Is it ethical to exploit cultural norms and values to promote aproduct? Discuss.

Is it ethical to exploit cultural norms and values to promote a
product? Discuss.

Culture, Advertising and Promotion To dos:
1. Read Case 2-2: Fair & Lovely and Advertising attached

2. Answer the following questions:
1. Is the advertising of Fair & Lovely demeaning to women, or is it promoting the fairness cream in a way not too dissimilar from how most cosmetics are promoted?
2. Propose a promotion/marketing program that will counter all the arguments and charges against Fair & Lovely and be an effective program.
Deliverables: Typed word document to be handed in class, not to exceed 2 pages, 12 size font, Times New Roman.

Cultural Norms, Fair & Lovely,and Advertising

in newspapers or on the Web that are used by families to arrange
suitable alliances, and you will see that most potential grooms
and their families are looking for “fair” brides; some even are
progressive enough to invite responses from women belonging
to a different caste. These ads, hundreds of which appear in India’s
daily newspapers, reflect attempts to solicit individuals with
the appropriate religion, caste, regional ancestry, professional and
educational qualifications, and, frequently, skin color. Even in the
growing numbers of ads that announce “caste no bar,” the adjective
“fair” regularly precedes professional qualifications. In everyday
conversation, the ultimate compliment on someone’s looks is to
say someone is gora (fair). “I have no problem with people wanting
to be lighter,” said a Delhi beauty parlor owner, Saroj Nath. “It
doesn’t make you racist, any more than trying to make yourself
look younger makes you ageist.”
Bollywood (India’s Hollywood) glorifies conventions on beauty
by always casting a fair-skinned actress in the role of heroine, surrounded
by the darkest extras. Women want to use whiteners because
it is “aspirational, like losing weight.”
Even the gods supposedly lament their dark complexion—
Krishna sings plaintively, “Radha kyoon gori, main kyoon kala?
(Why is Radha so fair when I’m dark?).” A skin deficient in melanin
(the pigment that determines the skin’s brown color) is an
ancient predilection. More than 3,500 years ago, Charaka, the
famous sage, wrote about herbs that could help make the skin
fair.
Indian dermatologists maintain that fairness products cannot
truly work as they reach only the upper layers of the skin and so
do not affect melanin production. Nevertheless, for some, Fair &
Lovely is a “miracle worker.” A user gushes that “The last time
I went to my parents’ home, I got compliments on my fair skin
from everyone.” For others, there is only disappointment. One
26-year-old working woman has been a regular user for the
past eight years but to no avail. “I should have turned into Snow
White by now but my skin is still the same wheatish color.” As
an owner of a public relations firm commented, “My maid has
been using Fair and Lovely for years and I still can’t see her in
the dark. . . . But she goes on using it. Hope springs eternal, I
suppose.”
The number of Indians who think lighter skin is more beautiful
may be shrinking. Sumit Isralni, a 22-year-old hair designer
in his father’s salon, thinks things have changed in the last two
years, at least in India’s most cosmopolitan cities, Delhi, Mumbai,
and Bangalore. Women now “prefer their own complexion, their
natural way” Isralni says; he prefers a more “Indian beauty” himself:
“I won’t judge my wife on how fair her complexion is.” Sunita
Gupta, a beautician in the same salon, is more critical. “It’s just
foolishness!” she exclaimed. The premise of the ads that women
could not become airline attendants if they are dark-skinned was
wrong, she said. “Nowadays people like black beauty.” It is a truism
that women, especially in the tropics, desire to be a shade fairer,
no matter what their skin color. Yet, unlike the approach used in
India, advertisements elsewhere usually show how to use the product
and how it works.
Cultural Norms, Fair & Lovely,and
Advertising
CASE 2-2
Fair & Lovely, a branded product of Hindustan Lever Ltd. (HLL),
is touted as a cosmetic that lightens skin color. On its website
(hll.com.in), the company calls its product “the miracle worker,”
“proven to deliver one to three shades of change.” While tanning
is the rage in Western countries, skin lightening treatments are
popular in Asia.
According to industry sources, the top-selling skin lightening
cream in India is Fair & Lovely from Hindustan Lever Ltd. (HLL),
followed by CavinKare’s Fairever brand. HLL’s Fair & Lovely brand
dominated the market with a 90 percent share until CavinKare
Ltd. (CKL) launched Fairever. In just two years, the Fairever brand
gained an impressive 15 percent market share. HLL’s share of market
for the Fair & Lovely line generates about $60 million annually.
The product sells for about 23 rupees ($0.29) for a 25-gram tube of
cream.
