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The decision comes after a global study showed more than half of the 10,000 respondents say the beauty and personal care industry can make people feel excluded.

Lisa McTigue Pierce

March 10, 2021

3 Min Read
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Suave hair care products are among a couple hundred packages in Unilever's portfolio that will replace the word "normal" on the label with some other description that highlights a benefit of the product, like moisture replenishment.Photo supplied by Unilever

With so much amazing diversity in our world, who’s to say what’s “normal”? My father-in-law used to say that “Normal” was nothing more than a town in Illinois (it is). But this word has also been used as a description for beauty and personal care products for decades. And Unilever wants to change that narrow “ideal” moniker to be more inclusive.

As part of the company’s new Positive Beauty vision and strategy, Unilever will be removing the word “normal” globally from advertising and packaging for all its beauty and personal care brands — like Suave shampoos, Dove soap, Axe deodorants, and more. Unilever’s Positive Beauty advocates for “a new era of beauty [that] is equitable and inclusive, as well as sustainable for the planet.”

 

Unilever decided to make this change after doing a global survey — with participants from the USA, Brazil, UK, Nigeria, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, India, Indonesia, and China — that revealed:

• Seven in 10 people agreed that using the word “normal” on product packaging and advertising has a negative impact. For those aged 18 through 35, this increased to eight in 10.

• 74% of the global respondents stated that the industry must advocate for a broader definition of beauty.

• More specifically, six in 10 people agreed that the beauty industry creates a singular notion of who or what is “normal.” Two thirds (63%) agreed that removing “normal” would inspire them to feel more positive about the way they look.

• A majority say the industry still has some way to go to better represent people of various body types, people from different age groups, people from different ethnicities, and people from the LGBTQIA+ community.

Overall, participants want to see a more inclusive range of people reflected by beauty and personal care brands.

Sunny Jain, president of Unilever Beauty & Personal Care, says, “With one billion people using our beauty and personal care products every day, and even more seeing our advertising, our brands have the power to make a real difference to people’s lives. As part of this, we are committed to tackling harmful norms and stereotypes and shaping a broader, far more inclusive definition of beauty.”

Jain adds, “We know that removing ‘normal’ from our products and packaging will not fix the problem alone, but it is an important step forward.”

 

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Unilever has already started the process of removing “normal” from packaging and ads, with an expected completion date no later than March 2022. The company has identified more than 200 products that have the word on the label in various phrases, such as “for normal skin” or “for normal hair.” So far, Unilever has made the most progress with its hair products, removing “normal” and replacing it with descriptions that highlight a benefit of the product.

That’s how Unilever is handling this change. Instead of a description such as “normal,” the brands will communicate what a product does. For example, the label could tout that a product will replenish moisture or help meet specific needs. According to the company, many brand teams already have existing purpose-driven initiatives that will help inspire the vision and strategy of Positive Beauty.

About the Author(s)

Lisa McTigue Pierce

Executive Editor, Packaging Digest

Lisa McTigue Pierce is Executive Editor of Packaging Digest. She’s been a packaging media journalist since 1982 and tracks emerging trends, new technologies, and best practices across a spectrum of markets for the publication’s global community. Reach her at [email protected] or 630-272-1774.

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