For decades, the media has portrayed the idea of a “beautiful woman” as something completely fake. Whether it’s in a magazine or on a commercial, almost every single one of these women have been photo-shopped or modified to some extent; some a lot more extreme than others. One brand in particular decided to take a stand and do something different, to stand out. That brand is Dove.
This year marks ten years since Dove launched its revolutionary “Campaign for Real Beauty.” Dove was looking for a way to revive its brand, so they had its PR Company, Edelman, conduct a study involving more than 3,000 women in 10 different countries to learn about women’s priorities and interests. After the study reported that only 2 percent of women considered themselves beautiful, the executives at Dove saw a great opportunity. Because they were recently beginning to introduce beauty supplies, other than soap, into their product line, they thought maybe they could start a conversation about beauty.
The aim of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty is to celebrate the natural physical differences personified by all women and to encourage them to have the confidence to be comfortable and happy with themselves. This campaign has won a handful (or two) of ad awards and has sold an enormous amount of product. Sales have increased to $4 billion today from $2.5 billion in its opening campaign year.
Not only has this campaign helped Dove successfully increase its sales (and number of awards), but it has also increased women’s confidence. Research from a Harvard psychologist, Nancy Etcoff, examining the campaign then and now found that more women today describe beauty on a wider variety of qualities outside of just looks, such as confidence.
Let’s take a look at some of the campaign videos…
Real Curves was a pioneer ad from the U.K. in 2003, before the campaign had its name, which showed curvy women in lingerie. At this time, Dove also created a set of billboards with pictures of women asking people to decide whether the women were “wrinkled” or “wonderful,” “fat” or “fit.”
This short video was the campaign’s first big breakthrough. It shows the editing process of the model’s ad on a billboard. This video was the first double Grand Prix winner in the history of the International Advertising Festival in 2007.
This video shows a young girl bombarded by media images seemingly designed to make her insecure about her looks.
Real Beauty Sketches was a viral video in which a police sketch artist contrasted how women describe themselves to the prettier versions described by others. This video won a Titanium Grand Prix.
This is a short film that was displayed at the Sundance Film Festival in which a photographer teaches high-school girls and their moms to boost their confidence and expand their views of what beauty is by taking self-portraits with their phones and posting them on social media.
What has made this campaign so successful?
Dove went beyond just rebranding. Before it launched the campaign, it knew the campaign would be criticized, so it concluded that just talking about these issues wasn’t enough.
“We were thinking, we have to walk the talk,” said Sharon MacLeod, vice president of Unilever North America Personal Care (the company ultimately behind the marketing). “We can’t just be getting people stirred up; awareness and conversation isn’t enough. We actually have to do something to change what’s happening.”
So, Dove created a fund in 2004 to partner with multiple organizations such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Girl Scouts and Girls Inc. to form activities with discussions about online bullying and photography projects capturing the beauty girls see in the world around them.
Dove still feels like it needs to play a role in ongoing discussions about beauty and body image. “We’re going to try to change a generation, MacLeod said. “You have to wait until they grow up to see what happens.”