in India and other countries.” Unilever’s management, offers more explanations about their sudden euphoria around widening beauty standards: "We recognise that the use of the words 'fair', 'white' and 'light' suggest a singular ideal of beauty that we don't think is right, and we want to address this," said Sunny Jain, president of Unilever's beauty and personal care division.
I am tempted to be complimentary of this change by Unilever. I am tempted to join a few others in lauding the company’s efforts to think deeply about their brand messaging and their effect on young consumers in a nation riddled with blatant colourism. But I am instead choosing to simply, briefly acknowledge a change that should have been made a long time ago. The difference, I think, between lauding and acknowledging, is the expectation of more work that is left to do.
At its core, ‘Glow and Lovely’ still rings so close to ‘Fair and Lovely.'
It still serves as a reminder of the feelings of inadequacy that so many dark skinned women in South Asia are painfully familiar with.
If the brand truly wanted to move away from the messaging that there is a singular idea of beauty, it would have evolved the basic premise of the promise it made to so many women — to make their fairer and lovelier.
Unfortunately to capitalize on the close association of their new brand does more damage — it chooses to rely on those same consumer tactics that made its first product so successful.
For those of us who were waiting for Unilever to seize the moment, reclaim beauty standards for brown women and take a stand for what their corporate communications says they believe in, this is a huge disappointment. Ultimately, it becomes clear that, just like DeeMC says in the commercial, Unilever is driving home the narrative of ‘Mera Glow Meri Pehchaan,” (“my glow is my identity).
Cover photo credit: Zara Clickz (@zaraclickz)