India is much more than Hindu goddesses

I am writing with regard to the most recent cover of Marketing Week (last week). To say I was a little shocked when this landed on my doorstep is an understatement.

In light of recent controversy surrounding certain European newspapers and their depictions of the prophet Mohammed I was stunned that Marketing Week would depict a Hindu goddess with Tesco, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Carrefour, Burberry and B&Q bags hanging from the arms. A Hindu goddess usually has multiple arms (holding swords and/or lotus flowers), a one-legged Yoga stance, a garland and some ornate jewellery – not commercially branded plastic bags. I’m sure you are aware that the majority of India’s population is Hindu, most of which are practising, so this depiction is hardly sensitive.

The design team has hardly been creative. It seems all too easy to use Hindu goddesses and the Taj Mahal as stereotypical images of India. Those with most disposable income are the up-and-coming middle classes and the minority high class, who do not associate “their” India with this imagery, but with Bollywood glamour and aspirations to material assets mainly found in Western cultures. It is apparent from the cover that here in the West we do not even attempt to understand the target market in India, but want to impose our stereotyped views of the archetypal Indian.

I do wonder how the brand/communication managers at Tesco feel about their brand name being used in such a manner? It is irresponsible for a reputable marketing magazine to promote (however latently) that it is OK to use such imagery, but one would hope that marketing teams in the UK and Europe put more thought into their communication. Perhaps an apology in the next Marketing Week is in order? I certainly hope so.

Rupal Kotecha

Research executive

Andrew Irving Associates

London N10

The cover explicitly avoided reference to a Hindu goddess, fictitious or otherwise. It in fact represents three Bharatnatyam classical dancers standing in line – Ed

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