Creative inspiration: Dove ‘Real Beauty’


How Dove became a Feel-Good Brand

Beauty is not what we’d traditionally categorise as a feel-good market. The industry typically relies on feelings of consumer inadequacy and celebrity culture in order to drive, develop and promote their products.

So Dove started with a statement, “Imagine a world where beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety.” Concerned with the superficial direction beauty was taking, Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty sought to drive discussion around this topic and provoke global conversation. In the process, they aligned themselves as one of the world’s leading feel-good brands, concerned on a fundamental level with self-confidence, wellbeing, and the wider definition of female beauty.

What was Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty?

The campaign launched in 2004 with an ad featuring women who did not conform to stereotypical beauty norms. The campaign challenged viewers’ perceptions through the use of real women and unconventional beauty, encouraging them to reassess their preconceptions with real beauty in mind. This lead naturally into the second, and perhaps most influential, stage of the campaign, promoting six women with real bodies and real curves across national television.

The campaign was a hit. Thousands of women spoke up in support of both the campaign and the six women who had embodied it, debunking the stereotype that only thin is beautiful and celebrating real beauty in all its forms. The campaign resonated so strongly with the general public that over the next ten years media spotlights, journalism coverage, and public discourse around the subject of beauty would repeatedly cite Dove’s campaign as a turning point in public understanding.

Why was the campaign so successful?

Much like Sport England’s “This Girl Can” campaign, the message behind the Campaign for Real Beauty was one of empowerment. During the course of their initial research, Dove found that only 2% of women around the world would describe themselves as beautiful. The key to their studies — and the success of the campaign — was their human approach. By taking a delicate issue and bringing it back to its roots, Dove conveyed an incredible amount of brand sensitivity, understanding, and proactivity.

The issue of real beauty is both topical and timeless. This meant that when the campaign launched almost everyone had been touched by it, and could empathise to certain degrees with the campaign. Empathy leads to engagement. By showing that they understood and that they cared, Dove inspired huge levels of public engagement.

Campaign for Real Beauty was fuelled by feel-good values. Everything from the Big Idea to the campaign’s execution was aimed towards inverting the misguided perception that beauty was thin, shallow, and physical. Inspiration is motivating, helping thousands of women throughout the UK, of all ages, to feel more comfortable, beautiful, and happy in their skin.

For more empowering brand stories, find out what made Sport England’s “This Girl Can” so successful here.

Feel-good Campaigns

Dove’s efforts did not stop with their Campaign for Real Beauty. Understanding that low-self esteem and poor confidence directly impacts on the real-life potential of girls and women across the globe, Dove established the Dove Self-Esteem Fund. The same year, they produced and launched a commercial called Little Girls, which they released on the Super Bowl to an audience of 89 million viewers. Far from moving on after their campaign, Dove continued to align itself with real beauty. Brand consistency is key to consumer confidence; by continuing to promote and celebrate their Campaign for Real Beauty values across numerous channels and platforms, Dove has become a feel-good figurehead to both its consumers and the wider public.

Dove launched the third stage of its Campaign for Real Beauty in February 2007. In this study, Beauty Comes of Age, Dove revealed that “91% of women aged between 50–64 believe it’s time for society to change its views about women and ageing”. Aimed specifically at women 50+, this campaign championed female beauty regardless of age, reminding its audience that older can still be beautiful. Dove continues to celebrate real beauty today, most recently with its Dove Movement for Self-Esteem.

Feel-good campaigns have a potential to connect brands with their audiences like no other. By tapping into emotive subjects, empathising with consumers, and treating their consumers as human beings with real values and feelings, feel-good campaigns can transform brands into positive global figureheads like Dove.

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