“We Make Change Work For Women.” This was the theme of the 2017 National Women’s Month Celebration, held last month, during which the government encouraged citizens to ignite change by highlighting the welfare and involvement of Filipinas in various facets of society.
The commercial sector latched on to the annual month-long celebrations to advance business goals. March offered an opportunity for brands to influence purchase attributions locally and globally. After all, the women’s market is universally present and there are shared aspirations on beauty uniting female consumers anywhere in the world.
The beauty market is sizeable. Whitening is one of the most popular beauty benefits female consumers yearn for, and businesses capitalize on, in the Philippines and abroad. For Philippine importers, whitening products are an enormous business. According to the 2015 Cosmetics & Toiletries Market Overview for the Philippines, “the demand for raw materials and finished products for skin whitening and anti-ageing (glutathione, metathione, tretinoin, etc.) continues to grow.” Domestic manufacturers of cosmetics, toiletries and personal care products use whitening ingredients to satisfy market demand. Many companies even include a whitening component in their entire product lines—from soaps and moisturizers to toners and UV-protection products.
Andrew McDougall of www.cosmetics design-asia.com noted that skin lightening has long been a trend in Asia and is set to continue boosting the global market in the next five years. He said the global market for skin lighteners is “projected to reach $19.8 billion by 2018.”
Is the trend on consumption of whitening products ever going to change? Is it possible for manufacturers to out-voice the whitening market with compelling offerings and aspirational campaigns to empower consumers with the acceptance of a non-altered state in pursuit of beauty?
Should marketers not look at themselves in the mirror first to modify their own positioning flaws? Should they continue to use a “maximizing-profit” lens to extract money from women consumers who feel compelled to change their natural state by buying a cream, a pill, a soap or a potion because of companies’ aggressive marketing efforts?
There might be a need to cure the beauty standard dents that marketers have caused by charging their target consumers more for an additional whitening benefit. Accepting misdeeds and acting on them could open a different trajectory on how marketers can sell more to women. It may take investment and time to cure and make change happen. There is a related thought worth considering on “curative international marketing,” according to Michael Czinkota, a professor at Georgetown University and the University of Kent. He said that “curative international marketing accepts responsibility for problems that marketing has caused. It then uses marketing’s capabilities to set things right and to increase the well being of the individual and society on a global level.”
In a recent encounter during a trip in Europe, I was teasingly referred to by a local friend as a “damaged goods;” harboring from the perspective of my home country, the Philippines. My friend’s remark was brought about by my lack of interest to be whiter. As we talked about marketing, culture and norms, we drew upon our travel observations. I grew up in the East and explored the West. For him, it was the other way around. During our exchange, I said; “Yes, I am a damaged goods because, to begin with, perfect goods don’t exist, but sometimes our online-filtered and capitalist-driven world makes us believe there is one.”
Ireene Leoncio is an aspiring global citizen who was born and raised in Manila. She is faculty member of the Marketing and Advertising Department of the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University. Leoncio earned her master’s degree in Washington D.C. and is an incoming PhD Marketing research student in the United Kingdom. She worked for multinational companies managing global brands in Manila, New York City and the San Francisco Bay area. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.