Once upon a time there was a couple who was going through serious marital discord. Then they discovered a ‘Midas’ cream which made intimate parts of woman’s body fairer. After they used the cream they rediscovered their mojo and lived a blissful life. This is roughly what the new “Intimate Wash” promises. Now this brand is available in market, and if you haven’t you can watch the ad here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8phEyKrxBZM.
India has been obsessed with fair skin, since the time the British ruled us. There is a very large category in India that owes its roots to desire of Indians to have lighter skin. For many years, it was women who wanted to be fair, today in this age of metro sexuality; even men have jumped on to the bandwagon. There is nothing wrong if the consumer desires a fairer skin, after all Afghan Snow promised luminous skin much before Fair and Lovely came on stage. The issue is that brands linked fairness to girls getting good grooms, getting success in life or even getting accepted by their fathers as worthy of affection. In a society which is so polarized against girl child, by doing so the brands have only helped the desire for fair skin become mainstream. In the process the brands have heightened the colour divide. Here was an opportunity where the brands could have fulfilled their greater role towards society by being responsive and sensitive. Instead we have brands that promise fairness of all kinds making us cringe with disgust
Then there is this global car brand that promoted its iconic car in India as the most ‘expensive wedding gift’ for your daughter. The finest silk, the most beautiful jewelry and the most spectacular wedding wouldn’t have made the wedding memorable, if the father didn’t gift his daughter the curvy ‘yellow one’. The print ad promises that it is best gifted as it is ‘fittingly expensive’. In case you haven’t guessed it, here’s where to find them http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8NM3VEMp48
Weddings and dowry are very much a part of popular culture. It is that part of culture that we all can do without. Incidentally dowry is outlawed in India and therefore promoting ‘expensive gift’ for wedding does fall in the grey zone of being illegal. The issue is not of legality, the issue is of sensitivity. By being insensitive to sacred institution of wedding, the brand almost certainly misses being liked or loved. Mercifully, while the whole category of fairness cream sold fair is better, the automobile category did not follow gift an expensive car for dowry as an insight
There also this telecom brand that uses a dog first as cupid, then as voyeur and finally as the guard, to let a young couple meet, serenade and fall in love. The only hitch in the tale is the fact that the young couple is just two preteen children, who may not know the meaning of all the dog does, and definitely leaves the moms queasy. What has a telecom brand got to do with them is another matter of debate altogether.
The usual defense of this too has been that this is happening in the society around us. This is exactly the reason why the brand should have stayed away from giving a romantic angle. The fact is that children make friends easily; they are without prejudices and find joys in new connections. How much warmer the brand would have been if the two preteen children would have been used with sensitivity and care in brand communication
These are not three isolated examples of brands that have bordered on being insensitive. There are a lot of ads today on media which often cross the line of being responsible in order to push a commercial message. The usual defense that these are insights of today may be right, but should the insights be used without being evaluated with sincerity, empathy and responsibility?
Communication has the power to shape society, and we must remember that. Otherwise in these days of connected consumers, the backlash would be hard and fast. These three brands are surely a testimony to that.