The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty has aged 10+ years, but wrinkles don’t scare them.

When it comes to promotional campaigns, companies either sink or swim. There is really no such thing as an “ok” campaign, the public typically remember the “best” and the “worst” advertisements that they encounter. I’m sure you had a few examples pop into your head just by reading that.

One campaign that has topped the best list time and time again since it’s debut in 2004 (yep, that’s right, over 10 years ago) is the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty.

So how did Dove do it?

Dove started by conducting an international study called The Real Truth About Beauty: A Global Report where they questioned “the global understanding of women, beauty and well-being – and the relationship between them”. By doing so, Dove was able to gain insight on their consumers and produce thought provoking advertisements through various mediums that created a conversation by women, for women.

This allowed Dove to perceive themselves as being more than just a “beauty product company”, but rather a brand that cares about the well-being of women and trying to break the stereotypes regarding beauty and all the aspects that encompass it.

Throughout the years, Dove released several phases of their on-going campaign including:

  • Real Curves (2005) – ad that features real women with real curves and real bodies

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Source: @Dove Twitter Account

  • The Low Self-Esteem Fund (2006) – used to educate and inspire girls about a wider definition of beauty

P. S. this commercial aired during the Super Bowl and had over 89 million viewers (!!!!)

Want to help out? You’re only one click away, there are multiple ways to get involved within The Self Esteem Project

  • You’re More Beautiful Than You Think (2013) – how the way others perceive us differs from how we perceive ourselves

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 5.05.15 PM

But where are the products?

In the beginning, criticisms were given stating that the Dove campaign would fail because there was no mention of the physical products they offer in their advertising. But that was just their plan all along. Dove was concentrated on enhancing their brand awareness and community involvement by creating conversations on specific websites that correlated with their ads. This online presence allowed the discussion to be made by the consumers themselves, which led to greater brand understanding and then ultimately, product familiarity.

This is a bold move made by the marketing team; however, their strategy paid off in the end when they were experiencing a growth in sales and revenue across the world. Later on, as social media started to increase, the use of hashtags on Twitter, boards on Pinterest, and daily updates on Facebook were used to implement the Dove Brand throughout the different platforms. Along with a total increase in web traffic.

So I guess the real question is, would product placement in their original ads for this campaign have made a difference? It’s difficult to say. Dove has current smaller ads that are in rotation that do in fact now revolve around certain products. Time will certainly tell the effect that this change in focus could have.

What can you learn from Dove?

First, it is crucial for companies to have a strong grasp and understanding of their target market and the platforms for which they will be reached through when designing their promotional campaigns.

Not every campaign will have extensive global research conducted beforehand that is used as the foundation of the promotions like Dove did. However, know your audience, know your products, and know your market. These three aspects are important for any strong campaign. Not to mention, when working in a global market like Dove was, they had to take cultural norms and religions in account when producing advertisements around the world.

Second, use trends in society are indicators for what to do and what not to do. The focus and vision of your campaign needs to remain constant, yet flexible enough to move with the changing environment and needs of the society.

Dove did this by having numerous campaign phases that were released every couple of years in response to events around the world and the reactions to their previous ads. This was a strategic move on their part, in terms of establishing a long term promotional campaign for years to come.

Dove is not alone….big changes across the industry are happening

In recent years, other fashion and beauty companies around the world have launched campaigns similar to Dove’s to promote the beauty that is within all of us:

  1. Strong, Beautiful, Me Campaign – American Eagle’s Lingerie Brand Aerie (The New York Times sums up what AE is doing nicely here)
  2. Clémentine Desseaux – Christian Louboutin’s new beauty line features a plus-sized model in advertisements, first time in over 23 years since the brand began (Nylon mag gives their opinion on it here)
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