Today we will discuss about the popular personal care brand Fair & Lovely. This HUL skin-care brand for ‘Aspiring’ segment was launched in India in 1978. The brand promises the benefit of ‘making complexion fairer over a period of six weeks’. The target segment for the brand is middle class Indian women who want fairer skin. The message is conveyed in ads where women using the brand become fairer and get ahead in life by attracting men and jobs. Of late, the range of the products under the brand is extended to include: Ayurvedic Fairness cream, Anti-Marks cream, Oil control Fairness Gel Cream for Deep Skin, Fairness Soap and also men’s range: ‘Fair & Lovely Menz Active’.
Fair & Lovely is a brand which has used consumer psychology in an effective manner but whether that was and is ethical or not is definitely questionable. Especially in a country like India where there are many women who are not-so-fair – fairness is considered as a parameter to measure beauty. ‘Scarcity Principle’ says that less the availability of something it becomes more valuable. And Fair & Lovely as a brand has promoted that concept with its entire marketing efforts starting from the brand name to numerous ads. Now, this is a case where marketing raises serious questions about morality and ethics. Should we really promote fairness as the measure of beauty and success of a woman? There have been numerous studies which found that this kind of marketing by companies and media over the years actually led to lack of self confidence and raised doubts about self-dignity in many women worldwide. And as you know without self confidence success becomes nothing but a distant dream. In fact, those kind of market research findings were the key reasons why Dove – the most popular global personal care brand of HUL came up with the famous campaign of ‘real beauty’ showing real women and telling that beauty has got to do nothing with color, races or looks.
This is a serious duplicitous behavior from world’s leading personal care company where one of their brands is promoting artificial beauty by talking about fairness whereas the other talks about ‘real beauty’. Though from STP point of view that makes sense as Dove and Fair & Lovely are catering to two different segments and hence rightly have different targeting and positioning to suit the brands’ marketing objectives. But doesn’t the company have responsibility towards the consumers as well? All the tall talk about serving people, helping to make life better – are those just for fooling consumers? And ultimately does marketing mean hoodwinking consumers to achieve only narrow financial objectives? Though businesses talk about creating value for all the stakeholders – when it comes to practical life does stakeholders mean only shareholders? That brings us to even serious questions about management as a practice. Is money and profit the only and ultimate goals in business? How many more recessions, Enrons and Satyams will it take for us to understand that it is time to walk the talk!!