The Dove Campaign- For Real Beauty

By Eshita Yadav

“Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.” It indeed is a simple idea but one that is difficult to swallow when we see the global multi-billion-dollar beauty industry portraying unrealistic beauty standards.

Dove chose to tackle the unrealistic portrayals of beauty and its damaging effects on women after research led to the startling fact that only 2% of women worldwide would choose to describe themselves as beautiful and 90% of women aged between 15 and 64 wanted to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance.

As opposed to other cosmetic companies that focused on changing the physical appearance, Dove positioned itself as a personal care brand that celebrated natural beauty. In fact, Dove soap is actually not soap. It has a different chemical composition that was developed in World War II as a way of cleaning burns and wounds more gently.

In 2004, Dove launched ‘The Dove campaign for Real Beauty’ that embed a social purpose into their core strategy that made a difference in terms of both social impact and business benefit.

Dove adopted a comprehensive approach that included both the broad reach and intensive engagement with people. The first stage of the campaign involved a series of billboard advertisements displaying photographs of regular women. The ads invited onlookers to vote on whether a particular model was, for example, “Grey or Gorgeous” or “Fat or Fab” or “Wrinkled or Wonderful”, with the results of the votes dynamically updated and displayed on the billboard. Following this was the most famous part of the Dove campaign- The firming Ads, that celebrated women’s natural curves. It featured eight real women dressed only in their underwear. This was a big deal 15 years ago and hence gathered immense media response. This was then followed by the Evolution campaign that challenged the beauty industry stereotypes. The Evolution ad, which was a simple 75-second ad showed how a normal woman’s face was transformed through makeup, styling, and digital retouching before displaying it on billboards or television. Dove also started intensive programs with the World Association of Girl Guides and Scouts, and with universities hence outreaching tens of millions of young people around the world and influencing their self-image.

Their strategy not only created measurable social impact but also helped differentiate their product from others, contributed to the brand identity, and drove their sales. Within the first ten years of the campaign, the sales for Dove jumped from $2.5 to $4 billion. Dove bars became the number one preferred soap brand in the U.S. and Unilever’s best selling product company-wide.

How they were able to achieve such numbers?

Dove used two approaches — brand building and sales activation simultaneously. The long-term brand-building mission focused on creating brand equity, future sales, broad reach, emotional Ads, and focusing on the master brand. The short term sales activation focused on current sales, target segments, and a persuasive product line. The combination of the two led to the effectiveness and growth of Dove over the rest of the brands. Moreover, it was the amalgamation of factors like — the CEOs’ support, engaging the culture of the company and employees widely in this campaign, provocative ads, and educational initiatives for beauty equality. The right investments in traditional product promotion, general publicity about the issue of beauty and women’s self-esteem, and on the actual programs that reach millions of people around the world to influence their thinking led to achieving both business and social impact.

The article is written for 180 Degrees Consulting, Delhi Technological University, under the campaign #MarketingForACause. To read more content shared by our other consultants, please check out our LinkedIn page- https://www.linkedin.com/company/180dc-dtu