Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” has helped define the landscape for modern cause movements, but as Dove announces its plans for a new online community for women, an April 10th advertising column in The Wall Street Journal questions the marketing impact of the campaign. Suzanne Vranica writes, “...the marketing impact has been somewhat blunted by the fact that the social cause hasn’t been linked directly to specific Dove products.” Yet this is precisely what makes the campaign so powerful and so appealing to millions of women. Rather than a targeted cause marketing program that benefits a particular product, Dove has infused its entire brand with a sense of doing good.
Early on, some critics assailed the campaign for touting a cellulite cream in its ads. How can you campaign for “real beauty” they would argue, while hawking a cellulite minimizing product? Although there are still incidental product ties, today it seems that connection has largely dissipated, and the campaign has discovered its real roots as a self-empowerment movement for women that crosses generational, ethnic and socioeconomic lines. (Incidentally, according to Dove, sales did increase for products featured in campaign ads, by an astounding 600 percent in the first two months. The company also saw a 20 percent increase in overall sales across the entire brand in 2005.)
Product lines come and go and their appeal is limited to target audiences, but a movement that speaks to women on a deep emotional level has staying power. By avoiding overtly promotional connections to products in this campaign, Dove has built a legacy brand.