‘Normal’ in advertising becomes abnormal

Chris Pash
By Chris Pash | 10 March 2021

Unilever, one of the world’s biggest advertisers at more than $US8 billion a year, will eliminate the word “normal” as a way of advocating for a more inclusive vision of beauty.

The decision to ban the word from its packaging and advertising is one of many steps, the company says, being taken to challenge narrow beauty ideals, help end discrimination and advocate for a more inclusive vision of beauty.

Unilever also will not digitally alter body shape, size, proportion or skin colour in its brand advertising, and will increase the number of advertisements portraying people from diverse groups who are under-represented.

Last year Univlever had to change the name of a cream sold in India to “Glow & Lovely” from “Fair & Lovely”.

Unilever's Dove brand is also known for featuring “real women, never models” in its advertising. 

A 10,000-person study, commissioned by Unilever, across nine countries, found that more than half (56%) think that the beauty and personal care industry can make people feel excluded.

People want to see the beauty and personal care industry focusing more on making people feel better, than just looking better (74%).

More than half (52%) say they now pay more attention to a company’s stance on societal issues before buying products.

Seven in ten people agrees that using the word “normal”: on product packaging and advertising has a negative impact. For younger people – those aged 18-35 – this rises to eight in ten.

“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,” says Sunny Jain, president, beauty and personal care.

“As part of this, we are committed to tackling harmful norms and stereotypes and shaping a broader, far more inclusive definition of beauty.

“We know that removing ‘normal’ from our products and packaging will not fix the problem alone, but it is an important step forward. It’s just one of a number of actions we are taking as part of our Positive Beauty vision, which aims not only to do less harm, but more good for both people and the planet.

“With more consumers than ever rewarding brands which take action on the social and environmental issues they care about, we believe that Positive Beauty will make us a stronger, and more successful business.”

Sarah Degnan Kambou, president of the International Center for Research on Women: “Every day, we see and hear messages about how to ‘fit in’, how to be included in very narrow definitions of what is ‘normal’.

"In order to champion equity, we need to challenge these restrictive ‘norms’ and create societies and communities that celebrate diversity – and the unique qualities and ideas that each person brings. Beauty is no exception."

Consumers increasingly expect brands to take a stand on the issues they care most about. 


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