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September 08, 2020

Dirty fight in Beauty business – Everything is Fair (pun intended) in love, war and Business!

I keep telling my students, ad nauseam “business is a war and it is a war without bullets”. Companies want to get business come what may and will use any reason, means, or method to protect their market share. They will fiercely defend themselves against any upstarts who threaten them and their holy grail – market share and profitability. 

Hindustan Unilever has changed the name of its popular “Fair and lovely” brand name to “Glow and Lovely”. So from now onwards Fair and Lovely will become Glow and Lovely and HUL feels that all the damage control has been done and that it has played a stellar role in defending and promoting the ‘black lives matter’ campaign. 

In reality HUL is only trying to minimize the effect of a possible negative backlash and does not want to be accused of racial discrimination. HUL definitely doesn’t want a tag that it popularizes a racial stereotype of beauty being associated with fair skin.  

But the ploy is not convincing HUL! Fair and lovely, Oops Glow and Lovely is a product that has become popular on the assumption that fair is beautiful and dark is ugly. After fuelling the insecurities of crores of customers and reaping rich dividend HUL simply can’t wish the problem away.

The elephant in the room is big, violent, and quite unruly. It simply can’t be silenced with a cosmetic name change. Just by saying Glow and Lovely will not suffice HUL! End of the day call it Fair and Lovely or Glow and Lovey it is finally a skin whitening cream!

The brand’s USP is based on skin whitening promise. Will the Indian consumer believe that glowing is loveliness? The problem does not end here for HUL. Would HUL promote dark skin and go into the conditioning business? If Indians get comfortable with their skin colour, there is no need for Glow and Lovely!

We are already dark and dusky we might not need HUL’s Glow and lovely to make us glow! A clean bath with good old Liril and a vigorous dab of good old talcum powder might suffice.

The problems don’t seem to end for HUL. They have renamed the men’s range of Fair and Lovely as Glow and Handsome and this tactic did not go well with HUL’s rival Emami. Emami with wisdom has already changed its Fair and Handsome brand’s (Emami’s skin whitening cream targeting men) name as Emami Glow and Handsome but have not yet introduced the same into the market. 

When HUL changed the name of its men’s Fair and Lovely to Glow and Handsome, Emami naturally is upset. Glow and Handsome will clash with Emami's Fair and Handsome and similar-sounding names could create confusion in the minds of the consumers. Emami is worried that the confusion in similar names could result in HUL walking away, a winner courtesy its more powerful and comprehensive distribution network.

The distribution muscle of HUL could cannibalize the market and eat into Emami’s market share and upset Emami’s apple cart in men’s skin whitening business. A business where Emami has been a prime mover and a market leader.

HUL has taken Emami to the court of law and contents that it has the right to use the name Glow and handsome and that it has registered the name a long time ago. HUL argues that it has already launched Glow and Handsome and that Emami is only in the testing stage and that it has not formally launched the product. The skirmishes have started and watch this space for more action.

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