Yesterday, The Indian Express, one of the leading Indian newspapers carried a lead article on the African countries denouncing the racial attacks in India’s capital New Delhi.
Ironically, the bottom half of the front page was almost mocking the serious nature of the problem that was discussed on the top. There was a half-page ad with a loud caption 'World is not fair, but U-B Fair' promoting a fairness range called U-B Fair.
On another medium, ad man Ram Subramanian, a gentleman who has earlier raised important issues like peace between India and Pakistan and was played a role in creating the famous Gurmehar Kaur video had taken up the cause of banning fairness creams from India.
In a video that mocks Hindustan Unilever’s Fair & Lovely as a “soul sucking scented fungus” Subramanian calls the entire category of fairness creams as “the Ku KluX Klan ideology in an easy to squeeze tube”.
He further accuses, Fair & Lovely, the market leader of the segment and others in the category of “having dented the collective confidence of this brown republic of ours” and calls for a ban of the category by 15 August (India’s independence day). The video that has garnered more than two million views online says that “all fairness creams that hint that fairness is equal to better, have to go. Before going undo the damage that you have caused,” says the appeal.
But if one does some soul searching are the brands really to be blamed. Marketing is known to play to its strength and exploit the weakness and emotions of consumers. For everyone with a sweet tooth, they offered a range of chocolates and sugary colas. Never mind that India is the diabetes capital of the world. For every Indian who was conscious of his dark complexion, there’s a range that promises you a lighter tone of skin in a few weeks.
Banning might not be an answer to that unless we go to the root of the issue and change the consumer mindset. Is that the brand’s job? One is not too sure. On the other hand, there’s a lot of scope for brands to speak a language that does not make 'dark equal to inferior'. If a brand is guilty of that, then it must hang.
In this situtation, there might also be a hidden opportunity for a beauty brand that promises to make consumers feel comfortable in their own skin.