In this report the Dove brand’s evolution will be mapped. The brand is one of Unilever’s most sought after one with annual sales in excess of $2 million selling in more than 80 different countries around the globe. The brand is the world’s number one cleansing brand in the category of health and beauty. Dove has been uniquely positioned in the eyes of the consumers as being more than just soap. It has to its history numerous eye catching advertisement campaigns which go further than just to inform the customers about the brand, by delving in a lot of social related issues about women and the skewed perception of beauty. Such uniqueness sets the brand apart from its competitors and has made the brand fetch its market share.
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Unilever is a global leader in the realm of consumer goods. The company was formed in 1930 with the merger of the UK based Lever brothers with a Dutch Margarine Unie. In the initial phases the company emphasized on the palm oil for the soaps and other foodstuff but since 1980s shifted the focus as its dependence on palm oil shrunk. By this time, the multinational company had increased its market share to include all of the continents with its particular strength in Asia, Latin America and Africa.
Its vast product line includes the notable brands of Knorr, Lux, Dove, Sunsilk, Blue Band, Ben and Jerry’s, Lipton, Surf, Omo to name a few each with annual revenues of over $ 1 billion globally.
Unilever’s change in Strategic Brands Strategies’
The company had operated on the concepts of global decentralization which paid dividends as each region or country had distinct cultural nuances and sensibilities, so to incorporate them in a Unilever brand was a recipe to success. Each brand manager was responsible to his brand and had independence with regards to his brand’s decisions in the country the company operated in. Though the company had successes but a source of concern erupted as the company’s same brand was being sold with different names in different countries around the globe. The exercise was not contributing to a globally united identity of Unilever’s brands which the company set about in putting it right. So in 2000, the company embarked on a major overhaul of the company’s global brands. It shrunk its product range to a quarter, keeping only those brands on its profile which had global identities and those that could be worked upon. It was named “Path to Growth”, where the master brands were to serve as umbrella identities for the company. This strategic initiative would set forth a common identity for the Unilever brands all across the globe with the same names and logos of the brands.
Unilever and Procter & Gamble have been following the same marketing mechanism known as brand management system. The two giants have several brands even in the same category. So each brand manager has to work differently looking after his own brand the way he deems fit with assistants to help them
But following the focus towards building global brands, the company set about changing this brand management system to account for the brand’s transition into future. There were two components of the brands: brand building and brand development.
Brand development is usually dictated by the higher management and is central and global in nature. It is supposed to take into account the long-term future of the brand and so is strategic in nature. It devises the brand plans and carves out the advertising strategy and what should the brand be.
Brand building is decentralized in nature as each region or country for that matter works independently to tailor the brand according to the needs of the people in the country the company is serving. They were supposed to implement the brand plans into action by taking the decisions like where to advertise, how best to use the public relationing and how to avoid clutters. Moreover, short term issues like cash flows, profit, growth and market share were things that fell into their domain.
Dove’s brand profile
Dove has always been positioned on the lines of being more than soap or a brand that does not dry the skin. So went the tag lines of cleansing or moisturizing cream. The brand was never to be put in the category of soaps in its history. The brand campaigns of Dove have always been to project an honest and authentic brand featuring naturally looking women focusing on the benefits than portraying the brand through the fashion models. Dove had the acceptance of the physicians and the dermatologists to treat dry skins. So until 2000, the brand focused on the functional benefits.
But in 2000, the brand was taken on board the master brands category to be put in the personal care category. Putting the brand on a global scene needed more than just focusing on the functional benefits of Dove. It is only then that the company decided to stand for a cause to push its brand into global market.
Contemporary Dove Brand Image
Following the Path to Goal, the brand had to devise a global strategic strategy that would mean that the brand will have wide following around the world than just restricted to a country. So the company devised a strategy that would entail the brand standing for a cause and be more than just a mere famous brand. The brand was furthering an important cause of improving the self-esteem of women around the world with a shift to making the ordinary women feel beautiful rather than following the herd in the industry of making the beautiful look more beautiful. So Dove now stood for a cause that would pave a way for a societal attitude change of celebrating women as a whole than just pursuing an elitist model of restricting oneself to certain class of people.
Strategy and Execution of Campaign for Real Beauty
After meticulous considerations, the brand embarked upon the campaign for real beauty. The brand team’s findings after thorough researches and expert consultation was that the advertisements focused primarily on the young, white, blonde and thin women in all the ads as well as packaging of the brands. In search for an alternative view of the goal of personal care, the Dove team employed the services of the psychologists to help them in carving out a campaign. This was a masterstroke as any other means of researching lie focus groups for the idea would have barely made any inroads of what the company needed out of the campaign. So these psychologists hypothesized which was then surveyed by the team around the world with women respondents. In the findings, only 2% of the women considered themselves as beautiful.
The dove team used the findings and developed their campaign to include all the women who may not be thin or have a white skin and used these ordinary women of all ages in their advertisement campaigns. It used a female who was fat and put the billboard asking the people to vote whether the female looked outsized or outstanding. The same thinking and the theme was used in another commercial that featured six ordinary women posing in white underwear. The commercials were being portrayed and projected as societal changes regarding the concept of real beauty. Such a campaign provided the company an easy transition away from the functional benefits.
