Divyapratap Mehta
Guest Article

Rise of the Erin Brockovich consumer

Glow & Lovely has brought the ingredient story into the spotlight. The label on the pack has never been more important.

We all are aware of the fact that Fair & Lovely is now Glow & Lovely. Unilever finally announced it with a great sense of responsibility and virtuous justice. Am sure a lot of thinking would have gone into planning the change. How, when and where it needs to be announced. The entire machinery behind a corporate giant to help one of its flagship brands move forward.

There has been a lot of debate around the category and how promoting fairness was discriminatory. Celebrities had taken a stand against it. They had been facing criticism for quite a long time now. And now it was time for the brand and the company to react. And sure they did.

To their dismay there was an army of opinion leaders writing against them. It was called a “whitewash, pun intended”. The backlash across social media has been trending, with critics having one common thought. This is merely a cosmetic change. More of circumventing the issue rather than truly believing in the value system and taking a real stand.

What’s even more intriguing than the backlash is the nature of the backlash. There is suddenly an army of chemists who are investigating the extent of the change. Investigating its chemical composition, or whether there is any chemical change. Or is this merely a superficial change while the chemicals the product has still deliver the fairness/skin lightening benefit. There is suddenly a nation of social media alchemists who have become over night experts on niacinamide and .

This to me is far more intriguing than the back lash itself. I call it the rise of the Erin Brockovich consumer. This was a phenomenon that was bound to happen. My belief is that we will only see more of them. Brands and businesses will have to answer, what would Erin Brockovich think?, before taking any decisions in the boardroom or marketing conference rooms.

This consumer movement has been simmering for sometime now. Its just that now its part of the mainstream. So what are the factors that have contributed to the making of these consumers.

It all started with consumer scepticism around hyper marketing. And businesses that understood that created counter points like Muji. These brands started taking the consumer conversation back to the intrinsic. Back to what’s inside the bottle.

The internet revolution further empowered consumers with a sea of knowledge. This gave rise to a more aware and informed consumer. Consumers were now reading the back label even more. Especially information around calories, nutrition and allergies. This was further fuelled by consumers now questioning ethics and values of a business.

We as a nation have further propelled this due to our own journey of seeking change. An India which is challenging a lot of age old conventions, beliefs and systems for a new India driven towards values of social justice across class, creed and gender. Add to this the fact that we are a nation of a large millennial population with their belief systems far more in sync with actively questioning and seeking authenticity.

The rise of social media was the final act to give birth to this new breed. Social media further fuels this consumer movement, empowering ordinary individuals to turn into activists, start mini revolutions and participate more easily in mass movements.

The age of social media ensured that the hidden Erin Brockovich in us was now fully awakened. Brands and businesses have to be cognizant of this new breed. This breed will go deep into understanding your values, beliefs and what you say. They will investigate every ingredient before they make a choice. And yes, they will have an opinion. And they will voice it. They will shift it from the old adage of perception is reality to opinion is reality. Welcome to the world of Erin Brockovich consumers.

The fierce new breed that will go deep into understanding niacinamide and sodium ascorbyl phosphate. Voice their opinions fiercely. Go deep into investigating in search of truth. And turn into consumer activists when the change is necessary. Brands and businesses that earn their advocacy will thrive in the future.

(The author is a thought leader in consumer insights, brands and strategy, with experience across diverse markets and clients.)