Case Study: Dove’s Brand Awareness Finds Beauty In Real Women

Company: Dove-Unilever Agency: Edelman Timeframe: 2004 - present Boosting brand awareness in the cluttered health and beauty products market is tricky, but the global beauty brand Dove distinguished their U.S. launch of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty (CFRB) and the new Dove Firming product line by executing a new marketing approach: Engaging female consumers by abandoning typical practices of presenting "perfect" women as beauty role models. Instead, the Unilever-owned company, along with Edelman, decided that images of ordinary women would be helpful in widening the definition of beauty, inspiring women to discover and enjoy their beauty and instilling the Dove brand with a revolutionary, label-debunking beauty philosophy. "The vast majority of women in the U.S. suggested that media and advertising set an unrealistic standard of beauty -- as if beautiful was only thin, only young, only blonde," says Larry Koffler, senior vice president/consumer brands group at Edelman. "The foundation came from this process of looking at the environment, looking at what was happening and ultimately listening to women and debunking these stereotypes." Dove was historically known for being an iconic beauty bar, but "if people were to look at us in other categories, we needed to understand what women's relationships are with their bodies," says Stacie Bright, senior communications marketing manager at Dove-Unilever. To begin understanding this intimate relationship, Dove developed a global study conducted by StrategyOne, Edelman's opinion research division, which surveyed more than 3,000 women from 10 countries. The women revealed feelings about their appearance and about how they think media typically portrays beauty. Survey results concluded: 2% of women worldwide describe themselves as beautiful; and, 81% of U.S. women strongly agree that "the media and advertising set an unrealistic standard of beauty that most women can't ever achieve." The survey became the foundation for all aspects of the campaign, including its main objectives, target audience, strategy and key messages. "CFRB was born from the global study that validated the collective hypothesis of the group that the definition of beauty had become limited and unattainable," Koffler says. Making CFRB successful required a strategy that meshed with the Dove brand itself. It had to be "rooted on an idea that fundamentally was the essence of the brand," Bright says. CFRB had a $1.3-million budget and a target audience comprised of women of all ages -- from young girls who needed a positive self-image to women who had poor perceptions of themselves and needed to build self-esteem -- as well as an open invitation for men to express their perspectives. Objectives included the following: generate sales of Dove beauty products and its new product line, Dove Firming; debunk the stereotypical definition of beauty; and surpass aggressive benchmarks of four national TV segments and five national print placements including The Today Show, USA Today and The New York Times Magazine, as well as local market coverage in the hometowns of the campaign's "real women" models. However, the beautiful concept wasn't without its blemishes. The campaign challenge was truly daunting: sparking dialogue about CFRB and the nature of beauty among Americans. "So many people speak and resonate with more serious terminal illness, like breast cancer -- self-esteem was not something that was talked about or focused on," Bright says. "We really tapped into a new space, but the problem with new space is that it has to resonate with an audience and it has to be heard." A seven-pronged strategy that began in September 2004 was executed in two phases: Phase One: Educate & Credential Secured occasions to unveil the campaign's images of real women to generate buzz, inspire debate and encourage change Personal briefing meetings and specially created "influencer kits" to pre-seed campaign messages with 24 influential women in media and entertainment Dove became a sponsor of American Women in Radio & Television (AWRT) to boost exposure among its key influencer group Presented Dove Real Beauty Award at the annual AWRT Gracie Awards in New York City to media personality Gayle King for "embodying the spirit of the CFRB" Through the Dove Self-Esteem Fund, the team tapped into Unilever's partnership with Girl Scouts to educate and inspire girls Launched the Dove CFRB Essay & Photo Tour contest to encourage girls to believe in themselves and capture the definition of "real beauty." Phase Two: Launch & Excitement Timed PR program launch in June 2005 to release of the Dove Firming ad campaign, which featured un-retouched images of six "real women" posing in their bras and underwear. In terms of key outlets to launch the story, the medium "needed to be a credible source in how we considered our media strategies," Bright says. "We had these wonderful real women, but who would care and what's special about them? Helping position them as a stand to all women--let their real stories be heard and let the media engage on them." Real Women Revealed: Celebratory b-roll/photo shoot with Firming women live in Times Square Secured pre-seeded business story with USA Today to officially launch the media blitz Launched a three-month media tour strategically seeding a new national trend and leveraging local market relevance to maintain consistent, timely results all summer All six Dove Firming women appeared on the season premiere of The Ellen DeGeneres Show Cemented CFRB with an appearance by the six Dove Firming women in their underwear on Oprah The campaign