Fair & Lovely Gets A New Name — Glow & Lovely. Emami Fumes

Emami recently rebranded its men’s grooming range as ‘Emami Glow & Handsome’.

Fair & Lovely, a skin-lightening cream made by Hindustan Unilever Ltd., sits for sale on a store shelf in Mumbai, India. (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)
Fair & Lovely, a skin-lightening cream made by Hindustan Unilever Ltd., sits for sale on a store shelf in Mumbai, India. (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)

Hindustan Unilever Ltd. has renamed its best-selling ‘Fair & Lovely’ products as ‘Glow & Lovely’, days after it decided to remove nomenclature that propagated racial stereotypes. The men’s range of the product will be called ‘Glow & Handsome’, HUL said in an exchange filing on Thursday.

That didn’t sit well with peer Emami Ltd.

The company threatened legal action against HUL as it has already changed the name of its men’s fairness cream to ‘Emami Glow & Handsome’ and launched the brand digitally last week.

“We are shocked to learn of HUL’s decision to rename its men’s range of Fair & Lovely as ‘Glow & Handsome’. Emami, maker of ‘Fair and Handsome’ brand of men’s grooming products is the market leader in the men’s fairness cream with legal ownership of the trademarks,” the company said in a statement, hours after HUL’s exchange filing.

“Although shocked, we are not surprised to note HUL’s unfair business practice, which has been prevalent time & again to damage our brand image,” Emami said. “It goes to prove Fair and Handsome’s strong brand equity in the market that the competition is wary of.”

An HUL spokesperson said in an emailed statement, “We don't wish to make any comment on the statement made by them (Emami). We are fully conscious of our rights and our position. We will protect it fully in all appropriate forums."

On June 25, HUL said it will remove the terms “fair”, “whitening” and “lightening” from Fair & Lovely’s packaging and marketing material and feature women of all skin tones in future advertising campaigns. The brand is also sold in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, Pakistan and elsewhere in Asia. Unilever Plc. will continue to produce and market the cream.

The rebranding, however, will be costly, Bloomberg reported on June 26, citing Jefferies India Pvt. Ltd. HUL will probably need a large media campaign to win over consumers which poses short-term risk to its margin in that particular segment, the brokerage was quoted as saying in the report.

“Purely from a business perspective, there will be uncertainty as consumer acceptance will hold the key,” Jefferies analysts Vivek Maheshwari and Kunal Shah wrote in a note to clients. “We recall around 2012, HUL changed the Fair & Lovely cream colour from white to pink along with a packaging change, which met with a push back from the consumer.”

Fair & Lovely, according to a Bloomberg report, garners $500 million in the domestic market alone.

Impact Of The Name Change

Brand Consultant Santosh Desai sounded circumspect about Fair & Lovely’s new name, saying that “glow” has historically been a surrogate for fairness.

“I honestly don’t see a big change. I also don’t know what being inclusive about skin tones means, given the fact that the promise is to go from darker skin to fairer skin,” he told BloombergQuint over the phone. “In that sense both skin tones were included. If the benefit that you’re offering is to change the skin tone, I don’t know what being inclusive of skin tones mean.”

That’s expected to open the door ajar for competitors in the fairness cream segment, according to Alpana Parida, managing director at DY Works, a brand consultancy.

“The brand’s key proposition has always been fairness. Fairness was clear, you could become a few shades lighter,” Parida said. “For the same brand to now stand for glow, there is no meaning there. They need to be able to explain what that benefit is.”

She also said India’s addiction with fairness won’t go away.

India’s basic moisturiser market, whose size Euromonitor International pegged at $1.1 billion in 2019, is dominated by fairness creams even as international and homegrown beauty companies introduced inclusive products.

Last year, HUL relaunched Fair & Lovely and said it has started replacing words like “fairness”, “whitening” and “skin-lightening” with “glow”, “even tone”, “skin clarity” and “radiance”. Fair & Lovely also stopped ads that showed transformation in skin tones and shade guides.

That resulted in HUL having a “fabulous year”, according to Sanjiv Mehta, its chairman and managing director. “Our penetration went up, our market share went up and these were record numbers and 2019, post the relaunch, we had one of the best years,” Mehta told shareholders at the firm’s annual general meeting on June 30.

Triggered by incidents of police brutality against Blacks, the Black Lives Matter movement has gained traction around the world and spurred companies to reassess their businesses and marketing for signs of discrimination. Johnson & Johnson said a couple of weeks ago that it would retreat from its skin-whitening business, which includes the Clean & Clear Fairness brand in India and its Neutrogena Fine Fairness line in Asia and the Middle East.

Also Read: After J&J’s ‘Clean & Clear’, HUL Makes ‘Fair & Lovely’ Move. Will Others Ditch Fairness?

On Thursday, HUL shares fell 0.85% to Rs 2152.20 apiece on the BSE while the benchmark Sensex rose 1.21% to end the day at 35,843.70 points.