Does marketing need to be ethical and sustainable?

Marketing Principles and Practices — Reflection

Fair & Lovely!!! 
 “Oh you are fair in complexion and good looking, yes you are the right and perfect candidate for any job, your presence will be loved by everyone and your chances of getting promotions are higher.”

What an Irony! It is so disgraceful that in a country of color, when companies like Fair & lovely successfully sell their products by propagating the message of color discrimination, which in result making citizens of India feel insecure about their own bodies and their own complexions. Fair & lovely apparently, sends a message of fake beauty standards that “fair complexion will bring success in your life” which they feel ideal in our Indian context.

It is distressing from the fact that they are in India from more than past 30 years and are successful in increasing their market share gradually. Currently the company accounts for 60% of the market share.

And I completely disagree to their idea. Rather I would question the citizens of India –“why are you buying such fake values which make you feel insecure in your own skin?” And I would question Fair & lovely-“why are you selling your product through adopting a marketing model which is ethically, culturally, and morally projecting a biased idea of beauty standards?”

However, this company makes an intriguing case for me to reflect and analyze marketing principles & practices.

Fair & lovely targets the mass — the final buyers whose population is quite huge. While segmenting the target consumers, they strategically targeted the demographics that belong to upper and lower middle class women then after 20 years they started targeting men through their another range of Fair & lovely Menz Active.

The company targeted people who are in the age group of 14–50, with the income levels of 1–7 lakhs, and who are school going, undergrads and post-grads. Referring back to kotler, factors like social, cultural, personal and psychological factors can influence consumer’s buying decisions. Through Maslow’s Hierarchy need model they focused on safety, social and esteem needs of their target segment. They found the demographics that are extremely conscious about their job, their looks, and wishes to take charge their destiny can be influenced through their marketing model.

They taped into the idea when Britishers colonized India and left the thought of white skin is beautiful as most of the higher job opportunities were given to English men or Anglo Indian who are fair in complexion. Culturally and socially, at that time Indian started accepting the fact ‘white’ is not just color but gateway of success, superior life and self-esteem.

Strategically, Fair & lovely excelled at targeting consumer and kept the price of the product affordable.

Affordability is determine by two important factors — income of the consumer and price of the product and services so considering demographic profile of upper middle class to lower middle class and their income levels they kept the prices low. In terms of distribution network, the company made it available pan India, at possible retail shops, cosmetic outlets and chemists covering urban and rural areas.

To promote the product, the company applied pull strategy through integrated marketing campaign. Television ads are one of their major promotional tools. If they haven’t promoted through television on a higher scale they wouldn’t have been so commercially successful even after hearing harsh criticism towards their racially discriminated ads. As in India, television has become basic need it was their smart move to target mass through TV. They also opted for magazines and newspapers along with TV. Providing fairness meter strip and scholarship programme on reliance mobile and organizing contests digitally and in public space are some of their integrated marketing tools.

The company differentiated by providing unique selling proposition that — Fair & lovely is a power brand of beauty, it’s a cream that fulfills dreams and desires.

However, looking at the future scenario, where citizens have started accepting their beauty in their own skin, will Fair & lovely still be accepted the same after 10 years as of now? Or Fair & lovely might need to change their core value in order to achieve the sustainable marketing?

“Sustainable marketing calls for socially and environmentally responsible actions that meet both the immediate and future needs of customers and the company. Truly sustainable marketing requires a smooth-functioning marketing system in which consumers, companies, public policymakers, and others work together to ensure responsible marketing actions.” — Kotler

Fair & Lovely is enjoying their success by adopting consumer — oriented marketing strategies. However, they took a negative approach and hit the insecure aspect of Indian mindset and they missed the aspect of cultural ethics in their marketing approach. The impact of Fair & lovely’s marketing on society has been criticized for creating false wants and too much materialism, a few social goods, and increasing cultural pollution. In 2004, this company has faced harsh criticism through a year-long campaign led by the All India Democratic Women’s Association in New Delhi. However, it’s shocking that company still fairly manages to survive with such racial value proposition.

Through this case study I’m trying to question how long do all the Indians needs to accept their own ethnicity and color, as the Indians perceptions are changing slowly into positive direction then how long Fair & lovely will sell their products on the same value propositions.

Therefore, for companies like Fair & lovely, they should be innovative in bringing back the Indian values and should start propagating the message of inner beauty through healthy body and skin rather than calling ‘white is beauty’.