Campaign SpotlightPress Release

100 Chinese women swap traditional names to stronger alternatives for Lux’s 100th year with VML Singapore

SINGAPORE — Names are so much more than just words: they have the power to define people. Not only how they perceive themselves, but how they are perceived by others. Yet all too often a name given at birth doesn’t accurately reflect a person’s authentic self and true potential. This a particular issue in China, but also other countries globally. While male names often convey strength or power, many traditional Chinese female names are inherently stereotypical, even sexist, highlighting “traditional” feminine qualities of softness and submissiveness, as well as parental preferences for boys – making these names not just unrepresentative of modern women, but often become lifelong labels for women, reinforcing a gender bias that could limit their potential in life.

As a beauty brand that aims to empower women to find strength in their beauty and rise above the judgments they face, Unilever’s LUX is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and wants to mark a century by creating 100 new and powerful (Chinese) names for women. To challenge unconscious bias and highlight the power of a new name the brand is launching “In Her Name,” a social campaign inspiring women to give their daughters stronger, modern alternatives to traditional options or even legally change their own names – as scores of women are already doing in China. With 47% of women surveyed expressing a desire to change their names, the campaign seeks to empower women to become protagonists of their own lives – and what better way to encourage them than by taking a powerful name?

A participant in the new initiative is Yà Nán, whose name translates as “second to man” or “inferior to man,” said: “This name brings me constant stress. All my life, I had to work harder than men to prove myself.”

Unilevers LUX asks women in China to swap their sexist INS

To create the “In Her Name” campaign, LUX has worked with linguistics professor and language expert Liu Yanchun on 100 new names that genuinely reflect what Chinese women should be called nowadays. Instead of highlighting outdated “feminine” traits like quiet, lovable and small, or a sexist preference for a son such as “welcome younger brother,” the new names evoke strength and potential, from 佳睿, meaning “beautiful and wise” to 明奕, meaning “a girl with a bright future.”

The activation idea is by creative agency VML Singapore.

Severine Vauleon, Global Brand Vice President of LUX, said, “Our new initiative ‘In Her Name’ is aimed at empowering Chinese women by identifying contemporary names that reflect the power and potential of modern women. Through these new names, women can find strength in their inner and outer beauty – helping us all move further towards a more gender-equal society.”

Prof. Liu Yan Chun, Linguistics and Applied Linguistics Communication at University of China, added “While creating new names, I’ve drawn inspiration from classical literature, embraced positive connotations, and addressed contemporary societal needs. Through this diverse lens, I’ve curated names for women.” 

“In Her Name” is backed by a host of influencers and a video. The 100 new names have been revealed via China’s Little Red Book platform (Xiaohongshu), which has 312 million monthly active users.  Each name is brought to life by a striking, bespoke image of a woman which embodies the strong, powerful and inspiring associations of each name. Via a mobile touchpoint on social platforms Douyin and Weibo, followers can also find suggestions about the types of qualities and personality traits they might want their new name to convey and a call to action to join the movement.

Marco Versolato, Chief Creative Officer for Unilever at VML Singapore, said, “Over the past few years, we are proud to have worked closely with LUX to shed light on some of the judgments and casual sexism women face in their everyday lives. Now, we’re excited to launch LUX’s latest initiative, ‘In Her Name’ where we have collaborated with linguistics expert Liu Yanchun, on a gender-parity initiative inspired by the recent trend of Chinese women officially changing their birth names. Traditional Chinese names are linguistically beautiful, but in contemporary society don’t necessarily reflect the strength and power of modern Chinese women – which is why we wanted to create some more representative and inspiring options. A name, after all, is so much more than a name – it’s a reflection of your potential.”

The starting point for the “In her Name” initiative is China, which was chosen for its size and importance – and often stereotypical names – in order to kickstart a conversation about traditional naming and its potential impact on people’s lives.

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