Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Real Campaign, Real Connection

Dove is a cosmetics brand, most well-known for its Campaign for Real Beauty, launched in 2004.

The Campaign for Real Beauty began as magazine spreads and billboards featuring the bodies of ordinary (i.e. non-model) women.  Different ethnicities, ages, body types and sizes were represented and  celebrated.  It was a huge eye-opener for many women, because it made their beauty visible and accepted in the public sphere.

The ladies in the ads flaunted their wrinkles, curves, skin tone, tattoos, muscles—a lot of things the beauty industry had been demanding that women cover up.  It was a pretty earth-shattering campaign and elicited a lot of buzz.

What's interesting is that Dove's parent company, Unilever, doesn't have a spotless track record when it comes to beauty ethics.  Hindustan Unilever is the maker of Fair & Lovely, a skin lightening cream.  In India, having lighter skin is equated with being of a higher caste, more attractive, and thus, more marriageable.  The ad campaign for Fair & Lovely shows a depressed darker skinned woman finding success, love, and happiness through the use of lightening skin cream.  It's been argued that this campaign reinforces racism.

It's why, by contrast, the Dove campaign is so powerful—it turns the "You have an intrinsic physical flaw.  You should feel bad about that.  Oh but here, we have the answer!  You can be happy when you shell out for this product!" message right on its ear.

Make no mistake, Dove is a for-profit company, but I like that they're making their money by convincing us of our innate beauty, rather than trying to convince us that we are inherently flawed and they have the miracle cure.  It certainly shows that there's a disconnect in priorities among the international factions of Unilever, but hey, different markets, different goals. 

The best part of all of this is that Dove has taken The Campaign for Real Beauty one step further: they're partnering with The Girl Scouts, the Boys and Girls Club, and Girls Inc. to encourage self-esteem globally.

They have many resources on their website for girls, parents, and mentors on how to cultivate self-esteem at an early age.  You can watch videos, take workshops, and join a Dove self-esteem community.  I don't know how really in-depth or useful any of these programs are, but the content is there and the campaign does promote working against the kind of self-hatred propagated by an industry that has to convince you of your flaws so it can sell you something.

Dove gives you feeling of connection, a sense that they do actually care what you think about yourself and wants to help you maximize your own awesomeness.  And really, can we ask for much more from a brand?

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