The next move in the campaign was hailed as extremely controversial as the dove team set out to engage executives in the campaign. The executives’ daughters were filmed in the advertisements discussing their self-esteem issues. The ads showed a young girl with freckles and another where an Asian girl was shown as dreaming to be a blonde. The ads were widely accepted but the ads were thrashed by people on not mentioning the product at all in the advertisements. The ads brought to light what the beauty industry was portraying which was a created beauty where ordinary women and girls could not just reach at all. Fact was that the perception and the aura of beauty was only restricted to only those who use the products which would in turn make them beautiful and a supermodel as they use in times to come.
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To top the campaign was a film and not the usual advertisements. The film showed a young woman whose face is transformed with the use of the Photoshop editing from an ordinary face into becoming a glamorous one. The team used this Evolution idea to show how the models or even the usual advertisements by the fashion industry can be made into supermodels by way of certain tools which is just a mere farce that one sees around the city on the billboards. So the Dove team did not use the normal route to place this film rather used the informal channels by posting it on Youtube which gained tremendous acceptance from the general masses.
Media Planning and Public Relationing
One important success point of the campaign was the medial planning and public relationing. The company and the Dove team were innovative in choosing the channel for publicizing the brand and creating awareness about the cause of the brand. In this the dove team again involved the ordinary women and asked them to create an ad for themselves with the best ad be shown and aired on the commercial break of the 79th Annual Academy Awards.
For advertisements the company used the billboards around the Grand Central Station and booked them for their ads. The advertisements were even aired at the Superbowl which brought immense publicity to the cause of Dove.
As part as the publicizing and the awareness, the team made use of public relationing towards its end. It threw the definition of real beauty overboard which was then corroborated by the subsequent research with respondents defining the term in limiting and unattainable manner.
Through its public relationing, the Dove team wanted to create an emotional connection with women. The relationing was supposed to change the popular attitude of people regarding beauty and its definition to include in it the ordinary women who may want to feel beautiful but because of the stereotyped definition of a beautiful woman of being a thin and white woman, may not be feeling special about themselves.
To go with their advertising and public awareness claims of helping the cause of the ordinary women, the company fulfilled its responsibility by establishing the global Dove Self Esteem Fund. Such a step would work to raise the self-esteem of women and young girls around the world through various programs and developments. In the U.S, the company collaborated with other women organizations to build confidence in girls through educational resources and various activities.
Pros and cons of the Dove Campaigns
The campaign brewed a lot of controversies and concerns for the company voiced from various quarters. According to some commentators the company was jeopardizing the inspirational elements of the brand. As every person wants to aspire towards a certain goal as projected by the brand’s persona this gives the consumers something to look for in the brand. But the company’s focus on the ordinary women may downplay the inspirational element of the brand as the brand just becomes an ordinary run of the mill brand. This may make the consumers to not to spend the extra money on the brand as it does not give the perceived value for the purchase. Also certain quarters hit back on the company for giving their own perception of beauty and that it was highly invalid that may hamper other brands positioned on these lines.
The brand may have lost its inspirational element but it has certainly developed a unique point for itself that serves it well as people have a definite perception about the brand. The fact is that the people are able to relate themselves with the brand, as the Dove campaigns have served to include all the women without any discrimination and exclusions. All types of women and girls are celebrated, the ones having freckles, who are Black, Asians, brunettes, blondes, aged and all others that might have not considered themselves as beautiful as they might not have fit in the popular definition of beauty as portrayed by media, fashion industry and certain companies’ advertisements. It also did not discriminate and focus on just White women, but included the Asians as well as the Blacks in their campaigns. Such an authentic exercise has gained the approval and acceptance from the public and people at large who have thrown their weight behind the brand reflected by the continually increasing revenues.
The campaign has also gained credence by virtue of it being propagating a societal attitude. Such an issue will always attract consumers and people to at least find out about the campaign happening around them. Also the innovative channels of communications used by the Dove team are also to be seen as reasons for its success. The team could have easily advertised on the Television programs but it chose to steer clear from it and post the Dove film on the internet at You Tube which shot the campaign into prominence and people joining the cause of Dove. It had involved the general public at large into each and every activity done by the company. From designing personalized advertisements to featuring of the dove advertisements, all the ordinary women and young girls were used to expound the self-esteem issues.
From the strategy point of view, the planning of the campaign which involved the expertise of the psychologists also owe a lot of credit for bringing in their expertise to the concept of Dove.
Dove’s transition into a global brand owes largely to its innovative and different marketing campaign. The cause for which it stands for has been met with great acceptance from the general masses who felt being part of the Dove campaigns. The brand broke the precedent of the beauty industry by delving and exposing the harsh realities as portrayed by the media. It has truly gave a new dimension of what beauty and fashion advertising can be and has set a precedent with regards to marketing having a cause to back with.
Williams, N (2005). Dove: Brand beautiful. Strategy Magazine.