Let’s face it. Facebook profile pictures matter almost as much, if not more, than first impressions on first dates. And skincare company Vaseline is banking on that with their new Facebook app and arguably racist marketing campaign, which is stirring up some major controversy.
Vaseline’s Facebook application allow users to lighten the skin color of their profile pictures by five shades. The app targets Indian male consumers as a marketing tool to accompany the launch of the Vaseline brand’s new skin-lightening creams for men. The ad campaign has Bollywood star Shahid Kupur as its brand ambassador and features a picture of his face divided in half, highlighting the lighter and darker differences.
The ad campaign’s message is clear — that lighter skin, even for men, is better. In India, light skin has long been the gold standard for beauty. The standard doesn’t discriminate between men and women and applies to everyone. In a country where often the societal and cultural norm states that fairer skin will enhance one’s chances at success in life and even in finding love, it has become apparent that Indians are literally and physically getting white-washed.
In many South, Southeast and East Asian countries, the physical attribute of “whiteness” has become the beauty standard. Whether it is more Westernized facial features through double-eyelid folds or lighter skin achieved with whitening creams, Asians in their native countries are taking drastic and unnatural measures to achieve such desired outcomes. In the case of Vaseline’s skin-whitening cream ad campaign, its online marketing through the globally accessed social networking site Facebook.com is giving users from all over the world an insight into racism-embedded marketing efforts in India. What may seem culturally relevant and applicable in India today is being criticized as racist marketing according to online users from other parts of the world. Profile pictures are important and it’s understandable that everyone wants to put their best faces forward, but your face — five shades lighter — shouldn’t be the accepted beauty standard.