How are fairness cream brands repositioning their idea of beauty?

In the light of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s stance against fairness cream ads, brands and advertisers are reworking their brand messaging

e4m by Shreshtha Verma
Updated: Feb 26, 2020 4:53 PM
Fairness cream

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare proposed to amend the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954 last week. The new rules would be drafted under Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) (Amendment) Bill, 2020. Under the new rule, the ministry will be taking punitive measures against ads for fairness creams, and hair loss, weight loss or height improvement products, etc. Reportedly,  under this act, the brands responsible for the ads will be slapped with a penalty of Rs 50 lakh and can warrant prison time up to five years.

While the future of fairness creams are in danger, the organic cosmetic industry is growing at the rate of 10 per cent approximately, say experts.

Shweta Purandare, Secretary General, The Advertising Standards Council of India, said: "The proposed DMR bill 2020 is an important development and would lend strong support to ASCI's efforts of Suo Motu monitoring of misleading advertisements in the Healthcare sector. Consequences of advertisements in violation of DMR regulations are serious and this would result in better compliance from advertisers as well as media concerned, be it an advertisement of Allopathic product or AYUSH products. Apart from print and TV, it will be interesting to see the impact on advertisements on Social Media as well as on the advertisers' web-sites. We would expect this effect to trickle to advertisements by AYUSH doctors and Clinics propagating "guaranteed cure" as the Central Council of Indian Medicine has taken cognizance of DMR violations in the past and had issued an advisory to State Councils for their action. "

According to Dilip Kundlia, Director, Oshea Herbals, the ban on fairness cream ads was much needed as the colour doesn’t define the beauty of a person. Kundlia feels, even though this fight may be won a legal level, but the people in our country will still resort to fairness creams as the prejudice of fairer being most beautiful is indelibly imprinted in the minds of the people. "I don’t think the sales will be majorly affected by this ban as most of the consumers of the fairness creams are in located in rural or semi-rural areas of the country," he observed.

"The fairness cream industry in India is growing but at a comparatively slower pace than that of the organic cosmetics industry," said Karan Gupta, Director, Qraa Men.

He opines: "We cannot deny that even today, India is a large market for fairness creams. There are numerous brands out there who supply fairness creams just to India because India is a massive market for it.

But, in recent times, there has been a small shift and the industry has experienced a slight decline in its purchase especially in urban areas. Instead, the industry has witnessed a shift to organic beauty products that are growing at a CAGR of 10 per cent during 2019-2025, added Gupta.

Seems the manufacturers, as well as the stakeholders of the fairness cream industry, have realized that the future of this product is in danger. From fairness cream brands to celebrities,  efforts are being made to reposition the idea of beauty, not just in India but globally.

Recently, Procter & Gamble skincare brand Olay said that it will no longer retouch skin in its advertising by 2021 because it reflects an idea of beauty which is almost impossible to achieve.

The company made this statement during an event in New York. This is not the first time when Olay did something like this. In March 2019, the company came with campaign #FaceAnything with  Masaba Gupta, Kubbra Sait, Lilly Singh, Priyanka Kochhar and Payal Soni.

Breaking the stereotypes on fair skin colour, women's grooming brand, The Beauty Co India too came up with a campaign in December 2019 to embrace differences and encourage people to 'untype'. The campaign took a stand against the idea of skin-deep beauty meant to "sell products", and celebrated self-love regardless of one's shape, size, colour, gender and sexuality.

Not just the brands, even celebrities too have started distancing themselves from fairness products that promote the idea of fair skin as an important parameter of beauty. While celebrities like Juhi Chawala to Priyanka Chopra to Shahrukh Khan have already made a lot of bucks by selling fairness creams, things are changing now. As per recent reports, celebrities like Taapsee Pannu, Dia Mirza and Sona Mohapatra have hailed the government's proposed bill to ban fairness cream advertisements.

Pannu had earlier stated that she will never endorse fairness creams. Mirza had also voiced her opinion about evolving our understanding of ads that perpetuate stereotypes. Mohpatra, who was a brand manager herself a couple of years ago, spoke about acknowledging the regressive and toxic impact of such ad campaigns.

The marketing experts, Jagdeep Kapoor, Founder Chairman and Managing Director, Samsika Marketing Consultants feels that it is good that the industry is recognising the true aspirational quest for beauty.

Talking on this major disruption in the market of fairness creams, Kapoor opines, "It is deep and not superficial. Every market and industry evolves. This is just a journey of evolution in the continuum. Consumers have evolved and so must marketers. Sometimes evolution is self-imposed or gets a trigger from outside. My brand mantra is 'Markets don’t decline, they shift.'"



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