Answering the Call for Caste-Inclusive Marketing in India

Answering the Call for Caste-Inclusive Marketing in India
Answering the Call for Caste-Inclusive Marketing in India
Moulika Mandal and Dhairya Bansal
The Power of Advertising Beyond Commerce
Advertising and marketing strategies transcend their commercial roles; they have the power to influence and redefine societal perspectives. Beyond selling products, they can serve as catalysts for change, spotlighting important social issues, promoting inclusivity, and fostering empathy. Avi Dan once said, ‘Advertising can move public opinion faster and farther than any other influencing factor.’ An axiom followed in the marketing world: ‘Advertising serves as a reflection of society.’ Fairness creams have long pushed the misleading narrative that our skin tone determines our success in life. Many of us, unfortunately, fell into the trap of this skewed mindset, influenced by broader issues of white supremacy. These creams preyed on our emotions and intensified the societal stigmas associated with darker skin, often shaking our confidence and self-worth. The fact that the India Fairness Cream and Bleach Market Outlook report for 2027-28 predicts nearly 6% growth is a testament to their influence. It’s worth pondering whether colonial-era preferences for lighter skin have ingrained deep-seated biases in our society. Such manipulations have ignited debates on whether historical biases have fostered systematic oppression.
The Unresolved Issues: Classism and Casteism
Despite the progress, advertisements perpetuate classist and casteist undertones in society by reinforcing stereotypes and discriminating based on caste, contributing to social divisions and inequalities. We live in 2023, only to be confronted by an advertisement where individuals are reprehensibly equated to trash. Also, that person plays a character treated as an ‘avarna’ in a film. And what is more striking about this ad is that it comes from an Indian-origin unicorn startup. Unfortunately, this is not something that can only be imagined. Another advertisement promoted their kitchen appliances by implying they were better than a maid’s ‘unhygienic’ hands, hinting at casteist undertones. While public uproar leads to apologies and retractions of such advertisements, it is worth questioning if these actions adequately address the core issue. One must wonder that despite a growing conscience for equitable representation, advertisers continue to shy away from making caste-inclusive advertisements. The marketing industry lacks representation from marginalised sections to become a part of curation and influence decision-making. Whether it is their intention or not, whether a counterargument or reasoning could be given to justify the actions, the damage done by these ads is profound. They resurface the existing caste inequalities, a staple in our social system. It adds to the current oppression, especially because it comes with the anguish of being oppressed through a medium in an individual’s private space.
The Way Forward: Inclusive Representation
Advertising has this uncanny ability to spot where society is headed, often being the nudge we need to move faster. When it comes to addressing caste biases, it’s more than just sparking a dialogue; it’s about keeping that conversation alive, loud, and straightforward. A thoughtfully crafted ad can make us rethink, question our preconceived notions, and inspire change. These aren’t just commercials; they’re stories with the power to shape our collective soul. It’s high time the world of advertising taps into this, reflecting who we are and the better versions of ourselves we aspire to be. In conclusion, the onus lies with advertisers and marketers to redefine narratives. It’s high time the industry realised its powerful role in shaping societal norms and wielded it responsibly.
Authors biography:
Moulika Mandal, Assistant Professor-Psychology at FLAME University
Dhairya Bansal, 3rd year Psychology major with minor in Advertising and Branding, FLAME University