Dove campaign reflects a beautiful
by Shirley Lichti for The Record, June 21, 2006
In a world where media depictions of beauty
are based on physical attractiveness and airbrushed images, the
Dove Campaign for Real Beauty is a breath of fresh air. The campaign,
which uses real women not models, was launched by Unilever in Canada
in early 2004.
Based on research that
came out of a global study of 3200 women, Unilever learned
that 76 per cent wished there were more realistic portrayals
of beauty. Only two per cent of women surveyed felt comfortable
calling themselves 'beautiful.'
of Chicago leans against a Dove Beauty billboard for which
she and five other "real" women posed in 2005.
According to Gabriel Verkade, the former
assistant brand manager on the Dove brand, Unilever's approach to
integrated marketing communications is to build a campaign around
one true consumer insight. The insight that sprang from the research
study was that the current definition of beauty was too narrow and
that women wanted it to change.
"The Dove mission is to widen the definition
of beauty," states Verkade. "The Campaign for Real Beauty
is based on a belief that beauty comes in different shapes, sizes,
ages and that real beauty can be genuinely stunning."
Work on the campaign began with Unilever
asking 58 well-known female photographers around the world: "What
do you think defines a beautiful woman?"
Sharon MacLeod, marketing manager for Dove
Canada, says they were overwhelmed with the response, which included
submissions of photos of women and children of all ages, sizes and
An exhibition was launched with 67 of the
photos (including some by Annie Leibovitz) all provided at no charge.
Donations by visitors went to the Dove Self-Esteem Fund, created
to help women and girls celebrate their individual beauty.
As the campaign evolved, the message was
delivered via a variety of marketing communication elements: print
and tv ads, billboards, free-standing inserts, web site, sampling,
direct mail, in-store promotion and public relations.
A good integrated marketing communication
strategy must ensure that each element supports and extends the
same integrated and consistent message that is delivered by all
the other elements in the campaign.
Some people erroneously think that integrated
marketing communications means that you always have to do the same
thing. But MacLeod says, "You do the same thing in a different
way so that you deliver an integrated message."
She adds that you also need to have a consistent
look, feel and tone. "We're very conscious about Dove's tone
of voice," she says. "Dove's brand personality is honest,
straight forward, simple. She talks to you like a friend. There's
never any puffery."
Examine any of the Dove communications and it's easy to see consistency
with predominantly white backgrounds, simple designs and real women.
The overriding message is "Be beautiful, be yourself."
The results of the campaign are impressive
with 100 per cent of the photo exhibit visitors making a link back
to the Dove brand. There were 50,000 hits to www.campaignforrealbeauty.ca
in its first two months. Unilever had to add staff to its call centre
as interest generated in the campaign was the highest in the company's
But more importantly, according to MacLeod,
is that the campaign got people to start talking. It engaged them
in debate, helping to reframe how people think about beauty.
One interactive billboard in downtown Toronto
showed a woman in a black dress asked the question "Fat or
Fab?" People could call a 1-800 number to submit their vote.
In the end, 51 per cent said the woman was fat. Online voting for
the same campaign resulted in 74 per cent saying fab, Verkade notes.
The "Little Girls" TV ad, developed
in Canada, was aired on this year's Superbowl as a way of starting
a dialogue between women and the game's predominantly male audience.
So what's next?
"The campaign is a long term initiative,"
MacLeod says. "It will continue to evolve as we listen to women
and hear what they have to say."
For example, MacLeod says the global study
pointed out how a lack of self-esteem affects young girls and holds
them back from being successful in life. As a result, Dove funded
a new website (www.realme.ca)
developed by the National Eating Disorder Information Centre, designed
for young women to explore issues related to self worth and body
Dove will also host Real Beauty Workshops
for girls aged eight to 12 in major cities across Canada this fall
that are designed to help an adult female role model foster self-esteem
in girls, MacLeod says.
While the campaign has been expensive, the
investment paid off many times over as a result of the publicity
it generated. But the real payoff may come from Dove's role in changing
how my young nieces grow up defining real beauty.