Dove Realism

Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign has been going for a couple of years now and they just released this “Dove Film” called Evolution. You can see it on their site but it’s actually better to watch on YouTube as you can control the movie and see it larger. Who knows whether they made it available themselves on YouTube (smart) or whether someone else liked it so much they put it there independently (good sign), but either way it’s been getting quite a bit of spread in the blogosphere.

For anyone who’s had any contact with advertising, what the movie shows is not really new, but it does make it particularly dramatic through a clear before/after time-lapse stream.

Dove is owned by Unilever, which, unlike Proctor and Gamble, does not have any conventional beauty brands under its umbrella. So Dove is not cannibalizing any sales of other corporate relatives. This gives them a fair amount of elbow room. What I find interesting about the campaign is:

  • It has successfully moved Dove from a low-end, over-perfumed and price-focused product to one that has more premium aspirations. It’s not exactly high end yet, but it comes across as at least on a par with, say, Oil of Olay, which itself has been moving upward in the last few years. This is hard work that doesn’t often succeed, so kudos to them for making it happen.
  • It has found a white-space in the competition of a message acknowledging that a significant portion of women are fed up with the unrealistic expectations and visions of beauty that are foisted on the public from all angles.
  • Dove has expanded explicitly from appearance to self-esteem, rather than keeping it an implicit link, but doing so in a way that is more affirming than guilt-inducing
  • The campaign lives and dies by its perceived authenticity - as soon as they appear to be cynically exploitating the seam of emotions they have tapped into, the game will be over. So far they seem to be managing that well, it will be interesting to see how long they can keep it up. And if they decide to switch campaign messages in another year or two, will the “real beauties” they’ve been appealing to feel betrayed? This article at Brandchannel argues that if Dove really wants to take a leadership position then they will need to stay this for the long haul or they risk a backlash such as that suffered by Benetton when it was seen as flipping from compassionate to exploitative in its advertising.