How Dove Flies Above

Few campaigns manage to match, never mind top, the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. It just keeps dominating the conversation with sassy videos that always go viral. Dove's "Evolution" video shows the ugly truth behind manipulated beauty-ad images. "Onslaught" urges parents to have "the talk" with daughters about beauty myths.

What makes it work: Dove subverts the typical mantra of cosmetics and skin care brands by, in effect, saying that the lift they deliver is only skin-deep. Since Dove is all about skin care, and beautiful skin is the foundation for all cosmetics, it manages to make its point without taking itself and its industry too seriously.

Rob Candelino, Marketing Director for Dove U.S. (Dove is part of Unilever) told me the other day how the brand has caught one updraft after another for six years.

Beauty without cynicism? This is an industry that profits from women's insecurities. Yet, Dove has managed to claim 'sincerity' as its brand image. How did you guys pull this off?
One seminal piece of data that was the biggest catalyst to us committing to the campaign for real beauty..and that was that only 2% of women around the world described themselves as beautiful. We have a very hard fixed set of core values, that all women are beautiful and that with real care, all women can look and feel their best.

How do they keep tapping into that zeitgeist without tipping into self parody?
We are about the edge. We take risks - if it's an issue that we believe, and that we believe women believe, and they want to engage in a discussion about it, and our team is best in class at creating marketing campaigns around it.

Do you ever feel like you're over the line?
If you're a pioneer, you're going to feel that you're getting a little risky. But we're ok with that. We depend not only on the diagnostic research, but that we're a catalyst for the conversation. We have a tremendous number of partners, with academia, subject experts in self esteem, Girls Inc., the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A., who are with us at every stage. They are involved in the creation of it. They engage with us in shaping all the work. They help us understand the research. It's not at all a pure numbers play.

What kind of ideas stem from the feedback you get?
We get numerous stories. I get them myself - from my mom who's here visiting now. One for the seminal pieces of the movement for self esteem, is "what do you wish you'd known at 13?" It's powerful.

We are asking all women, notable women and friends of the cause, and together we are trying to create the Dove Self-Esteem weekend, October 22 through 24, (as part of the 2010 theme, the Dove Movement for Self Esteem) and we are asking people to join us in making a difference in a girl's life. It can be as simple as one hour, about self-esteem, or as comprehensive about hosting your own event. Our goal is to reach 5 million girls with self-esteem workshops. We're at 6 million now, and we want to reach 15 million by 2015.

Why do other beauty brands not attempt this?
I can't speak to them, but I can say that it takes the right brand, and we have the credibility. We were built on a foundation of keeping our promises to women, and giving them functional products that are superior in caring for their skin. And in the last six years we've broadened that to bring them relevant, big messages about self-esteem.

Image courtesy of Morguefile contributor clarita.