I am now in the midst of a cold British weather, miles away from the tropical breeze of the Philippines. As I cope with the hiccups of starting a new life in a foreign place, I am reminded of a few lines from a song of Lady Gaga. In her “Million Reasons“ single, the lyrics say, “I bow down to pray. I try to make the worse seem better. Lord, show me the way… I’ve got a hundred million reasons to walk away. But baby, I just need one good one to stay.” In my case, I just need one good reason to come back.
I just left Manila to start my PhD studies in the UK. I temporarily exited my home country with a bittersweet feeling knowing that I will be apart from dear family, friends and students in a challenging sociopolitical situation in the Philippines. At the same time, I am also fortunate to have left, knowing that I can always come back home as I widen my views from a different part of the world.
As I embark on my PhD journey, I will conduct research into what I hope will help marketers become mindful of setting realistic and diverse beauty standards for Filipinas. In the Philippines, there is a strong perception that “white skin is the more beautiful skin” as initially advertised by multinational businesses and was later on adopted by local brands. Globalization has reaped profits for businesses but has also caused ills to consumer behavior that must be cured. According to Michael Czinkota, a professor at Georgetown University and the University of Kent, “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.”
Whitening is one of the most popular beauty benefits female consumers yearn for and that 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, “demand for raw materials and finished products for skin whitening and anti-ageing (glutathione, metathione, tretinoin, etc.) continues to grow.” Domestic manufacturers use whitening ingredients for their cosmetics, toiletries and personal care products 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.cosmeticsdesign-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.”
In supermarket aisles, women shoppers are given the choice to pick what bottle of lotion or pot of cream offers them the most benefit. Oftentimes, choices presented in a commercial transaction are already manufactured ones, including offers that the buyers may not necessarily need without a push from advertising. Business entities have the power to offer not just profitable but also mindful choices for the shoppers’ welfare. I believe that with proper research and collaboration from the businesses and the academe, we can set a compelling tone for Filipinas’ innate and diverse beauty aspirations.
It would take me more or less four years to finish my PhD studies. There are sacrifices, challenges and milestones to be achieved along the way to finish a degree I can add to my Linkedin and my resumes. Alongside the pursuit of certificates and accolades, I want my “doctor” title to be greatly earned. If I can help convince at least one consumer to embrace her own skin or influence a marketer to become mindful of the long-term impact of a product launch and campaign to the already vulnerable esteem of Filipinas, then I have more reasons to come back home to teach, learn and research more toward mindfulness in the marketing field.
Ireene Leoncio is an aspiring global citizen who was born and raised in Manila. She is on a study leave as a faculty member of the Marketing and Advertising Department of the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University. Leoncio is currently a PhD Marketing research student in the United Kingdom and in-training to be a yoga teacher. She earned her master’s degree in Washington D.C. 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.