Dove story

Prior to 2003, 'Dove wasn't a beauty brand, it was a bar of soap,' says Mark Wakefield, Unilever Canada's marketing director of skin care and deodorants. But within that year, NYC-based global brand director, Sylvia Lagnado decides to move the positioning from a product of one to an entire beauty brand.

Prior to 2003, ‘Dove wasn’t a beauty brand, it was a bar of soap,’ says Mark Wakefield, Unilever Canada’s marketing director of skin care and deodorants. But within that year, NYC-based global brand director, Sylvia Lagnado decides to move the positioning from a product of one to an entire beauty brand.

Products in two categories, hand and face care, launch that year.

Today, Dove is the number-two beauty brand in Canada. A Dove product is found in one of four homes, says Wakefield, currently ranking as number one in body wash, number two in hair care in just three years, number seven in face care (‘where we didn’t exist before’) and number three in female deodorant.

To get there, Lagnado decides the brand will stand for the real beauty of all women. Dove’s new mission: to make women feel more beautiful every day by widening today’s stereotypical view of beauty and inspiring them to take care of themselves.

Following a series of global brainstorming workshops asking brand managers and agency partners to find ways to communicate an inclusive definition of beauty, Canada’s Erin Iles, the brand’s then-masterbrand marketing manager, invites 67 female photographers to submit work that best reflects real beauty. It leads to a coffee table book and travelling exhibition, called the Dove Photo Tour, which garners much press. Canadian marketers realize they are on to something.

In 2004 the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty is launched globally with Canada the lead market. And, as time and ROI will tell, (market share grew 15% in every category in 2005 and over 10% in 2006) with the help of AOR Ogilvy & Mather, media agency PHD Canada and promo agency Capital C, Canada becomes the brand’s pacesetter. Here’s how.

June 2004

* Wakefield, recently named marketing director, decides to push The Dove Photo Tour to the next level. He attends a meeting where Unilever global creatives pitch their ideas for what becomes the Campaign for Real Beauty marketing concept. ‘I had an idea how to pioneer this new strategy, and I was willing to stick my neck out,’ he says.

October 2004

* Wakefield and his team pool $1 million from marketing budgets across the home and personal care business to launch the first Dove Campaign for Real Beauty ad campaign in the world.

This pooling of money – and the co-ordination of marketing across the categories – was a radical thing, says Aviva Groll, account director at Ogilvy Canada. ‘In other (territories) the brand is marketed in their different product categories, such as hair or personal wash. The marketing planning for Dove is conducted as ‘one brand, one voice.’ It seems so obvious but you have to realize it was monumental.’

The effort kicked off with tick-box billboards, created by Ogilvy, rolled out in

high-impact locales in major cities across Canada including Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal. The four ads feature provocative kickers including: ‘Fat/Fabulous?’ ‘Withered/Wonderful?’

Toronto-based PHD also erects an LED display board on the city’s Gardiner Expressway, inviting folks to call a 1-800 number and vote. The votes – calculated by percentages – are tracked in real time on the electronic board. ‘The buzz in the street was fantastic,’ says Wakefield, who overhears people in the subway talking about his ads.

The final tally: 51%FAB/49%FAT.

The tick-box ads are picked up by Unilever in Latin America, Europe and the U.S., which erected a billboard in Times Square in 2005.

At this time, in Canada, Dove buys the entire 25th anniversary issue of Flare and fills it with questionnaires on beauty answered by real women. It’s an early example of the new Dove philosophy that gives consumers a significant voice in the campaign.

Over 2005

* Body lotions and hairstyling products launch.

February 2005

* The Dove Self-Esteem Fund, which was considered in 2004, is launched in Canada. Dove partners locally with the National Eating Disorder Information Centre and ANEB Québec, a provincial eating disorder prevention centre, to launch its own version of the fund. Its goal: improve women’s body image by educating girls on a wider definition of beauty. The Canadian marketers develop a series of workshops and adapt global materials (such as the U.K.-created True You activity book) that are downloadable from the web. It also provides some financial support to NEDIC and ANEB.

