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01. Is it ethical to sell products that are mildly effective?

Basically business ethics is a professional ethic that examines and explains the
ethical principles and corporate effort made by a firm to comply with the global best practice.
The implication is that businesses try to evaluate the ethical impact of their business practice if it
is in line with the generally accepted business practice standard and socially responsible to the
general public. Cateora et al,(2011) explained that ethical principles provide the framework to
help the marketer or firm distinguish between right and wrong, determine what ought to be done
and properly justify its actions(p. 151).
In this case study Hindustan Lever Ltd in a quest to maintain market leadership
lunched series of adverts that portray women with fairer skin as more attractive, happier ,
intelligent and higher social status. In fact skin color has been a powerful theme in India and
entire Asia with light skin representing positive values for class and beauty. So for HLL to cash
in to this demining cultural practice and churn out those racially polarized advertisement is
unethical and socially irresponsible. So to address the issue of selling products that are mildly
effective I must point out here that it is unethical business practice. However Indian
dermatologists pointed out that fairness products do not actually work because the only reach the
upper layer of the skin and do not affect the production of Melanie. This fact was corroborated
by many people who complained that it does not work. The bottom line is that HLL promotional
strategy for Fair & Lovely is misleading because it does not reflect the feedback from customers.
More importantly, HLL exploitation of cultural norms by embarking on a promotional strategy
that mislead the public that Fair & Lovely will make them accepted within a culture that is
divided by social class is unethical and socially irresponsible.

02. Is it ethical to exploit cultural norms and value to promote a product?

The determination whether exploitation of cultural norms and values to promote a
product is ethical or not is guided by the three ethical principles which provide a framework to
help a business or market distinguish between right and wrong, determine what ought to be done
and properly justify such actions (Cateora et al., 2011, p. 151). These principles are:

Utilitarian ethics this helps to answer the question; does the action optimize the

common good or benefits of all constituencies? And who are the pertinent constituencies?
Rights of the parties- this probe into the question; does the action respect the rights of

the individuals involved?

Justice or fairness- this answers the question; does the action respect the canons of
justice or fairness to all parties involved? (Cateora et al., 2011, p.151).

Using these three basic ethical principles to assess how ethical it is to exploit cultural norms and
values to promote a product I will say that if cultural norms and values are exploited to promote
a product in a socially responsible and positive manner is ethical but in the case of Hindustan
Lever Ltd I will say is not ethical. So HLLs huge series of campaign that centered on the fair
girl gets the mens attention theme is unethical. On the other CavenKares Fairever counter
promotional strategy was more positive and socially responsible. Technically speaking that is an
ethical exploitation of cultural norms and values. HLL is not ethical in its approach but I believe
CavinKare ltd appeared to be ethical and socially responsible in its own approach.

3. Is the advertisement of Fair & Lovely demeaning to women, or is promoting fairness

cream in a way not too dissimilar from how most cosmetics are promoted?
It is quite obvious that the advertisement of Fair & Lovely demeaned women.
Hindustan Lever Ltd failed to understand the dynamics of cultural imperatives. Hindustan Lever
would have reassessed the cultural effectiveness and acceptance of its advertisements when it
received initial complaint from AIWDA to see ways it can adjust its promotional strategy either
to avoid or to adapt its advertisement to a more culturally acceptable promotion strategy. The
underlying reason is that HLL did not have any cultural elective or exclusive rights not to
consider the basic business customs in its environment. So, to promote fairness cream (Fair &
Lovely) with such culturally unfit advertisement is not only unethical but also socially
irresponsible. Cateora et al. (2011), pointed out that a marketer must appreciate the nuance of
cultural imperatives, Cultural electives and cultural exclusives (p. 127). However, the
advertisements portrayed sons preference, racism and insult to the working women. These tend
to demean average Indian women who are dark skinned. So the implication is that if a woman is
dark skinned and do not use Fair & Lovely that such woman is not beautiful, confident and will
not have a good career. That is demeaning and unethical because the product is incapable of
changing a persons racial background or significantly enhances physical appearance. It must be
pointed out here that HLL advertisements were not only unethical but illegal because it violates
the provisions of the Indian Cable and Network Acts of 1995 which prohibits adverts that derides
any race, color, caste, creed and nationality and emphasize women as passive, submissive
qualities and encourage them to play subordinate secondary roles in family and society.

4. Will HLLs Fair &Lovely Foundation be enough to counter charges made by AIDWA?
The establishment of Fair& Lovely foundation was a right step in a right direction
but only that as an action to correct the damage to HLL corporate image and the negative impact
to the women segment of the Indian society is not enough. However pulling off those unethical
advertisements off air; sponsoring career fairs in over 20 cities; offering counseling in over 110
career areas and supporting 100 rural scholarships for women on vocational programs helped to

reposition Hindustan Lever Ltd as a socially responsible corporate organization. The

establishment of the foundation and withdrawal of the unethical adverts pushed up Fair &Lovely
annual sales growth between 15% to 20% while expanding the market share of skincare product
market by 42.7%. I believe to counter the charges of unethical advertisement leveled by AIDWA,
Hindustan Lever Ltd needs to sustain the foundation to continue to discharge the corporate social
responsibilities that informed its establishment.