The rapid growth of CavinKare’s Fairever (www.cavinkare
.com) brand prompted HLL to increase its advertising effort and
to launch a series of ads depicting a “fairer girl gets the boy theme.”
One advertisement featured a financially strapped father lamenting
his fate, saying, “If only I had a son,” while his dark-skinned
daughter looks on, helpless and demoralized because she can’t bear
the financial responsibility of her family. Fast-forward and plain
Jane has been transformed into a gorgeous light-skinned woman
through the use of a “fairness cream,” Fair & Lovely. Now clad in a
miniskirt, the woman is a successful flight attendant and can take
her father to dine at a five-star hotel. She’s happy and so is her father.
In another ad, two attractive young women are sitting in a bedroom;
one has a boyfriend and, consequently, is happy. The darkerskinned
woman, lacking a boyfriend, is not happy. Her friend’s
advice—Use a bar of soap to wash away the dark skin that’s keeping
men from flocking to her.
HLL’s series of ads provoked CavinKare Ltd. to counter with an
ad that takes a dig at HLL’s Fair & Lovely ad. CavinKare’s ad has
a father–daughter duo as the protagonists, with the father shown
encouraging the daughter to be an achiever irrespective of her
complexion. CavinKare maintained that the objective of its new
commercial is not to take a dig at Fair & Lovely but to “reinforce
Fairever’s positioning.”
Skin color is a powerful theme in India, and much of Asia,
where a lighter color represents a higher status. While Americans
and Europeans flock to tanning salons, many across Asia seek ways
to have “fair” complexions. Culturally, fair skin is associated with
positive values that relate to class and beauty. One Indian lady
commented that when she was growing up, her mother forbade
her to go outdoors. She was not trying to keep her daughter out of
trouble but was trying to keep her skin from getting dark.
Brahmins, the priestly caste at the top of the social hierarchy,
are considered fair because they traditionally stayed inside, poring
over books. The undercaste at the bottom of the ladder are
regarded as the darkest people because they customarily worked
in the searing sun. Ancient Hindu scriptures and modern poetry
eulogize women endowed with skin made of white marble.
Skin color is closely identified with caste and is laden with
symbolism. Pursue any of the “grooms” and “brides wanted” ads
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Part 6 Supplementary Material
Home Healthcare Nursing Assistant course catering to young
women between the ages of 18 and 30 years. According to HLL,
the Fair & Lovely Academy for Home Care Nursing Assistants
offers a unique training opportunity for young women who possess
no entry-level skills and therefore are not employable in the
new economy job market. The Fair & Lovely Foundation plans
to serve as a catalyst for the economic empowerment for women
across India. The Fair & Lovely Foundation will showcase the
achievements of these women not only to honor them but also to
set an example for other women to follow.
AIDWA’s campaign against ads that convey the message, “if
she is not fair in color, she won’t get married or won’t get promoted,”
also has resulted in some adjustment to fairness cream
ads. In revised versions of the fairness cream ads, the “get fair to
attract a groom” theme is being reworked with “enhance your selfconfidence”
so that a potential groom himself begs for attention.
It is an attempt at typifying the modern Indian woman, who has
more than just marriage on her mind. Advertising focus is now on
the message that lighter skin enables women to obtain jobs conventionally
held by men. She is career-oriented, has high aspirations,
and, at the same time, wants to look good. AIDWA concedes
that the current crop of television ads for fairness creams are “not
as demeaning” as ones in the past. However, it remains against the
product; as the president of AIDWA stated, “It is downright racist
to denigrate dark skin.”
Although AIWDA’s campaign against fairness creams seems to
have had a modest impact on changing the advertising message, it
has not slowed the demand for fairness creams. Sales of Fair & Lovely,
for example, have been growing 15 to 20 percent year over year, and
the $318 million market for skin care has grown by 42.7 percent in
the last three years. Says Euromonitor International, a research firm:
“Half of the skin care market in India is fairness creams and 60 to 65
percent of Indian women use these products daily.”
Recently, several Indian companies were extending their marketing
of fairness creams beyond urban and rural markets. CavinKare’s
launch of Fairever, a fairness cream in a small sachet pack priced at
Rs 5, aimed at rural markets where some 320 million Indians reside.
Most marketers have found rural markets impossible to penetrate
profitably due to low income levels and inadequate distribution
systems, among other problems. However, HLL is approaching the
