Is it Fair to just Change the Name?

29 Jun,2020


By Sanjeev Kotnala


Now, I may be jumping the gun like an absolute novice consumer of a cream that promised to make one fair and lovely. Remember, that cream brand claims, seven out of 10 women have used it.

I think we have a fair idea as to what prompted the use of such a product?

What was the promise the consumer was buying in?

And what was the inherent societal pressure and preferences pushing them to buy and use something so ineffective, that should have been restricted under the Magical Remedies act. 


Name Change Is Nothing.

The company said that they are changing the name.

They are dropping the word FAIR from the name.

Now, what’s in the name?


A rose will smell the same even if you call it Rafflesia.

So, it could have been better if the company was to stop manufacturing and selling the concoction formula that currently sells promising fairness.

Not that they will keep manufacturing it and maybe sell it under another name.

This, to me, is the difference between being ethical and only business-minded.

It also tells me how shallow the brand tweak can be.

The market will know of the name change.

The sales team itself will share and propagate that information.

Maybe there will be a campaign claiming credit for the change and informing the consumers through earned, paid and owned media about the classical change.

And the consumers will then know of the name change.

If the consumer knows that the old fairness cream is now sold as XYZ, say GLOWING CONFIDENCE or Skin Colour Enhancer. They will continue to buy it for the purpose that the company says it wants to stop calling it or selling it.

How comfortable is the situation!


The Problem Is Not The Product Or The Brand.

The demand for fairness is what has resulted in such products being successful in the market. The mere stopping of these products or the matrimonial site not asking for the skin colour filter (but keep showing the pictures) is not going to solve the underlying problem, biases and issues. However, the step could be in the right direction, fuelling or initiating the change.


The would-be mother-in-law will still be asking for gori daughter-in-law. Everyone continuing to place higher weightage to fairness in spite of claiming they are colour blind, the guys still not chasing the differently-coloured. Moviegoers wanting to fall in love with the non-fair heroine. The problem is much deep-rooted. 


I Wish For Disruptive Changes.

How I wish, I did not doubt that the companies getting out of this fair business in a very demanding BLM scenario are opportunistic than purpose-driven.


How I wish that these products promising skin colour change are placed under the magical remedies act.


How I wish that the spa and saloon treating people for skin colour enhancement or whitish/white/fair skin are banned like gender determination sonography.  


Biases Will Take Time To Get Erased.

Social expectations and norms are like a continent shift. They are deep-rooted and take generations to change. But every millimetre counts. I do think we are in the right direction but need to do a lot more than just changing the name.


Meanwhile, I don’t think that most of us will stop giving weightage to skin colour as a factor in overall beauty. Or that will not be more interactive and responsive to the skin colour.

A rose will remain a rose by whatever name you call it. And if you have doubt here is Vir Das with his  sensitive humour on Fair and Lovely. 



I also have a question. It is simple and addressed to the ad agencies.


Why did the agencies did not tell the company to take a walk? Tell that they will not promote a skin differentiator product that keeps enhancing wrong ideas?


Why were they always working towards finding ways to circumvent the existing policies and norms and still sell the idea of FAIRNESS OF SKIN being the success formula.


Why did so many celebrities endorse such products?  The list of celebrities endorsing Fairness creams and products is long and then there are many who refused endorsing fairness products.  Is it fair to assume that they found no issue with it and were fully aware of the advantages of being fair.



On the other side, agencies are like law firms. And hence, they would do everything legally and within legal boundaries to promote and sell whatever is legally allowed. So, in addition to societal pressure, there is a need for some legal remedies against such products.


Sanjeev Kotnala is a senior business and marketing strategist and educator. His views here are personal


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