surpassed expectations with more than 1,000 print, Web, television and radio placements. The campaign garnered more than 630 million impressions during the summer of 2005. The team also secured coverage on national television programs and in print outlets, including on the cover of People magazine. Local coverage garnered attention from more than 200 local news programs in major markets such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Dallas and Denver. The Associated Press printed two stories in almost 700 local papers, while 10 major market papers ran front-page articles. More than 1 million viewers have logged onto and expressed their thoughts on the campaign's "life-changing" impacts. More than 60,000 visitors linked to the CFRB Web site on the day of "The Today Show" segment, causing the Web site to crash. Four major marketing textbook publishers have requested to include the CFRB as a case study. The campaign also has become the model for other major marketing firms, including Nike, to begin using advertising messages geared toward "real women." From a business perspective, though financial details are undisclosed, Dove brand sales reported a growth hike of 24% for the June-August 2005 period, the height of the pr campaign, compared to the year-ago period. The New Firming Lotion and Cream ranked in the top two spots within the Dove line. "CFRB has continued with multiple layers," notes Koffler. The Dove Self-Esteem spot, which was introduced during the 2006 Super Bowl, is geared toward building self-confidence of girls and young women through the Dove Self-Esteem Fund. Dove introduced its Pro-Age global campaign earlier this year to challenge the stereotype that only young is beautiful. Additionally, in response to the media furor over Spain's ban on too-thin models from fashion runways, Dove produced a short film portraying the transformation of a "real woman" into a model. The film, "Evolution," encourages awareness of unrealistic beauty perceptions and has "sparked amazing dialogue" and "tremendous buzz," Koffler says. The film was made available online at Dove's Web site; the site has generated 3.7 million visitors since its launch. CONTACTS: Stacie Bright, 203.625.1130,; Larry Koffler, 212.704.8162, Best Practices And Recommendations Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty (CFRB) and its brand positioning complement the firm's overall brand strategy. The campaign is a natural evolution of the brand's heritage, says Larry Koffler, senior vice president/consumer brands group at Edelman. It's important to ensure the campaign stays true to its mission, but that it also has impact and is fed to the right places in the media, says Stacie Bright, senior communications marketing manager at Unilever--Dove. Many nights were spent trying to "flush out a strategy" of CFRB, which eventually was designed in three phases, or pillars, Bright says. Listening to women: One of the main drivers of the campaign was research, Koffler says. The team underwent multiple large-scale studies, including a global study with more than 3,000 women from 10 countries acknowledging how they consider their appearance and how media generally portrays images of beauty. The research added scientific validity to the team's hypothesis and "gave us credibility," Koffler says. The team also collaborated with doctors, Koffler adds, noting the "ability to have the third-party validation was critical," Bright says. Provoking discussion and encouraging debate: The second pillar revolved around framing the campaign as a dialogue about the definition of beauty. "The ability to spark a conversation and a societal debate was a key strategy," Koffler says. In order to get everyone talking and spark a debate, the team "put a lot of thought provoking imagery out there," Bright says. Images of ordinary women allowed for a broader definition of beauty and inspired women to discover their own beauty, as well as imbued the Dove brand with a stereotype-debunking beauty attitude. The team "really put it out there," and walked a fine line to make sure not to "dictate one side or the other," Bright continues. While conversation sparked, the team remained firm that it would have "a clear point-of-view to allow our voices to be heard, but to also allow people to have their own conclusions," she adds. Walking the talk: Bright constitutes the third pillar as "the step that is most important to us." Dove set up the Dove Self-Esteem Fund, funded 100% by the firm, to encourage self-esteem programming worldwide. The firm set a goal to reach 1 million girls by next year, and "we're going to surpass that goal," Bright says. Dove provided consumers with a chance to sign the Dove Self-Esteem Fund pledge banner, and donated $1 to uniquely ME!--a Unilever/Girl Scouts program that promotes self-esteem in young girls. "Just having a call to action was critical," Koffler adds. "It connected to the heart of the brand." One campaign challenge the team was unprepared for was the response. "You put a campaign out there and hope it's going to do well," Bright says. "All of a sudden, we were flooded with calls and requests of people wanting to get involved with the campaign. The team carefully crafted tight criteria for future plans it would execute regarding requests. Involvement in too many requests may cause the campaign to "lose its message," Bright says. "Make sure you stay true to your message." The team launched a spin-off of CFRB, titled Pro-Age, earlier this year. "With every campaign, we've launched, it keeps growing," Bright says. "Pro-Age brought in a whole other group of women, a whole other audience."

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