October 15, 2010

Don't 'exploit' me with your advertisements

Today, just as I logged in to check my Facebook account, I received a message from the moderator of a popular advertising page on Facebook to join a debate that was taking shape on exploitative advertising. With nothing else to do, I jumped into the fray. I checked out the topic.As a customer, the guy has a very valid point but let's take a look from the marketer's point of view. This is how it shaped.

Query: Ok.This is something I have been thinking about for a while......it is about what I call exploitative advertising.......Who says that a product sells only if it delivers ???...Take a look at Fair and Lovely...2 decades of sales past, I have not heard (much less seen) anyone's complexion moving over to the fairer side; ...not a friend or friend's friend's friend or even a distant relative or acquaintance. So, intuitively speaking, the product does not work. So, we can safely infer that either the ads lie or the ad-makers are ignorant. But the right choice is irrelevant. You see, the kind of adverts that Fair and Lovely releases, especially in India, seem to prey upon our insecurities. Every man wants to have a fair bride. Every father wants to have a fair daughter. And so, every girl wants to be fair. The ads seem to EXPLOIT all the semi-misogynistic loopholes in our psyche. Now, the phenomenon has moved over to men. The outcome of crucial interviews are decided by a man's confidence, which is inexplicably linked to his complexion ( OH MY GOD ! I AM NOT FAIR !..WILL I EVER BE PROMOTED ?! ).....So the conclusion ???....It is a question.....and also a parting shot at the fleeced customers....Are people really like sheep ??...If you dangle the proverbial carrot, will they really be taken for a ride???....And are ads meant to be that way in the corporate era ??The need of cosmetics is seen from very ancient days. People were using a variety of cosmetic products both for curative purpose as well as beauty ones. Kajal, or Surma, Bindi, Sindoor, Kumkum, Mehandi, Altas, Alaras are some traditional... cosmetics used on those days as certain social symbolic issues besides for preventing the parts of the body from many infections and maintaining the freshness and/ presentablity in different climatic conditions.

Faraaz Kazi: Of the Rs 3,000-crore cosmetics and toiletries market, the skincare segment accounts for Rs 1,200 crore. Fairness products account for a whopping Rs 700 crore of this segment.
Now as far as the company's claims are concerned, it is not a modern phenomenon but has gained momentum in the present. The cream does make you fair but it cannot do so if you're inherently dark, i.e. one can't become fairer than their actual skin colour (hence 75% of the customers claim to have been misled). A very narrow segment on whom the cream doesn't show their effects, can be classified as those who didn't try the product as specified by the company or under their ideal conditions.
Call it exploitative, misleading, false or deceptive, the truth of the matter is, it is here to stay! It's very difficult to allow your product to speak out aloud amidst the competition. As a marketer, what option have you left? Claims such as these are common tools to effectively get your proposition across. It is not that insecurities emerge from claims but the other way round because as a marketer one sees an unsatisfied need there. Yeah, the case of sanitisers as I said. I pointed it out on my blog too recently. It depends on your perspective totally, do you see it as unethical? But at the end of the day, won't you as a customer try it out (even once) if it's an epidemic. As they say better safe than sorry. Consider this in an extreme situation, as an advertiser if I claim if you don't try my product, apocalypse would strike or you would die within 24 hours, would you be willing to try it? Hmmm...that's precisely the reason.
Second, coming to Fair and Lovely (or Fairever or Fairglow or any other fairness product for that matter), claims or not, people will buy it (53% market share). Why? Because each one of us, rich or poor, Hindu or Muslim, has that underlying 'dream' to look and feel good. To carry the confidence that emerges from one's physical appearance. And hence people will buy it. Consider this, as a marketer what other positioning can you apply to a fairness product? There's very little room for negotiation! Yet HUL has done that or at least tried to by experimenting with variants, you have F&L anti-marks cream to ayurvedic and multi-vitamin and once they noticed 32% of males using the cream (not a TG they had specified), the male variant was introduced after Emami. Don't forget, a major factor of their success has been their distribution which reaches all tiers of their effective supply chain. At one point, F&L enjoyed a virtual monopoly with over 90 percent market share but look where it stands today thanks to competition (don't forget the milk-turmeric-kesar paste you apply on your face on weekends).
As a product, all fairness creams essentially use Niacin amide which is known for its skin lightening properties.
There were women groups which termed the adverts as regressive. Look at one brighter side of it, at least F&L doens't use celebs to endorse it (the claims could be more misleading then!). We see common faces (Genelia when she was not quite an actress was the most prominent advert on TV) so that people get the feel of reality. On the other side, they also have The Fair and Lovely foundation which promotes educating girls and seeks to empower them (are they nullifying the effects then?) Apart from this, 4 weeks or 7 days countdown to fairness sounds silly, done on improper research because one can easily claim that a complainant's skin isn't essentially the average facial skin, the company has tested it's product on. There's no law against it but lately ASCI has been pulling the noose on a lot of claims issued in ads. Lately, IRDA to passed an order to insurance companies to tighten the noose over agents who sold policies deceptively. For the details, may I request you to look here. At the end of the day, it is upto the consumer and his experiences, what he is ready to believe and what he is not. Ask yourself this: Did Rajnikant truly perform those sci-fi stunts in Robot? As they say (below)
Big enough?

With hugs and kisses to the Consumer,
The Young Marketer.


Faraaz Kazi said...

The source of the query and the inspiration for my thoughts on FB is Mr.Afzal Husain (http://www.facebook.com/afzal.husain)

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