Dove soap launched an ad campaign that ostensibly showed 'real' women and called it 'The Campaign for Real Beauty'. It has been a doozy. Videos in the campaign have been amongst the most watched online. Not bad for a brand when the competition from kids biting other kid's fingers and kittens is so strong.
The premise that all women are beautiful was a nice position for the brand to take - after all, they make skin cleaning products - the imperative to claim youth and beauty properties is low, but the desire to tap into that category (with all of its arcane practices) is high.
It makes sense that a woman who will pay more for cosmetic beauty is going to have anxiety about both her looks and the societal and self-imposed demands that are made on her psyche and discretionary income. That's a great position for Dove - soap is a low value commodity but cleansing the soul has conquered continents and built cathedrals with cheap altar wine and wafers. So Dove becomes a Remora brand - parasitically picking up the scraps from the predator category with impunity.
The latest in their campaign shows women participating in a clinical trial for a beauty patch. Wearing the patch will make them more beautiful suggests the psychologist. Sure enough, as we follow the thoughts of the women who participate in the study, their anxieties and insecurities about their looks are revealed in confessional interviews. At the end of the study all is revealed to the participants. The patches were nothing but placebo. The feelings that some women felt of greater confidence in their appearance came from 'within'.
Whether or not the cosmetics industry is a sham is not for me to say, Charles Revson, founder of Revlon said: "In the factory we make cosmetics; in the drugstore we sell hope." So there is hardly any deception going on that people don't willingly participate in.
The difficulty that Dove seems to be having with this iteration of their campaign is that it is absurd and self referencing. It comes across more like a contrived episode of The Office that something 'real'. So the bubble is burst.
Time magazine remarked: "… Dove has failed in its latest Real Beauty iteration. While I believe that I would hide from a camera on a bad hair day, and I believe that I would accentuate the size of my nose to a forensic artist who asked me to describe myself, I just can’t believe the thinly-veiled marketing ruse that there is a patch that can make us more beautiful. It makes women seem too gullible, too desperate, and overall helpless against the all-knowing master manipulators at Unilever."
When a campaign idea gets bigger the membrane gets thinner. When you launch an idea 'under the radar' consumers will engage with it for its novelty and freshness. When it matures and becomes a convention in the category the guerrilla tactics that were used to storm the citadel don't work so well when the castle is now yours to keep . Unilever's Dove brand is mammoth - it is tricky to maintain the pretence that it is an underdog or David in a Goliath faceoff.
Go for constant iteration of the idea - let it evolve by degrees, rather than creating blockbuster sequels. When expectation is high, there's further to fall.
What the media are saying
Time magazine's story
"Unilever has basically turned Dove into a brand that's more associated with empowerment than its own products. That in itself is far more impressive than the fake magic properties of RB-X, which again, is not for sale – though Dove has a bevy of other products for you to choose from instead." - Jezebel
This blog is a notepad of contemporaneous and sometimes extemporaneous thoughts about creativity, strategy and ideas.