KARACHI: Sapphire is no stranger to the world of retail in Pakistan. Being one of the leading brands for high street clothing, Sapphire knows its customer base and position in the market quite well. Over the years, the brand has branched out into home accessories, footwear, sleepwear, lingerie and most recently, a make up line. Out of the last category, Sapphire’s foundation range has definitely caught some attention.
For many, the main concern is: who is the range really targeting? With a limited range of seven shades, which are also further divided into two categories (cream and liquid), for a population that consists of multiple ethnic groups, various skin tones, Sapphire did not make a good first impression.
Once the shade range was launched, Sapphire seemed to narrow down their target audience even more for the shades, ranging from Vanilla to Dark Chocolate, which did not cater to all South Asian skin tones. Vanilla, in particular, looks like white nail paint against one’s brown skin.
Dark Chocolate, available in cream form, might be an appropriate fit for brown skin tone but is far from how dark ‘dark chocolate’ actually is. More importantly, it is far from the darkest skin tone that can be found in Pakistan.
Did Sapphire consciously create a make up range that would only cater to a small percentage of its audience, or did the brand want to sell people ‘what they want’ as Pakistan is a country that is deeply affected by the gora complex and lighter skin is a goal that many want to achieve?
“In the first stage of Sapphire Cosmetics, we wanted to introduce a limited range of products to understand consumer response and needs. Therefore, it was of paramount significance that the shades we chose offer more breadth than depth. Hence, we settled for the 7 shades with the highest cumulative audience coverage,” shared Sualiha Nazar, Head of PR and Brand at Sapphire, with Cutacut.
“There is a fringe sentiment, as you mentioned, that most of our initial range of foundations is rather light by South Asian standards. Although we understand why that sentiment would arise, we feel it is misplaced,” elaborated Nazar. “The skin tones and the consumer preferences of Pakistani women vary considerably from the general skin tones and consumer preferences of the countries that surround us, and that’s what we have focused on, because our target audience is Pakistani women.”
But then, is it not the responsibility of brands as influential as Sapphire to teach its consumers to love themselves and be comfortable in their own skin? Did profit stand as a bigger motive for the retail brand, and did they want to capitalize on their consumers’ insecurities? While fairness creams all over the world have been revisiting their brand names and the concept of lighter skin tones being more pleasing to the eyes, why does Sapphire seem to be going in reverse gear?
“Without giving too much away, I can assure you that the next stage of Sapphire Cosmetics will have a wider range of shades and product line. We are listening to what our customers are telling us, and we are excited about how they will react to what we have lined up going forward,” concluded Nazar.
Sapphire may not have been able to please its consumers with its recent choices but can the brand redeem itself with the promised new range? Guess we’ll find out.