Sunday, July 18, 2010

Is This FAIR..?

Wanna go fairer??? –Come on Facebook
The marketers of Vaseline Men did exactly what their top bosses wanted them to do… Use Social Media to reach their target audience. And what better way than using Facebook as a medium..! The Unilever subsidiary launched a Facebook application using which guys could “WHITEN” their Facebook profile pics. The application indeed was a boisterous success and garnered immediate attention. But Vaseline forgot the implications of using a huge platform like Facebook; i.e. every action is monitored critically. And while playing on the “FAIR”ness aspect Vaseline had to be extremely careful as this would have always resulted in an RACIST debate.

The Fairness debate has been existent in India from decades. Earlier Bollywood actresses were rated based on their fairness, even girls used to get better marriage prospects if the color of their skin was light and fair. Being dark was set to be a big inhibitor both personally and professionally. And in a fairness OBSESSED country like India FMCG majors leveraged on their products such as ‘Fair & Lovely’, ‘Fair One’ etc.. Their advertisements have always been under extreme criticism, but all this ain’t their fault.

These FMCG players are just responding to the market demands; it’s not only women, but also Men in India are in a rush to be the fairer sex. A sizeable portion of women fairness cream used to come from the Men users. It was said that almost more than 20 percent of the fairness cream users wayback in 2004 were men. Emami recognized the trend and launched the first Men fairness cream – “Fair and Handsome”. Suddenly we saw a shift in the mindset of the Indians who used to think of men as – ‘Tall, dark and handsome’ to a more ‘Fair and Metrosexual’ outlook. The Men fairness market exploded and Emami tasted resounding success with their product. This led to the jump of other FMCG biggies into this space. HUL launched their ‘Fair & Lovely Menz Active’, Beiersdorf AG launched Nivea for men, Elder came up with FairOne Man, Garnier with MEN… etc.

You would be astonished to see the market perceptions. Let’s look at what the marketing managers of some of these brands have to say: Nivea For Men Group Brand Manager Sudarshan Singh says, "Whitening emerges as the prime need. Since Indian men spend a lot of time outdoors, they desire to reverse the effect of the aggressive factors and hence use whitening creams. The other big need is also of oil control." Adds Garnier Marketing Manager Richa Singh, "Our products address the need for a clear and glowing skin, albeit without a tan and dark spots."
So, recently when I read the hoopla about Vaseline Men –‘ Transform your Face’ app; I thought why is the media being so furious? This isn’t happening for the first time and I believe HUL isn’t trying to induce Racism in an already Racist society..! Just read this article..! I say to all these attention seeking news guys to try and transform Indian mindset rather than blaming companies for it. It is the society that needs the amendments and the organizations will soon follow.

On Vaselines' part – they need to be extremely careful. As I’d said in one of my previous posts – “Social Media Marketing is like Teen Sex”, Social Media seems lucrative and an easy/efficient way to connect to your audiences. But you gotta be extremely careful with the communication you are propagating over the Social platform. So next time you use Social Networking sites for Marketing – Think twice and use it strategically.


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