Dove: Brand beautiful

Brand managers the world over are understandably jealous. Imagine having the gumption to unearth and expose some of the neuroses women have about themselves, create a sensitive and believable marketing campaign, and then - yes - inspire change. In 2004, Unilever's Dove dared to launch this as its new positioning.

Brand managers the world over are understandably jealous. Imagine having the gumption to unearth and expose some of the neuroses women have about themselves, create a sensitive and believable marketing campaign, and then – yes – inspire change. In 2004, Unilever’s Dove dared to launch this as its new positioning.

It worked. And in 2005, the brand continues to excel in its role as marketer-turned-social activist, while, naturally, never losing sight of the core business. ‘What we’re getting a lot better at now is incorporating the Campaign for Real Beauty message along with the product-specific, product-superiority kind of message,’ says Sharon MacLeod, Dove’s brand manager, of its evolution this year.

The love-your-beauty attitude has worked well with its new brand extensions, which included the launch of new body care, facial moisturizers and hair products. On the social side, the Dove Self-Esteem Fund was launched in January. The fund provides support for organizations that aim to broaden the definition of beauty, like the recently launched www.realme.ca body image Web site created in partnership with the National Eating Disorder Information Centre.

‘They seem to have opened their eyes to what a consumer is versus what a consumer wishes [they were],’ says Philippe Garneau, ECD of Toronto-based GWP Brand Engineering. ‘Advertising used to be about holding up the mirror that says you’re the most beautiful. This one holds up a mirror that…says ‘good enough.”

Garneau adds that the brand has also done something ‘brave’ this year, moving from snapshots of faces, to showing the women’s body from head to toe. ‘What they did [during last year's campaign] was ask the viewer to challenge their own assumptions. [This year they've] said: ‘Job done, now let’s celebrate the answer you have.’ They’ve now gained permission to celebrate the thorny issue that they tackled in the first phase.’

That connection has managed to move the brand beyond simply awareness to creating an affinity with the consumer, says Dove’s MacLeod. ‘[Women] are really connected to the brand, and in a way that it’s not just ‘I like their message’; they’re starting to see now that we’re really doing things that are working toward social change.’ That strategy is key to the brand’s success. ‘The way we see it is that people buy brands first. They access a brand through products,’ she adds.

And sales prove it: ‘We’ve experienced strong double-digit growth in every new category that we’re in,’ says Mark Wakefield, marketing director. Brand recognition is also strong. During its brand tracking, consumers were asked if they recognized the Dove blue bird logo. ‘Ninety percent of people recognized it,’ he says. ‘Just slightly behind the Nike swoosh.’

Moving forward, the plan is to continue focusing on the successful formula.

‘We’ll continue to evolve the campaign and we’ll continue to listen to what women are asking for from us,’ says MacLeod.

Wakefield adds that there are no plans for any new product launches in 2006, saying they will focus on ‘strengthening the lineups currently [in market].’

Luckily, observers agree there’s no need for strategic shifts. ‘More of same,’ Garneau says. ‘[No need] to go too much further than that.’

Dove in 2005: A snapshot

* Dove Self-Esteem Fund in January 2005 was founded, which formalized the brand’s support to combat eating disorders.

* To support awareness of the fund, a 60-second spot called ‘Little Girls,’ created by Toronto’s Ogilvy & Mather, ran in cinemas and on TV. It featured girls 5-14 and their dissatisfaction with their looks.

* In August, Dove unveiled a campaign surrounding the Real Beauty photography exhibit. One element included a cross-country tour that made stops in Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg and Calgary.

* Also that month, Beauty Quest, a documentary created with W Network, was broadcast. It featured a female photographer in search of a subject for her picture, which was eventually featured in the exhibit. For those unable to attend, there was also an online version and a calendar.

* In addition there was a promotional tie-in. Shoppers who purchased two Dove products received a Campaign for Real Beauty T-shirt with catch phases such as ‘My Beauty Rules.’

* New TV spots included: ‘Expecting,’ created by Oglivy Toronto for the new facial moisturizer and ‘Niggly, Naggly’ by Ogilvy UK for the body care line which just launched last month and features women celebrating their curves.