I am a huge fan of Dove. I love the approach they have taken over the last 11 years with their “Real Beauty” campaign, advocating empowerment and beauty from within. I’ve commended them many times for remaining true to a big idea, as part of their brand values.
That said, they’ve taken some heat with their latest campaign installment called “Dove patches.” It was launched globally in 56 countries last week to prove that beauty is a state of mind. The video documents a social experiment where several women wear a “beauty patch” for two weeks, supposedly containing a breakthrough medical ingredient. They were to document through a diary and video how they perceived their own beauty while wearing the patch. The women recruited were not actors, and there was no association with Dove up front. They were thought to simply be participating in a clinical experiment by Dr Ann Kearney-Cooke, a clinical psychologist. During the two-week trial, the women experienced a boost in self-esteem. However at the end of the experiment, the patch is revealed as a placebo. It has no magical powers, rather beauty is revealed to be a state of mind. View it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGDMXvdwN5c
It’s an empowering message, and one certainly in keeping with Dove’s positioning.
The idea of conducting an experiment with hired professionals is not new to Dove. In April 2013 they hired a forensic artist to sketch how women viewed themselves and to contrast that with how they were viewed by others, in an effort to dramatize female self-criticism for the “Dove sketches” campaign. Dove Real Beauty sketches was a run-away viral hit, shared widely on social media and viewed by over 62 million on Youtube. View it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpaOjMXyJGk Currently Dove patches is at just over 13 million views
The placebo effect is a well-known phenomenon, and this application certainly proves it. I have to admit though, I felt for the women initially once the fake medicinal ingredients were revealed. They did appear gullible, and that was not Dove’s intent.
However, I do believe the basis for the experiment and what it reveals, even if I had a hard time sharing their emotional reaction to the results at the end. By taking a risk to demonstrate the outcome, Dove earns credit for celebrating the insight that beauty does not come from a bottle, but comes from within.
Make no mistake; Dove is trying to convince women to buy their products, but what company isn’t? The inspiration to remain true to the “real beauty comes from within” theme takes guts, and certainly separates them from their competition. To sustain that approach and keep it fresh for over 11 years is commendable.
And there in lies the lesson for us all. Competitive advantage is often the result of a unique sustained brand position relative to competitors. So here are some questions to ask yourself:
- How are you positioned differently from your competitors?
- How is that reflective of your values?
- And what are you doing to keep your message fresh, while remaining true to your position?
Until next week, be inspired, keep it fresh, and remain true to your brand.