Photo Credit: Adam Jones
The Black Lives Matter Movement has compelled numerous skincare giants, including Pond’s, L’Oreal, Unilever, and Niea, to stop using the terms “fairness” and “whitening” in their advertisements. Companies in many Western regions have delivered on the promise. However, the idea that whiteness is a sign of beauty is still prevalent in many parts of the world where skin-whitening products are sold.
Many businesses supported the cause in 2020, when the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum. With many well-known individuals and social scientists endorsing the advancements, they quickly became the topic of conversation in the industry.
Multinational corporations swiftly responded to the call by issuing statements expressing their support for the movement. But customers noticed that the companies’ claims and their ongoing marketing campaign for skin-whitening products are inconsistent. Although these businesses received requests from customers, corporate executives promised to change their branding.
Johnson & Johnson, for example, announced to the public that it would no longer sell skin-whitening products in Asia and the Middle East. In the meantime, L’Oreal announced that it would stop using the terms “fair” and “whitening” in its products. In response to this development, Unilever changed the name of its product from “Fair & Lovely” to “Glow & Lovely.”
Nivea’s owner, Beiersdorf AG, pledged to depart from the conditions as well. The business stated in an interview that it would review its prevailing marketing plans and product lines in accordance with its commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Although these actions are modest, they symbolize the first measures taken by large corporations to drive a change in the way society views beauty. For a very long time, happiness, success, and beauty have all been associated with being white or fair.
These commitments are clear in the US and Europe. In the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, it’s a different story, though.
Persistent ‘whitening’ strategy in other countries
Continuously endorsing serums and creams with “powerful whitening” abilities is L’Oreal Singapore. While the “White Activ” moisturizer from L’Oreal is still sold by its customers in India.
A number of businesses continue to use the words “white” and “beautiful” together in their product advertisements in China and Japan.
Additionally, Unilever’s website has been found to be inconsistent. The absence of the word “whitening” from the US-based website has been praised by many. However, “whitening” is still prominently displayed on Unilever’s Spanish-language website. Given that many people in other countries have naturally tanned skin, many skincare companies have not rebranded their products outside of the US.
Even after changing its name to Glow & Lovely from Fair & Lovely, Unilever continues to primarily use light-skinned models to promote the product. The subliminal message that white skin is more attractive than other skin tones is still conveyed by this. Block & White proudly advertises its “5-in-1 Whitening Essentials” in the Philippines despite the fact that it markets itself as a sunblock product.
What prevents companies from dropping ads in Indo-Pacific region
The desire to maximize profit, according to Amina Mire, a sociology professor at Carlton University, is what prevents many skincare industry behemoths from changing their marketing approaches. Mire knows that non-Western markets are “too lucrative” for these Western companies to act in accordance with the Black Lives Matter movement because she has been conducting research in the skin-whitening industry for more than 20 years.
She stated that Western markets would “not make any concessions — or at least very little concession — in the Asian market. They are cleaning up their websites … but on billboards and in their marketing, they know who their consumers are.”
The company is frequently reluctant because it is aware that the vast majority of clients in non-Western markets prefer skin-whitening products. According to the Nivea company, “Nivea products with whitening ingredients remain our biggest sellers throughout Asia.” This is also true for many other enterprises that market to tan-skinned women in Southeast Asia and other Indo-Pacific regions.