market through Project Shakti, a rural initiative that targets small
villages with populations of 2,000 people or less. It empowers underprivileged
rural women by providing income-generating opportunities
to sell small, lower priced packets of its brands in villages.
Special packaging for the rural market was designed to provide
single-use sachet packets at 50 paise for a sachet of shampoo to Rs 5
for a fairness cream (for a week’s usage). The aim is to have 100,000
“Shakti Ammas,” as they are called, spread across 500,000 villages in
India by year end. CavinKare is growing at 25 percent in rural areas
compared with 15 percent in urban centers.
In addition to expanding market effort into rural markets, an
unexpected market arose when a research study revealed Indian
men were applying girlie fairness potions in droves—but on the
sly. It was estimated that 40 percent of boyfriends/husbands of
girlfriends/wives were applying white magic solutions that came
in little tubes. Indian companies spotted a business opportunity,
and Fair & Handsome, Menz Active, Fair One Man, and a male
bleach called Saka were introduced to the male market. The sector
expanded dramatically when Shah Rukh Khan, a highly acclaimed
Bollywood actor likened to an Indian Tom Cruise, decided to endorse
Fair & Handsome. Euromonitor International forecasts that
Commenting on the cultural bias toward fair skin, one critic
states, “There are attractive people who go through life feeling inferior
to their fairer sisters. And all because of charming grandmothers
and aunts who do not hesitate to make unflattering
comparisons. Kalee Kalooti is an oft-heard comment about women
who happen to have darker skin. They get humiliated and mortified
over the color of their skin, a fact over which they have no control.
Are societal values responsible? Or advertising campaigns?
Advertising moguls claim they only reflect prevailing attitudes in
India. This is possibly true but what about ethics in advertising? Is
it correct to make advertisements that openly denigrate a majority
of Indian people—the dark-skinned populace? The advertising is
blatant in their strategy. Mock anyone who is not the right color
and shoot down their self-image.”
A dermatologist comments, “Fairness obtained with the help of
creams is short-lived. The main reason being, most of these creams
contain a certain amount of bleaching agent, which whitens facial
hair, and not the skin, which leads people to believe that the cream
worked.” Furthermore, “In India the popularity of a product depends
totally on the success of its advertising.”
HLL launched its television ad campaign to promote Fair &
Lovely but withdrew it after four months amid severe criticism for
its portrayal of women. Activists argued that one of the messages
the company sends through its “air hostess” ads demonstrating
the preference for a son who would be able to take on the financial
responsibility for his parents is especially harmful in a country
such as India where gender discrimination is rampant. Another
offense is perpetuating a culture of discrimination in a society
where “fair” is synonymous with “beautiful.” AIDWA (All India
Women’s Democratic Association) lodged a complaint at the time
with HLL about their offensive ads, but Hindustan Lever failed to
respond.
The women’s association then appealed to the National
Human Rights Commission alleging that the ad demeaned
women. AIDWA objected to three things: (1) the ads were racist,
(2) they were promoting son preference, and (3) they were
insulting to working women. “The way they portrayed the young
woman who, after using Fair & Lovely, became attractive and
therefore lands a job suggested that the main qualification for a
woman to get a job is the way she looks.” The Human Rights Commission
passed AIDWA’s complaints on to the Ministry of Information
and Broadcasting, which said the campaign violated the
Cable and Television Network Act of 1995—provisions in the act
state that no advertisement shall be permitted which “derides any
race, caste, color, creed and nationality” and that “Women must
not be portrayed in a manner that emphasized passive, submissive
qualities and encourages them to play a subordinate secondary
role in the family and society.” The government issued notices
of the complaints to HLL. After a year-long campaign led by the
AIDWA, Hindustan Lever Limited discontinued two of its television
advertisements for Fair & Lovely fairness cold cream.
Shortly after pulling its ads off the air, HLL launched its Fair &
Lovely Foundation, vowing to “encourage economic empowerment
of women across India” by providing resources in education
and business to millions of women “who, though immensely talented
and capable, need a guiding hand to help them take the leap
forward,” presumably into a fairer future.
HLL sponsored career fairs in over 20 cities across the country
offering counseling in as many as 110 careers. It supported 100
