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Dove is a personal care brand owned by Unilever originating in the United Kingdom, whose products are sold in more than 80 countries and are offered for both women and men.
The company was slow to take off with a lack of global identity and a decentralized product. There wasn't much of a corporate strategy either, and the few products that the company released didn't rank high among competitors.
However, by the 1970s, Dove’s popularity as a gentle beauty bar had risen. It was marketed as a skincare bar containing 25% cleansing cream.
By the early 1990s, the brand had grown to be worth $200 million and is estimated to be nearly $4 billion dollars today. Their success is largely attributed to their brand building which focuses greatly on empowering women.
This was how they did it:
In 2004, Unilever launched the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty that purports to be "an agent of change to educate and inspire girls on a wider definition of beauty and to make them feel more confident about themselves".
The first stage of the campaign centred on a series of billboard advertisements showcasing photographs of regular women in place of professional models. The ads invited passers-by to vote on whether a particular model was, for example, "Fat or Fab" or "Wrinkled or Wonderful", with the results of the votes dynamically updated and displayed on the billboard itself.
The Real Beauty campaign resonates at several levels. It connects with an issue of deep concern within the customer base, their appearance and self-confidence. Additionally it addresses the insecurity and self-esteem issues of young women to which customers could empathize. It strikes a chord. It provides a higher purpose to the brand and a shared interest with customers.
Dove inspires customers to feel good about the way they are. And when people feel good about something, they share.
Read next: Examples of emotional marketing
Everywhere we look, we are surrounded with ads trying to tell us that there are things about our bodies we need to change.
Dove created an Ad Makeover interactive campaign that puts women in charge of advertisements. The Ad Makeover is a Facebook-based venture that allows women to replace depressing advertisements, regarding things such as weight loss and cosmetic surgery with one of eight feel-good messages designed by Dove.
A spokesperson for the campaign reveals that they “bought up a lot of popular search-terms, that negative advertisers use for their campaigns.”
Search terms like:
“And then we just overbid against these words – so in the time of the campaign, none of the negative ads were shown to people, because instead of them there were positive Dove ads,” says the spokesperson.
Users who opt into the app can create their own uplifting images, for which Dove then essentially purchases ad space for, thus leaving less room for others who have less encouraging messages. These ads can then be shared with Facebook friends, further spreading the message of self-love and acceptance.
The statistics bear witness to its success: 171 million banners with negative messages were displaced and 5.5 million unique women reached. Over 50% of the women who visited Dove Ad Makeover created a message, and 82% of the ads seen were created by friends of the viewer.
But most importantly, 71% of the women polled said that they felt more beautiful.
And that is how you go viral.
Since 2002, Dove has been collaborating with Girl Scouts of the USA to promote self-esteem and leadership programming among tween and teenage girls with programs such as uniquely ME! and It's Your Story – Tell It! An annual Dove Self-Esteem Weekend, started in 2010, aims to inspire moms and mentors to talk to girls in their lives about beauty, confidence and self-esteem supported by discussion aids.
Events for this weekend might be as simple as sending a word of encouragement to a girl or as elaborate as setting up a local event supporting self-esteem education. The idea is to get Girl Scouts nationwide together to inspire the next generation of female leaders, while celebrating the beauty in themselves and others with girls and women everywhere.
Through this collaboration, Dove is able to increase their brand reach at the same time creating positive change in the lives of young girls.
In an industry that profits from encouraging women to fix their “flaws”, Dove stands out with its marketing strategy that boldly addresses the touchy issue of low self-esteem.
Dove understands that not every woman might want fairer skin, or firmer thighs or any of the other promises that the skincare industry claims of their products, and instead comes up with a strategy that is relatable to all women.
Dove understands that the same insecurity plagues their women customers and instead of trying to sell them products to make them feel better, Dove wins favor by empowering these women instead. While their products seem secondary compared to their message, Dove achieves tremendous reach via their empathetic branding.