Hindustan Unilever is one of the largest and strongest Indian consumer goods company in India. Unilever sells a variety of goods, ranging from personal care and hygiene to nutrition. In 1973, a scientist working for Unilever discovered that when applied topically, vitamin B3 could lighten skin color which began the two-year process of researching skin pigmentation and how to alter it. In 1975, Hindustan Unilever introduced Fair and Lovely to the country of India, the world’s first skin lightening cream. Although its main focus is skin lightening, Fair and Lovely’s overall aim is to provide the necessary tools to nourish and purify one’s skin. The brand advertises that Fair and Lovely will lighten skin, act as a natural sunscreen, and adapts to all types of skin.
Being that this product was the first of its kind to be launched in India, Fair and Lovely grew in popularity. The main targets were the “new age women” who felt the need to be more modernized instead of traditional. As competition increased, Fair and Lovely released more products ranging from Winter Fairness Cream to Foundation to Multi-Vitamin Cream. The products itself are easily available for the low-income families as well as the well-off. Fair and Lovely advertises themselves as being able to give self-confidence as well as hope to the women using the product.
Analysis of the Business Situation
In today’s world, the media imposes beauty standards that females feel they must achieve in order to be “beautiful” and India is no exception. The definition of the ideal Indian woman changes constantly, and what is considered ideal now is not what was considered beautiful a century ago. A century ago, the ideal woman was of medium complexion, and now, the ideal woman is considered to be of light complexion. Colorism is “prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group.” In India, colorism plays a big factor in societal views you and having immigrated from India, I have been exposed to it on numerous occasions. Every time I meet my family members, the backhanded compliment that is always thrown my way is, “You’ve gotten lighter Maneesha, good job!” As I was not exposed to anything different, I have always taken that as a compliment and something to be proud of. Slowly with age and knowledge, I have realized many, if not all, Indians formed the opinion that having fair skin is beautiful and having dark(er) skin makes you inferior.
In India, people measure worth and skin-tone proportionately; the fairer someone’s skin is, the higher their worth is as a person. Today, campaigns are underway that promote self-love and self-worth. A major campaign that could affect the success of Fair and Lovely is the Unfair and Lovely campaign. In March of 2016, the hashtag, #UnfairandLovely, went viral and South Asian women of darker complexion resonated with the phrase. Unfair and Lovely is the anti-colorism campaign that encourages unity and to promote darker-skinned women of all different backgrounds and races. This campaign was created to encourage women to embrace their darker skin, no matter what society views as “beautiful” or “ideal.” Fast forward to 2018, the campaign has over 5,000 Instagram followers and over 1,000 twitter followers. Every day, women all around the world post pictures with the hashtag, #UnfairandLovely, showing its increasing popularity. As the campaign increases in awareness, Fair and Lovely slowly becomes the enemy, seeing as campaigns like this are encouraging stopping the use of products such as skin-lightening creams.
Fair and Lovely has faced its share of negative publicity in regard to their regressive advertisements that focused on the correlation of light skin and marriage. Slowly with time, they began to shy away from the correlation but yet, still continued the notion of promising light skin makes women’s lives better. The company uses famous personalities in their commercials, billboards, etc. to promote their product. The actors/actresses that are being used have fair skin so advertising that the cream made their skin whiter is wrong because Unilever is giving false hope to those spending their hard-earned money on those products. False advertising gives the company a bad reputation and decreases our chances of success.
The primary objective of my plan is to reposition Fair and Lovely in the next year so it can stand out from its competitors and to better our reputation in society. I want to shy away from the past that proposed the idea that by using Fair and Lovely, you will become lighter, find a husband, and live a happy life. By repositioning, positive brand awareness will increase as well as revenue.
Target Market and Intended Positioning
Fair and Lovely has developed products for men and women but the products for the latter generate more profits. Females are more enthusiastic about buying face creams than men are which is why my target market would be women. As the obsession with beauty standards is starting at a much younger age in today’s time, I would target ages 15-45. The product would be targeted towards any social class, ranging from poor to middle class to upper class, to avoid any sort of discrimination. Fair and Lovely makes products in various sizes to account for the population that is of lower social class and cannot afford the bigger sizes.
Skin-lightening is becoming a trend, especially in South Asia, and companies have begun to bank on women who want to lighten their skin. Competition is increasing in the fair skin category and brands such as Fairever and No Marks have entered the market which pose as threats to Fair and Lovely. Currently, Fair and Lovely does not differentiate itself very well from its competitors, which shows me their positioning in the market needs to change. Rather than using only famous personalities, I will involve the help of real people as well, who have used Fair and Lovely. Using real-life customers gives perspective consumers an authentic feel of what our brand is all about.
Marketing Mix (especially Promotion)
India is a very overpopulated country which results in the poverty rate being higher. Pricing is very significant as far the economy and a person’s social status is concerned. When setting prices, we, as a company, need to consider setting appropriate prices that most consumers feel is reasonable for our products. In the past, prices of Fair and Lovely have attracted the middle and upper class of India which needs to change. Seeing as a higher portion of India is middle class, lower middle class, and poor, we need to take into account their income as well as purchasing capabilities while still turning a profit.
With the introduction of companies selling variants of the products that Fair and Lovely sells, Fair and Lovely must focus on its promotional activities to increase positive brand awareness and generate a higher profit margin. Advertisements on television should involve the help of consumers who have bought the product and are happy with the results. Humans are interested in the personal experiences of their peers because it gives them insight into the product and the brand. Advertisements in the electronic media should highlight the functional benefits of the product using less fair celebrities. Instead of using celebrities who are already fair-skinned, they could use celebrities who are darker to share their personal experiences. If they provide pictures of their skin before and after using Fair and Lovely, it shows perspective consumers that our products work and we are a trustworthy brand. As a lot of people are interested in the lives of celebrities, humans will take time out of their day to read about the experiences of said celebrities.
In promoting Fair and Lovely, direct mail as well as personal-selling are the more important aspects. Seeing as we want to target every social class of India, we have to take into account that certain households cannot afford electronic and digital media such as computers and televisions. If we focus the entirety of our promotions on digital and electronic, we will not be able to reach a huge population of India.
...(download the rest of the essay above)