HUL’s call forces rivals to look at similar move

MUMBAI: By deciding to drop the word “fair” from its leading fairness cream brand Fair & Lovely, Hindustan Unilever (HUL) has swiftly shifted the spotlight onto other players in the market. HUL’s move follows Johnson & Johnson’s decision to exit fairness creams, a category that is increasingly getting associated with colour discrimination globally. Other players could fall in line, said industry experts.

When contacted, an Emami spokesperson said, “We, as responsible corporate citizens, value consumer sentiments and take cognizance of the holistic approach that is required to be taken to address their needs. We are studying all implications currently and evaluating internally to decide our next course of action.”

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“We are evaluating the situation,” said C K Ranganathan, MD of CavinKare. Abneesh Roy, research analyst at Edelweiss Securities, termed HUL’s move as a positive step from an environment, social and governance (ESG) perspective. “Now the key question is, what will competitors do?” said Roy. Even beyond the FMCG sector, matrimonial website has reportedly stopped asking users to declare the colour of their skin in their profile. Experts believe there could be more companies who would follow suit as the global backlash against racism gathers steam.

The phenomenon is not new and the west is familiar with such changes that companies have been forced to take in the past. In 2017, Dove, another Unilever brand, had apologised for an advertisement that showed a black woman turning into a white woman. Darlie, a toothpaste brand, was originally known as Darkie. On the other hand, United Colors of Benetton broke these stereotypes long before consumers started voicing their thoughts through social media.

Harish Bijoor Consults Inc founder Harish Bijoor said, “HUL has bought into the game of semantics. As one traces the history of the brand, the vestiges of discomfort remained in the word fair. Now that it is purged, the brand steers a wee bit away from the eye of the storm.”

Anuranjita Kumar, partner of IndusCap Ventures and the author of ‘Colour Matters?’, said renaming the Fair & Lovely brand could be tricky. “The point is how is it positioned to people and what does the brand stand for going forward,” said Kumar. Jagdeep Kapoor, founder-CMD of Samsika Marketing Consultants, has said there was no need for rebranding or change of name.

(With inputs from Rajesh Chandramouli)

[Source – Economic Times]


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