Unilever drops 'normal' from its beauty lexicon to accentuate the positive

The marketer of Dove, Axe and Degree, among others, says the word makes people feel excluded

Published On
Mar 10, 2021

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Unilever’s new normal is not to use the word “normal,” at least not in beauty packaging or advertising. The marketer of Dove, Axe, Degree, Tresemmé and other brands says it will remove the word “normal” from its products and marketing globally as part of a broader “Positive Beauty” campaign.

The move follows survey research finding seven in 10 people overall and eight in 10 younger people believe using the word “normal” in beauty packaging and advertising has a negative impact. The survey found 56% of people believe the beauty and personal care industry makes certain people feel excluded, while three in four people believe the industry should broaden its definition of beauty and three in four believe it should focus more on making people feel better than look better.

video manifesto from Spring Studios, behind the “Positive Beauty” approach and eschewing the word normal, shows a variety of things that are “normal,” including hair-style discrimination, gender stereotypes and plastic pollution, that Unilever no longer wants to be associated with. The company in the video also commits to no longer testing beauty products on animals and on creating land preserves globally at least equal to the land it uses for production of beauty product ingredients.

Unilever didn’t mean any harm by using the word “normal” on products previously. It tended to describe, for example, hair products that weren’t for oily, fine, curly or damaged hair, or skin products that weren’t for dry skin. But the company is removing the word from several hundred products, replacing it with descriptions that highlight product benefits for consumers, a spokeswoman says.

So Suave Daily Clarifying Conditioner, which previously was described as having “light conditioners for normal to oily hair,” now will simply say it’s meant to “replenish hair’s moisture.” Organics Aloe Vera Shampoo in South Africa, which previously was described as being for “normal hair,” now will simply be described as for “daily care.”

While initial social media reaction is largely positive, that’s not universal. Perhaps predictably, some on Twitter cited the word “normal” as “the next thing to be canceled.”