In my last few posts, I have taken you through different concepts that depict cultural supremacy, how a culture manages to dominate, how the status quo is sometimes overthrown, altogether, a journey of people and their folkways. However, I had only spoken theoretically so long, and hence, this post will see an application to an extent of those concepts, in business.
In relation to our discussion of value judgements, we can conclude that in India, as is the case with several tropical countries and former colonies, there is an innate aspiration for a lighter skin tone. Not only because we, as a people, were denounced and dehumanised for long by colonists who were fairer, but also because of the “varna” system that fully characterised Indian society long before the colonists’ arrival. It is no surprise therefore, for the majority, to long for a fair skin tone in order to move up the social and economic ladder. This conditioning was so deep rooted, influencing everyone’s lived experiences for centuries, that it still continues to be a major part of our psyche. However, today, several sections of the population, especially the young and the urban, the exposed and the “woke”, are seen to uphold the idea that “brown is beautiful” (not an absolute term with regard to colour, but inclusive of all dark skin tones), and are gradually denouncing the status quo and creating an identity for themselves that transcends skin colour or other traditionally discriminating parameters. This is now a emerging urban subculture, serving as a reference group for many to emulate and derive support.
In relation to this, a couple of brands in India that cater to beautification can be looked at. A brand that has been a household name for generations for many, and has been in the recent news more than ever before, is Glow and Lovely, formerly known as Fair and Lovely. It still sparks familiarity and an implicit meaning across demographic categories. For decades, Fair and Lovely managed to tap into the collective psyche that upheld, and still upholds fair complexions, relating the same to various successes in life. The representation of this brand in popular media has also been straightforward, emerging from this belief- continual use of this product would make someone fairer by several shades, leading to success in finding a job, a suitable husband, and so on. It is interesting to note that as the years passed, Fair and Lovely was increasingly purchased by women from tier II and III cities as against metros, especially if they were from a lower economic group. Does this make you think why? Maybe because they lack financial independence and the subsequent confidence that comes with it. They also lack the media exposure that counters such beliefs, and are exposed to information that perpetuate it. Their self efficacy or self worth is therefore measured by their complexion. This isn’t as simplistic as it sounds, however. There are several confounding variables at play, from patriarchy, to popular understanding of beauty, available cultural and social capital, the environment inhabited and so on.
On the other hand, it is not unnatural to see a new makeup brand come up, that only uses Instagram and other social media channels that are accessible only by a small privileged section of the society; to advertise their brand philosophy of conceptualising and producing makeup that can be worn by every individual, irrespective of their complexion. That brand is, Fae Beauty. Their representation is not only reflective of their ideal, but also of the emerging psyche of these particular sections who believe that beauty or self worth transcends skin tones. Their models aren’t fair, they do not flaunt flawless skin either. Neither are all of them youthful. Fae Beauty also claims to keep all their photoshoots unedited, in an industry which is infamous for creating unrealistic beauty standards through such touch-ups.
I have elucidated two examples relating them to mainstream culture and an emerging culture along with the brands’ demographic, psychographic and geographic segmentation. Now, I would like to leave you with a few thoughts, and certainly love to start a conversation on the same! How long does a peripheral culture remain in the periphery in today’s world, with organizations and brands catching on with trends and ideologies faster than ever before, monetising the same? Are these “cult”ures ever going to be successful in influencing the larger majority who think differently from them, that different often being harmful, or are they going to become a mainstream culture in themselves, which is starkly different from cultures outside their habitat? Do let me know what you think, and stay tuned for more!
This post has solely been written to elucidate a perspective and to not promote any business/ organisation and neither to dismiss any. Some of the data mentioned here has been sourced from the Internet, such as https://www.slideshare.net/nehaborkar39/fair-lovely If you feel the claims are inconsistent with available data, do drop a comment!