What’s in a name? A lot, Hindustan Unilever Limited would say. In a move seen as a way to distance itself from its ‘colourism-tainted’ legacy, HUL said it will be dropping the usage of the word ‘fair’ from its skin cream brand Fair & Lovely.

In a statement on Monday, HUL said that this rebranding is in a bid to move towards a more ‘inclusive vision of beauty’. “The new name is awaiting regulatory approvals and we expect to change the name in the next few months,” it said.

Fair & Lovely — HUL’s flagship brand that has amassed more than ₹2,000 crore in India — is said to be the largest selling skin cream in the country. The statement did not say anything about any changes in the product — which was earlier packaged with a cameo of two faces with shade guides — that would mark a shift from its hitherto focus on ‘fairness’ or a light skin tone.

This seems to be an action of semantics, noted Harish Bijoor, a brand consultant. “Because the word ‘fair’ has been hanging there as a Damocle’s sword on the brand. First, the name ‘fair and lovely’ is not correct. And, second, it’s not politically correct,” Bijoor told BusinessLine . “The product is going to remain the same for sure,” Bijoor added.

The ‘tipping point’

HUL’s move comes on the heels of the recent announcement by another player in the beauty segment, Johnson & Johnson (J&J), about its exit from the fairness beauty space. Bijoor identified this as the “tipping point” of HUL’s move to rebrand. Outcries and debates over the issue of colourism and racism have been reinvigorated in recent times post the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police in Minneapolis. This also kickstarted a fresh debate on fairness products and other factors that may have inadvertently or otherwise perpetuated racism.

As Bijoor put it, a name change is only limited to semantics, whereas a stance change is more important “A change of name is (only) a change of name. But a change of stance is very important. If one has to say, the percentage should be one per cent on name change. And 99 per cent on stance change. Then it will work.”