NIVEA IS WRONG AND THEY KNOW IT. BUT THEY DON'T CARE.
**Deep Methodist Hymn Sigh**
Nivea, a popular skincare brand has been in the African market for years. They are not new to marketing to African markets. So imagine my shock when my good friend tagged me in their latest ad on their new product, specifically created for the African market. A product they call "Natural Fairness".
African people come in a plethora of shades. From Lupita to Charlize Theron and every shade in between. So cool right? A new product for folks with a lighter skin complexion, I thought. But nope. It was a full bleed, giant billboard that took me a few steps back. It stood at least 10 feet tall with a Nigerian model in a blue dress, looking over her shoulder and smiling with the words "For Visibly Fairer Skin" written in bold white font. I can sense a dog whistle from miles away. A dog whistle is a general statement that is made to mean something to the group it's targeted at. Example, when Fox News says "Chicago", what they really mean is, "The Blacks are killing each other again. Let's talk about that instead". Got it?
If you are non-Black or not exposed to the issue of colorism, this statement on the Billboard will fly right over your head because you are not the target which is okay. If you are non-black and socially aware however, you will be absolutely appalled.
As a African woman with a deep complexion, I know what this means. It is a fancy way of pushing a skin lightening/toning/bleaching product unto a market which is notorious for demanding the product. Nivea has denied trying to push a bleaching product and in their non-apology apology they claim they are just a business trying to please it's customers. They made it a point to say that, there is no hydroquinone(which is a banned ingredient in Ghana) in this product and it is made up of all natural ingredients.
Blowfish is natural too.
Let's gamble with eating it's liver while we are at it.
A business should definitely expand it's product lines and types to meet demand but at what expense? Nivea is not strapped for cash. They are present in a lot of countries on this planet so why would they stoop this low to play on the insecurities and self hatred of some African people?? Their accompanying video and promo article proves a point: It is nothing more than greed and making the most money as possible. Damn the consequences. You would think after facing criticism for it's "White is Purity" promos in the Middle East, Nivea will be more sensitive but nope. They did not.
The key phrases to look out for in this campaign are, "natural fairness", "attractiveness", "preference", "visibly lightens", "younger", "stop overproduction of melanin", "fairer skin". It does not take a neuroscientist or surgeon to figure out EXACTLY what these phrases mean.
All of this is used on their Ghana office's page. (which has been removed by the time this blogpost went live. Progress?)
As the young folks say, screenshots don't lie.
I have decided to send them a strongly worded letter to point out to them how harmful and dangerous their message and product is. I do not expect them to listen or reply. But I will not be one of those people who just internalizes frustration and refuses to comment on injustices because they are afraid of ruffling feathers. When it comes to disrespecting things that matter to me, not on my watch. Below is the letter I sent to Beiersdorf's Ghana office.
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:
This is in regard to your new product "NIVEA NATURAL FAIRNESS". By this time, I believe your company has seen the social and severe backlash the product has received.
As a former consumer of your products, I want to tell the marketing team and whoever signed off on the product, it's marketing strategy and promo at Beiersdorf that your new product is a step back into the dark ages of bleaching and the danger it has caused Ghanaian generation-Xers.
To use phrases as "natural fairness", "visibly lightens", "attractiveness" & it's like to promote this product is the same dog whistle phrases used to promote harmful bleaching/toning products. Despite the absence of harmful levels hydroquinone in the product, using the same phrases and graphics in your visual ads to show how the model's skin changed 3 shades lighter than her natural skin tone after using your product, is reinforcing negative and dangerous stereotypes that has plagued the continent for decades.
As a huge global brand, I know that the company is not strapped for cash or a customer base that it would stoop low to play with the insecurities of some African woman and men who have been mocked for their dark skin tone and those of a lighter skin tone who have always felt they aren't "light" enough, to make money. There are several other products made from natural products and non-patronizing in nature that will appeal to your customers.
I tried to find any socially responsible projects Nivea has done in Ghana since your company started operating and I found none. Maybe you do contribute to the country and the continent of Africa. Maybe you don't. It's not my job to tell a company what CSR is. But do not contribute to sending us back to where we have fought from.
Do Better Nivea.
And oh, your non-apology apology by your team is declined.
Do well to pull down the ads and strategize, again.
I wholeheartedly believe that Nivea knows what they are doing. Do they care?
Will they pull down the ads and products?
I doubt it.
Because I believe they do not respect us as much as they do the West. Why didn't they peddle this product in the Americas and Europe?
There are millions of black people there too. But no, they chose Africa. Just like how some big airlines send their crappy planes to African destinations.
In a way, I don't even blame Nivea. They are a business. A business that is looking to capitalize on insecurities brought on by colorism.
OUR NEXT BLOGPOST WILL BE ON COLORISM.
Here is to hoping, praying and making noise till Nivea takes action beyond lip service.
****DEEPEST PENTECOSTAL & APOSTOLIC HYMN EXHALE***
VIDEO CREDIT: SuperJoy YouTube page
THUMBNAIL CREDIT: Mirror.uk page.
SCREENSHOT: NIVEA GHANA website.