‘Racial’ Products Get Makeover After Global Backlash, ‘The Context Has Changed’

Three American migrants (Pakistani girls) made Lady Liberty smile with their efforts for a global strategy change: Unilever is now bringing changes to its decades old brand “Fair & Lovely” in the girls’ country of origin.

The Anglo-Dutch firm’s Pakistan unit issued a statement announcing that it will remove the word ‘fair’ from its flagship beauty brand “Fair and Lovely” and rebrand the product.

“We have moved the brand communication away from fairness towards glow which is a more holistic and inclusive measure of healthy skin,” Unilever Pakistan CEO Amir Paracha said.

“We are now committing to remove the word ‘Fair’ from the brand formerly known as ‘Fair & Lovely’. The new name will be announced soon,” he said.

Behind their corporate rethink are Anum Chandani from Houston, Hira Hashmi in New Jersey and Marvi Ahmed from New York –all friends since high school days, who managed to garner a huge support-base backed by some celebrities and more than 13,000 signatures on an online petition –the move grabbed Anglo-French firm’s attention for marketing reset.

Earlier this month, Johnson & Johnson said it would stop selling skin-whitening creams in Asia and the Middle East, while PepsiCo said it would change the name and brand image of its Aunt Jemima pancake mix and syrup.

A global backlash against racial prejudice is behind the makeover at a time when numerous monuments and honors given to figures associated with segregation or racism are being reassessed.

The context has changed“, President Patrick F. Leahy of Monmouth University in New Jersey said last week, as he announced they will remove Woodrow Wilson’s names from the university’s marquee building, citing the 28th president’s racist policies.

Skin lightening cosmetics have a huge market in South Asia, but their promotion was being questioned, specially in the wake of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

The Indian and Bangladeshi arms of consumer giant Unilever said Thursday they will rename their locally marketed “Fair & Lovely” skin-lightening cream in the face of global anti-racism protests.

Unilever’s “Fair & Lovely” brand dominates the market in South Asia. 

Similar products are also sold by L’Oréal and Procter & Gamble (P&G).

While several users on Twitter applauded the move, some said it was too little, too late.

Marvi says she and her friends are happy that Unilever Pakistan has taken an affirmative step. “Hopefully others will follow”.

Johnson & Johnson said last week it would stop selling some Neutrogena and Clean & Clear products, advertised as dark-spot reducers in Asia and the Middle East.