Free Cultural Norms, Fair & Lovely, And Advertising Case Study Sample
Though the initial reaction anyone would get after reading the case study would be to say that exploiting negative cultural norms and values to promoting a product is unethical, the situation stated is much more complex than it seems to be at a first glance, having more facets.
However, for a person to even consider buying or trying any product, it must first of all fit in with their cultural norms and values. On the one hand, every country, culture, race has a norm of what is considered to be standard, superior, or beautiful/likeable in the present case. In India, much like many other Asian countries, it happens that having a fair skin has been a sign of beauty, nobility and a higher status for centuries, just like in Europe or America, tanned skinned is preferable, altogether with being blonde and having blue eyes. If having fair skin is part of one’s culture, then so be it, and if one chooses to use a particular product that lightens their skin, they should use it because it is their choice and not the society’s, but because it makes them feel better and act/be more confident.
The beauty industry should help women enhance their natural beauty, no matter of their skin color, but rather be concentrated to help fixing health-related aspects such as acne, pigmentation spots, bruises, marks, cuperosis and so on. Marketing radical strategies, hidden under negative cultural norms and values do more harm to society than possibly imagined, as human beings are sensitive and insecure at core and may easily be fooled by social norms, which they struggle to be in conformity with.
Comment 02: How do the cultural norms of beauty drive people to buy these products? (Be it in US or in India)
For each, be it in US or in India, cultural norms of beauty dictate that attractive people are judged to be more intelligent, they earn more, they are genetically stronger, threfore more likely to have beautiful children and so on. Being in accordance with the cultural norms of beauty confers one great advantages, both genetic and social, therefore people struggle more and more each day to look like the perfect candidate for the perfect life they strive for.
Around the world, and no matter of the culture, flawless white skin is a recognised proof of health and a symbol of youth. The reason for this has its logic, as light skin makes it more difficult to hide illness, therefore makes it easier for the eye to recognise a healthy body.
Companies take advantage of these facts and manipulate people accordingly, they build strategies around stereotypes, in order to sell their products, even with the risk of taking this to discriminatory heights, like in the above case.
Promoting cultural norms or values such as non-smoking campaigns, recycling, environmental care or even campaigns to reduce the consumption of alcoholic drinks is not unethical as it does good to society. However, if a company’s exploiting includes offenses to any skin color or race and so on, then the ethical barrier is crossed.
The messages that were used in the Fair & Lovely’s advertisements, representing women unable to find a partner or a job due to their dark skin condition and who did not use the skin lightening product, are unethical because they are based on racial prejudice. The women’s struggle for a better place in society is a very delicate matter in India, it is much harder than for the Western women to terminate gender discrimination, as for skin color, or colorism discrimination adding on to that only makes the situation more difficult.
What Fair & Lovely did is not much different than what is promoted for instance in the Bollywood movies, as the main actress and heroine of the movie is always fair-skinned, surrounded by darker skinned dancers, her beauty helping her get a husband, a job and a great position at the top of society.
The problem is not that people don’t have critical thinking skills; it is not that they may be thinking beautification products can change their skin color; the real problem is in the way that advertising adds or exacerbates those issues. Advertising performs an economic function and people have wants and needs. The unethical stands in the fact that Fair & Lovely advertised their products, taking advantage of a very deep-rooted problem of the Indian society without taking into consideration the fact that they could make things worse for perhaps the majority of India. It is the magnitude of the problem, as most of the people are rather dark skinned, therefore the situation goes beyond just filling a need, affecting people psychically and emotionally.
Comment 03: What are some implications?
advertising which stereotypes women can form unconscious and unthinking attitudes about women and their abilities in society
stereotypes can have a negative effect as one can perceive the “fair” stereotype as a “lovely” cultural directive which in turn may lead them to put aside their own desires regarding career and personal life and replace them with the ideal ones presented through popular culture including advertisements
May result in low esteem, lack of courage and even to consider such unethical discriminatory behavior as normal.
Based on the facts presented above and the grave, unethical, discriminatory facts they imply, we could make a parallel for better understanding what the company has actually been doing and why is it unethical from an international context.
Taking a random example of the American society for instance, people who are overweight are being discriminated, as the thin and fit is the image of the perfect individual, who is successful, attractive, rich and most likely to overcome any difficult situation. As the American society is confronted with the problem that a large amount of their population is overweight, then the companies promoting products or services for losing weight and becoming the „Model” take advantage in the same way that Fair & Lovely with one exception that marks the boundary between ethical non-ethical. The American case presented is ethical as it stands for standards of health, while the Fair & Lovely is not ethical as skin color is not a health-related condition.
The advertising of Fair & Lovely seems to be demeaning women as it is stereotyping. Classifying and judging people based on their skin color, is called “discrimination”. Because in India, unlike the Western countries, women do not have the same rights as men do, highlighting the fact that fair skinned gets more in life than dark skinned, out loud in advertisements, only causes more harm than good. However, in the cosmetics industry, stereotyping is a common-used practice.
Comment 05: Do companies/advertisers in western countries use different type pf sociocultural norms targeting women?
The situation of the western countries advertisers is a little bit different from that of the indian ones as they have become sensitive to stereotyping population groups. These groups constitute business for them, just as much as other groups. Minority advertising has become niche-making for them, instead of the use of stereotypes. The image of women in advertisments also has changed significantly over time, so that men and women are portrayed equally. This is due not to feminist pressures, according to the defense, but more to changes in the marketplace which make the exploitative representation of women counterproductive for the advertisers. People seem to be much more sensitive to discrimination, not accepting it, always trying to fight against it.
What is wrong is that these companies are using a psychological tactic that implies the fact that a „fairer” look means power. It is not wrong to promote your products, as long as it does no harm. These companies should find a way to promote their products without belittling people of other color and not promoting ethnocentrism.
If Fair & Lovely wants to help their brand by selling more products they could have a different approach to their advertising strategy. A current business strategy that could make a positive difference is by making commercials without comparing two different skin tones, maybe making a commercial with the products results. A before and after commercial might be better so the people buying the product would know what they are buying. "Fairness" is Fair & Lovely's theme, and for that fact, it could not be changed, but it could actually make a difference for the society and for the Indian women especially if advertised in the right way so that they could still sell their products without creating discomfort and discriminatory socio-cultural problems.
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