‘We couldn’t just start debate; we needed a cause to rally around,’ says Groll. ‘We realized that if we were to widen the definition of beauty and provoke debate, we needed to walk the walk.’

To build awareness around the new fund, Dove Canada co-creates ‘Little Girls,’ with Alessandro Manfredi, VP, Dove deodorants and masterbrand, based in London, featuring striking portraits of young girls with provocative captions such as ‘Thinks she’s fat,’ and ‘Hates her freckles.’ A 60-second spot is launched in cinemas. Spots run on shows cherry-picked by PHD’s Michael Bolt, VP group account director and Zoryana Loboyko, account director, including Nip/Tuck and America’s Next Top Model – programs that run counter to Dove’s Real Beauty philosophy. The contra-placement is ‘to engage the audience in the debate,’ says Bolt. The spots are such a hit they run again in 2006.

September 2005

* Dove launches its new Dove hand and body lotion line with the campaign, ‘Loving Every Inch of Your Skin.’

The globally produced spot features a montage of ‘real’ women in white underwear grooving to musical lyrics: ‘What if we loved our skin and let nourishment in?’

The print targets women beauty magazines such as

Canadian Living.

Over 2006

* Handwash products launch.

January 2006

* Dove Canada decides to repackage and launch the ‘Dove Firming Campaign,’ promoting a new body lotion, which began in the U.K. in summer 2004 and ran in the U.S. in July 2005. The outdoor features five women with different body shapes posing in their underwear over the tagline: ‘Tested on real curves.’ Wakefield decides that this campaign should be localized. He issues a casting call. Amazingly, over 600 women, who are prepared to strip to their underwear, respond to the ad. The tag in Canada is tweaked to read: ’10 curvy thighs, 5 shapely bums, 0 boney super models.’ The outdoor launches in May and June.

February 2006

* Other territories are slow to embrace the brand’s message. The U.S. finally launches with a bang airing an adapted version of ‘Little Girls’ with the American Girls Scouts Choir singing Cyndi Lauper’s ‘True Colors’ during the Super Bowl. It’s a hit. Unilever Canada airs the spot again in the spring.

March 2006

* On behalf of Unilever, PHD’s Loboyko lobbies to be the sole sponsor of the Globe and Mail’s special ad supplement for International Women’s Week. Loboyko provides the Globe’s editorial team access to Unilever’s First Annual Global White Paper study on women’s attitude towards beauty – a study conducted by NYC research company, Strategy One, covering 10 countries and over 3,000 women. It reveals only 2% of women globally think themselves beautiful; and 63% strongly agree that women today are expected to be more attractive than their mother’s generation. These stats are worked into the editorial copy.

Content also comes from the Calgary Girls’ School – a school engaged by Ogilvy after Dove masterbrand marketing manager, Sharon MacLeod (who replaced Iles) attended a school art exhibition on the beauty myth, and was impressed by how well the children used the Dove Self-Esteem resources. The Ogilvy team, along with the PR firm Harbinger, decides to publish unedited letters from students in grades four to nine. The open letters challenge Hollywood producers, magazine editors and plastic surgeons to

re-examine their approach to beauty.

April 2006

* Dove launches its new personal wash line Cool Moisture. Dove Canada picks up global TV and print campaign but brings it alive locally with a train station poster campaign that features artful photos of real Dove women and the product. The OOH is launched at Toronto’s Union and Eglinton subway stations as well as the main train stations in Vancouver and Montreal.

April 8-9, 2006

* Thirty girls and their mothers/mentors are invited to a photography/self-esteem workshop dubbed ‘Through Their Eyes: Photography 101,’ arranged by Capital C. The girls get digital cameras and are asked to shoot what they think is beautiful. The best photos are made into a calendar given away with purchases in a national in-store promo, wherein 25 cents is donated to NEDIC and ANEB.

