Dove: The Brand That Lit a Spark for Social Change

dove public relations

Many brands have talked about social change, but very few of them built their entire identity around changing the way the culture thinks about an issue. Soap brand Dove has done just that, and, by all accounts, has created an incredible success.

Dove ditched all the conventional wisdom that women’s health and beauty products should be sold with an aspirational mindset: “Show women ultimate beauty, and they will buy your product because they aspire to be the impossible ideal.”

Instead, Dove recruited women of all shapes, sizes, and looks, and put them front and center in all their fresh-faced beauty and light. The smiling, confident women still gave their target market something to aspire to, but it was something within reach. Just be the best version of yourself.

Instead of asking women to “improve” certain aspects of themselves to the point that that became someone else, as many winning ads had done in the past, Dove’s campaign challenged women to discover what they already had within themselves that made them beautiful. That message translated to billboards, magazine spreads, and TV commercials in which happy women just enjoyed being themselves. They laughed, danced, played… sometimes they held up signs with compliments written by other people. Ads announced slogans such as “We are beautiful” and “I choose beautiful.”

The company encouraged “real women” with “real curves” to try their products, because they were “made for you” not “supermodels.” Social media interaction was encouraged with the #ChooseBeautiful and #CampaignForRealBeauty initiatives. These gave people the opportunity to look at a real women and choose to either denigrate or compliment her appearance. It was a bold move, and it’s proven to payoff for the company. Countless consumers now equate Dove with the brand that sees all women as beautiful, as well as worthy of respect and healthy attention.

Now, more than a decade after the campaign launched, though there are critics, most people are still talking fondly about it. Many in the advertising and marketing industries call the campaign “groundbreaking” or “insightful” or “authentic.” Millions of women offer an opinion that matters a lot more, at least to Dove. They called it a campaign whose time had come.

Meanwhile, some who study cultural trends are crediting Dove with not only selling a lot of women on the idea of loving themselves, but of also moving the needle on the American concept of beauty… at least a little bit. According to the researchers, women are beginning to feel better about themselves, prettier in their own skin… and they say Dove has played a role in that shift.

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