Behaving in an ethically and socially

responsible way should be the hallmark of every business entitys behavior, domestic or
international (Cateora et al., 2011). However HLL should innovate new promotional strategy that
will align positively with the Indian culture.
5. In light of AIDWA charges, how would you suggest Fair & Lovely promotes its products?
Would your response be different if Forever continues to use fairness as a theme of its
The most important thing is for HLL to re-evaluate the cultural impact of its
advertisement theme as regards to the complaint and charges level against it by AIDWA.
Basically HLL need to answer three significant questions in respect to the issues raised by
AIDWA. These questions include the following:

Does the Fair & Lovely advertisement portray racism?

Does the advertisement promote son preference?
Does the advertisement insult the working women?

The answers to these pertinent questions will go a long way to helping the management of HLL
to articulate an advertisement campaign that will adapt to the cultural norms of the Indian society
and project the Fair & Lovely in a more positive manner that will be more acceptable to all
segments of the society. HLL management should go back to the drawing board and map out
new promotional strategy that is ethical and acceptable by the Indian society taken into

cognizance the cultural imperatives, electives and exclusive and adapt them positively to the
Indian culture. The new promotional strategy should not denigrate women but should show
positive virtues of womanhood. I believe this strategy will not only be ethical but will drive up
Fair & Lovely sales. Continued honoring of women across India that have achieved greatness
and set good example for others to follow will help HLL present Fair & Lovely on a right
cultural perspective to the Indian society which may be more appealing to women than a make
believe advertisement. The bottom-line is that fairness as a theme should be discontinued and
replaced with something that reflects good living, for example confidence.

6. Propose a promotion/marketing program that will counter all the argument and charges
against Fair & Lovely and be an effective program?
To develop an effective promotion/marketing program that will counter all the
arguments and charges against Fair & Lovely I will understudy this charges and arguments by
conducting a thorough research and that will proffer solutions to address the issues. I will use the
three ethical principles as a framework to determine what was wrong with the old promotion
strategy and also determine what ought to be done. The three ethical principles include
The utilitarian ethics: this probes into the cause of the problem and indentify the
principle subject of the problem by asking the questions does the action optimize the
common good or benefits of all the constituencies? And who are the pertinent
Rights of the parties: This try to find out if the rights of the parties are respected by
asking the question does the action respect the rights of individuals involved?
Justice and fairness: this principle seeks to find out if the canons of justice or fairness to
all is respected (Cateora et al., 2011).
The above principles will be a guide to develop an effective program to promote Fair & Lovely

I will start by sustaining the activities of the Fair & Lovely Foundation and
possibly expand the Foundations activities to incorporate enlightenment that will educate
women on the right approach and positive methods of enhancing their looks and beauty by using
Fair & Lovely. The theme of the promotional campaign will be changed from fairness to
confidence which I believe will be more cultural appealing and ethical. I will like HLL to
formulate promotional strategies that will project Fair & Lovely as a product that can give a
woman confidence to aspire to greatness and good living, promoting possibly smooth skin
instead of skin color. The focus will shift from portraying Fairness as beautiful to smoothness
of skin irrespective of color by featuring both dark skinned and fair skinned women without
particular preference to any of them to reflect the beauty in diversity.
7. Now that a male market for fairness cream exist, is the strength of AIDWAs argument
The existence of male market for fairness should not diminish the strength of
AIDWAs argument because the primary aim of AIDWA is to ensure that HLL apply ethical
principles and generally growing cultural trends to promote its products responsibly. Like Fair &
Lovely, HLL should remove fairness as the theme to promote their Fair & Handsome. The
company should even repackage and rebrand these products as Smooth & Lovely for Fair &
Lovely and Fresh & Handsome for the Fair & Handsome respectively. This will change the
entire old perception of the brands and reposition these products among both fair and dark
skinned people in India in a more ethical manner.

8. Comment on using Shakti Ammas to introduce fairness cream to masses in the light
of AIDWAs charges?

Well Shakti Ammas is an ancient Indian classification of social status based on the
color of the skin. This system regarded whiteness as higher status and positive value while dark
as lower status. This is because Brahmins, the priestly caste at the top of the hierarchy stay
indoors poring over books while the under caste at bottom of the social ladder are the dark
people because the primarily work under the sun. The implication is that skin color is closely
identified with caste and is laden with symbolism. This became cultural norm over time. Even
this Shakti Ammas in itself is not ethical because it insult some of the Indian gods like Krishna
and other dark Hindu gods.
In the past the preference of lighter skin has been very important to Indian
womens culture but shift in cultural trend has changed that perception. This is manifested in the
shrinking number of men and women in India who think lighter skin is beautiful. Large part of
globalization process by firms is to understand the cultural trend and the perception of the market
from the perspective of international marketing which transcends across continents. The
knowledge of culture is important in marketing. However there are two types of knowledge
factual and interpretive knowledge (Cateora et al., 2011). Factual knowledge is more obvious
and can be learnt while interpretive is about acknowledging and accepting different cultural traits
and patterns (i.e. acculturation).
HLL should conduct research on current cultural trend and modern role of women
instead of exploiting out-date and controversial cultural norms that are misfit to the present
cultural environment. I believe HLL should have not used Shakti Ammas in the first place but
would have conducted research that would have revealed the present cultural trend which is in
line with AIDWA views.