Mid-April 2006

* Real Beauty Workshops are planned for the fall. Harbinger secures Lisa Naylor, a counsellor at Winnipeg’s Women’s Health Clinic, who runs seminars about eating disorders and healthy body-image. These will be promoted on Dove’s website. Harbinger sends Strategy One’s second report on the impact of negative

self-esteem to news agencies.

Wakefield wants a low-budget ad campaign to drive sign-ups and decides on the net. ‘With the buzz and WOM Dove had achieved so far I thought if we had interesting content we could drive strong viral pick-up.’ Janet Kestin, co-CD at Ogilvy, and her team create viral films that will draw women to the seminars. Tim Piper, associate CD, pens ‘Beauty Crackdown,’ which tackles the ways media influences body image.

Kestin isn’t sold on the first script, but okays the viral films idea. ‘We loved [them] as a way of communicating a point-of-view,’ she says. ‘We wanted to provoke dialogue.’ Ogilvy lets the idea ferment.

Meanwhile, new leadership at the global level, combined with the success of the campaigns so far, has Unilever rethinking its marketing strategy. It is becoming clear that the brand as a whole is benefiting from the good works campaign.

A missive from head office: Anything linked to the masterbrand should be tied to the Dove Self-Esteem Fund.

Early May 2006

Brainstorming new ideas for mini-film, Piper decides to use his girlfriend, Stephanie Betts, for a rough storyboard titled ‘Evolution.’ The proposal: ‘Even models don’t look like models,’ he says. He photographs Betts without make-up, digitally enhancing some images to show how cosmetics and special effects can transform an attractive girl into an unattainable beauty.

Unilever execs like many of the film ideas, including this one, but based on their White Paper research, they decide to start with a short on the mother/daughter dynamic. Unilever wants to tap into research that shows that ‘mothers have more power than they know,’ says Kestin.

Third week of May 2006

Kestin’s team comes up with another idea of a little girl who steps onto her mother’s scale while playing dress-up. The tag: ‘No wonder they are dieting at nine.’ Wakefield greenlights the film, as well as the ‘Evolution’ script.

June 2006

Director Yael Staav and Piper travel to Halifax and shoot girls talking about body image – cinema verité style. The point: ‘to see what kids had to say for themselves,’ says Kestin.

July 2006

Dove returns to its roots and launches a liquid hand soap; Capital C runs a national sampling program in major stores such as Wal-Mart and Loblaws. It is a cross-category merchandizing program for September that pairs Dove soap bar samples with the new liquid product.

Late August 2006

* The ‘Evolution’ spot is prepared for production. Piper approaches Toronto fashion photographer Gabor Jurina. Models are interviewed, but they decide to use Betts who is attractive but has some skin problems and can look plain when unmade. A model’s journey might be

less dramatic.

September 12, 2006

* Both ‘Daughters’ and ‘Evolution’ viral films are presented by Wakefield to Dove’s global team. They are immediately loved. Dove’s global SVP, Fernando Acosta, urges that all countries use these viral films as quickly as possible to build awareness of Dove’s mission.

October 1, 2006

* The ‘Evolution’ viral film is released onto the Canadian site and loaded onto YouTube. Regions including the U.S. and the U.K. also launch the film via their own websites. The Canadian website has to be revamped – the site registers 600,000 hits up from 20,000. The US media and talk show circuit grab hold of the film. Celebrities Ellen DeGeneres and Rosie O’Donnell showcase it and urge women to get behind the campaign and to buy Dove products. Over US$50 million in free media is delivered in the US. Until now, Dove’s global team has had difficulty getting other territories to embrace the Dove Self-Esteem Fund.

Mid October 2006

* Good Morning America runs a six-minute story about the thin model debate using the ‘Evolution’ film clip and Dove research, and The View does a four-minute segment featuring ‘Evolution.’ Betts is interviewed on Inside Edition and Entertainment Tonight; CNN and Fox TV produce segments.

Sweden and The Netherlands run ‘Evolution’ as TV spots.

Today the revolution continues.