Learn more about Sustainable Brands 2015 San Diego

branded beauty

Vaseline Facebook Whitening App Makes America See Red

Posted by Abe Sauer on July 14, 2010 06:15 PM

"One time a thing occurred to me. What's real, and what's for sale?" That's the opening line from the rock band Stone Temple Pilots' song Vasoline. But it works nearly as well as a line of questioning regarding the Vaseline brand's latest social marketing campaign in India: A Facebook application inviting Facebookers to lighten their skin.

The Vaseline Men Be Prepared page (with about 550 "fans" so far), offers users an avatar-tweaking application to create a fairer-skinned and spotless profile picture. The example features Vaseline spokesman Shahid Kapur, with the Bollywood heartthrob's face divided into dark and light halves with the tagline, "People see your face first."

According to reports, the app has been a hit, which comes as no surprise. The men's skin-lightening market in India is exploding, after decades of whitening products primarily targeting women. The category took off in 2005, when Emami introduced a male-targeted cream, and a cavalcade of brands followed.

Not surprisingly, some are upset. Gawker Media-owned Jezebel, with its characteristic nuance, called it "crowdsourcing racism." Besides the product targeting a single race, and thus impossibly racist, Jezebel's outrage has been shared around Western blogs, with very few attempts to understand all the complex elements of the situations.

Much ado about nothing? Maybe. But regardless of differing cultural norms in far off markets, Vaseline marketers must be aware that this is the age of the Internet, and reaction to a product on the shelf in India is not the same reaction that product will get on a consumer site.

Meanwhile, Vaseline (ahem) faces a brand challenge: a happy target market in-country, a rattled consumer base beyond its borders. It also comes at a time when Facebook is making inroads in India, opening its first office in the country as it looks to boost its growth there.

More about: , , ,


Daryl Forkell United States says:

Wow, "fair and handsome" huh? Thank you for reporting on this, Abe. I'm thankful for the "age of the Internet" where consumers can weigh in on brand marketing from a global perspective. People can try to soften this by saying cultural norms differ between East and West, but how much so? It fascinates me that lighter skin has been deified for centuries. When, by nature, less pigmentation makes skin more vulnerable to sun damage and is therefore less "fit" than dark skin. Perhaps that is exactly the issue -- light-skinned people know innately that they are physiologically inferior and therefore lean into psychological manipulation to ensure their survival.

(btw, I'm naturally very fair skinned and, yes, I feel somewhat burdened by inheriting that.)

July 15, 2010 09:36 AM #

مقالات تقنية Albania says:

One way to improve fitness and improve your game at the same time is to do cricket drills. If your a bowler practice bowling and if your a batter practice bowling.

July 15, 2010 11:26 AM #

Sanjay Mendis Singapore says:

Actually Daryl that's a great point. I have tanned skinned and from Sri Lanka and even here fair is considered more attractive. There might be a super opportunity to launch a dark skinned campaign for a brand, can you imaging the evangelist one can engage?

July 16, 2010 02:47 AM #

Sandeep U.A.E. says:

CORRECTION:  Most people joining the facebook app, are joining just to criticize it and to rate it POOR!!! Smile  It has the highest poor rating for any facebook app ever!! Smile

July 20, 2010 05:18 PM #

A Sauer United States says:

That has to be a recent thing. It has over double the "fans" now as when I wrote this so I think word has gotten out.

July 20, 2010 10:11 PM #

Comments are closed

elsewhere on brandchannel

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
brandcameo2014 Product Placement Awards
Apple loses its crown to a new #1
Coca-ColaIt's the Journey That Matters:
Coca-Cola Opens Up With Story-Based Web Refresh
debateJoin the Debate
Is product placement a waste of money?
Arthur Chinski and Joshua Mizrahi
Model Behavior? Brands Beware
U.S. Legal Changes Impact Use of Brand Ambassadors
paperCorporate Citizenship in Canada
Fresh thinking from Interbrand
Sheryl Connelly
Sheryl Connelly

Meet Ford's Resident Futurist
Highlighting the Present—and Future—of Branding in Latin America and Iberia