rural scholarships for women students passing their 10th grade,
a professional course for aspiring beauticians, and a three-month
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Cases 2 The Cultural Environment of Global Marketing
3. Is the advertising of Fair & Lovely demeaning to women, or
is it promoting the fairness cream in a way not too dissimilar
from how most cosmetics are promoted?
4. Will HLL’s Fair & Lovely Foundation be enough to counter
charges made by AIDWA? Discuss.
5. In light of AIDWA’s charges, how would you suggest Fair &
Lovely promote its product? Discuss. Would your response be
different if Fairever continued to use “fairness” as a theme of
its promotion? Discuss.
6. Propose a promotion/marketing program that will counter all
the arguments and charges against Fair & Lovely and be an
effective program.
7. Now that a male market for fairness cream exists, is the
strength of AIDWA’s argument weakened?
8. Comment on using “Shakti Ammas” to introduce “fairness
cream for the masses” in light of AIDWA’s charges.
9. Listen to “In India, Skin-Whitening Creams Reflect Old
Biases,” NPR, November 12, 2009. Consider this information
in your analyses.
Sources: Nicole Leistikow, “Indian Women Criticize ‘Fair and Lovely’ Ideal,” Women’s
eNews , April 28, 2003; Arundhati Parmar, “Objections to Indian Ad Not Taken
Lightly,” Marketing News , June 9, 2003, p. 4; “Fair & Lovely Launches Foundation to
Promote Economic Empowerment of Women,” press release, Fair & Lovely Foundation,
www.hll.com.in (search for foundation), March 11, 2003; Rina Chandran, “All
for Self-Control,” Business Line (The Hindu), April 24, 2003; Khozem Merchant and
Edward Luce, “Not So Fair and Lovely,” Financial Times , March 19, 2003; “Fair &
Lovely Redefines Fairness with Multivitamin Total Fairness Cream,” press release,
Hindustan Lever Ltd., May 3, 2005; “CavinKare Launches Small Sachet Packs,” Business
India , December 7, 2006; “Analysis of Skin Care Advertising on TV During
January–August 2006,” Indiantelevision.com Media, Advertising, Marketing Watch,
October 17, 2006; “Women Power Gets Full Play in CavinKare’s Brand Strategy.” The
Economic Times (New Delhi, India), December 8, 2006; Heather Timmons, “Telling
India’s Modern Women They Have Power, Even Over Their Skin Tone,” The New
York Times , May 30, 2007; “The Year We Almost Lost Tall (or Short or MediumHeight),
Dark and Handsome,” The Hindustan Times , December 29, 2007; “India’s
Hue and Cry Over Paler Skin,” The Sunday Telegraph (London), July 1, 2007; “Fair
and Lovely?” University Wire , June 4, 2007; “The Race to Keep up with Modern
India,” Media, June 29, 2007; Aneel Karnani, “Doing Well by Doing Good—Case
Study: ‘Fair & Lovely’ Whitening Cream,” Strategic Management Journal 28, no. 13
(2007), pp. 1351–57; “In India, Skin-Whitening Creams Reflect Old Biases,” NPR,
November 12, 2009.
in the next five years, spending on men’s grooming products will
rise 24 percent to 14.5 billion rupees, or US$320 million.
A recent product review in www.mouthshut.com, praises Fair &
Lovely fairness cream: “[Fair & Lovely] contains fairness vitamins
which penetrate deep down our skin to give us radiant fairness.” “I
don’t know if it can change the skin color from dark to fair, but my
personal experience is that it works very well, if you have a naturally
fair color and want to preserve it without much headache.” “I think
Riya Sen has the best skin right now in Bollywood. It appears to be
really soft and tender. So, to have a soft and fair skin like her I recommend
Fair & Lovely Fairness Lotion or Cream.” Yet “skin color
isn’t a proof of greatness. Those with wheatish or dark skin are by
no way inferior to those who have fair skin.”
Here are a few facts from Hindustan Lever Ltd.’s homepage:
Lever Limited is India’s largest Packaged Mass Consumption
Goods Company. We are leaders in Home and Personal
Care Products and Food and Beverages including
such products as Ponds and Pepsodent. We seek to meet
everyday needs of people everywhere—to anticipate the aspirations
of our consumers and customers and to respond
creatively and competitively with branded products and services
which raise the quality of life. It is this purpose which
inspires us to build brands. Over the past 70 years, we have
introduced about 110 brands.
Fair & Lovely has been specially designed and proven to
deliver one to three shades of change in most people. Also
its sunscreen system is specially optimized for Indian skin.
Indian skin, unlike Caucasian skin, tends to “tan” rather
than “burn” and, hence, requires a different combination of
UVA and UVB sunscreens.
You may want to visit HLL’s homepage (www.hll.com.in) for
additional information about the company.
QUESTIONS
1. Is it ethical to sell a product that is, at best, only mildly effective?
Discuss.
2. Is it ethical to exploit cultural norms and values to promote a
product? Discuss.


 

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