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Men's fairness creams try to walk a fairer path in India

Some brands dropped the role of matchmaker for that of success planner. That is if you wish to succeed in this world, then slap on some product & watch career grow.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Jul 22, 2015, 06.37 PM IST
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When the likes of popular Bollywood actor Kangana Ranaut turn down multi-crore fairness cream endorsement offers, it gives the world more ammunition to fight misplaced mores.
When the likes of popular Bollywood actor Kangana Ranaut turn down multi-crore fairness cream endorsement offers, it gives the world more ammunition to fight misplaced mores.
Fair complexion=male attention followed by multiple marriage proposals. That was the dominant line of communication for purveyors of fairness potions since Eliza Doolittle said, "Oh, wouldn't it be loverly?" The problem with this picture (not 'My Fair Lady') is that it looks grim for all those with skin on the darker side of the shade card.

But over the past few years, women's rights groups, NGOs and people not affiliated with either have strongly condemned brands and endorsers for reinforcing deep rooted beliefs: that fair is necessarily better. Some brands dropped the role of matchmaker for that of success planner. That is if you wish to succeed in this big, bad world, then slap on some product and watch career and fanbase grow. Then we saw advertising that stuck to functional benefits. But when the likes of popular Bollywood actor Kangana Ranaut turn down multi-crore fairness cream endorsement offers, it gives the world more ammunition to fight misplaced mores.

However, fairness cream brands are not going anywhere anytime soon. Emami alone sells 10.5 crore packs of its fairness cream for men annually. And we’re seeing increasing activity in the men’s category where early communication focused on "legitimising" use and providing an air of aspiration. Category creator Emami’s Fair And Handsome dominates the roughly Rs 385 crore men’s fairness category. Hindustan Unilever’s Fair and Lovely Max Fairness comes in a distant second. Garnier, Vaseline and Nivea too have fairness and whitening products on offer. Lending their mugs to these brands are celebrities from Shah Rukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan to Shahid Kapoor and John Abraham. Says Mohan Goenka, director, Emami, "The flak (fairness cream brands receive) is regarding one aspect: dark skin being shown in bad light. FAH as a brand, over a period of time, has never taken that route or portrayed someone as superior. None of our communication talks a language that only a fairer skin person has better opportunities." Leading brands have moved to what seem to be PC marketing planks. For instance, in a 2015 Fair & Lovely Max Fairness cream ad Saif Ali Khan and Yuvraj Singh quarrel over whose skin takes a bigger beating. Khan's advice "face ko attention de," Singh uses the cream, the two go to a swanky party and fangirls go nuts over Yuvi. Much to the gora Nawab's dismay.

Now there's a new entrant in the men's fairness category: UB Fair from Chandigarh-based Torque Pharma, the makers of No Scars. The brand launched last month and since then we've seen the TVC and a series of full page ads with the tagline 'Ab Ladko Ki Nikal Padi' loosely translated 'now guys have it made'. While repeated attempts to contact the company went unanswered, a YouTube video of the launch has the MD of Torque Pharma, PS Chhatwal saying; "We are a responsible pharma company...We will only manufacture products that cater to the poorest and average people." Meanwhile, UB Fair's endorser, Pulkit Samrat , said this in response to a journalist's query about an increasing number of celebrities declining similar endorsement opportunities: "We are making the product for people who want to be fair. Nobody is forcing you."

The ad features a glowing Samrat who recommends the cream to his friend, with a prescription to use it once daily, at night. Which we assume he does. Because he gets the desired "chamak" and before you know it the college's new "star" is surrounded by women who flock to him.

Says Mahuya Chaturvedi, managing partner, Cogito Consulting, "As women, men and markets evolved, brands picked up on it and changed the conversation. In the case of fairness creams from just fair and beauty to confidence. However, men's fairness cream brands' communication need not follow the same path. It can shorten the evolutionary curve right now." And go straight from homo erectus to sapiens perhaps.

UB Fair’s latest TV commercial

Men's fairness creams try to walk a fairer path in India

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