After a recent campaign, Dove might have a (body) image problem.
The company’s “Real Beauty” campaign has been a marketing hit, and its “Real Beauty Sketches” spot was the most-shared ad of 2013.
For over a decade now, the folks over in Dove‘s marketing department have been trying to capitalize on the growing rejection of overly airbrushed bodies of already too-thin models with their “Campaign for Real Beauty.” The campaign has been wildly successful in garnering media attention over the last ten years, functionally earning Dove millions of dollars in free advertising.
However, many are saying that the company’s new campaign—recently launched in the United Kingdom—fails to live up to past efforts.
The campaign offers UK consumers the opportunity to purchase limited-edition bottles that are supposed to emulate many different body types:
“Just like women, we wanted to show that our iconic bottle can come in all shapes and sizes, too,” Dove wrote in a press release. It continued:
Each bottle evokes the shapes, sizes, curves and edges that combine to make every woman their very own limited edition. They’re one of a kind – just like you. But sometimes we all need reminding of that. Recent research from the Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report revealed that one in two women feels social media puts pressure on them to look a certain way. Thankfully, many women are fighting with us to spread beauty confidence. Women using their influence to advance the real beauty debate across social media, and helping women embrace their own individuality as a source of confidence. To spread this diversity message even further, we created these exclusive body wash bottles.
The effort was created by Ogilvy & Mather UK. In a blog post, the PR agency said it was a way to boil down Dove’s branding over the years:
“The Real Beauty Bottles is one of those rare ideas which condenses decades of a brand’s legacy in 2 seconds”, said Andre (Dede) Laurentino, Global ECD for Unilever, Ogilvy UK. “It’s deceivingly simple and quite nuanced: a message about our body conveyed by Dove bottles themselves, it cares for the physical and the emotional, and it brings brand essence and product design seamlessly together.”
Adweek and Fortune highlighted the campaign this week, prompting ridicule from Twitter users:
— rachel handler (@rachel_handler) May 8, 2017
thanks Dove but I already have a body wash that matches my natural curves 🙂 pic.twitter.com/IIkKAn0LjQ
— Tim Federle (@TimFederle) May 8, 2017
— Jodi Beggs (@jodiecongirl) May 8, 2017
At this point, it’s like Dove following you around the store saying “Other people call you fat. Not me! Other people call you fat. Not me…” https://t.co/tbYFzEoLjs
— Sandra Newman (@sannewman) May 8, 2017
Can someone come over and help me measure my butt so I know which dove body wash to buy
— Anna Fitzpatrick (@bananafitz) May 8, 2017
— chekov’s mankrik (@vrunt) May 8, 2017
a spokesperson from dove just crawled out of my shower drain to tell me all bodies are beautiful and women can play sports too
— helena cell (@pilotbacon) May 8, 2017
Twitter users were not alone in doling out the snark. Several journalists also weighed in and slammed the marketing effort.
· Will the bottles all contain the same amount of soap?
· Do the body-positive cost bottles cost the same as normal ones, or will we pay a premium for our empowerment?
· How long will we be able to purchase these limited-edition keepsakes?
· Where in the world did this idea come from?
So, “real beauty breaks moulds” as the video says. And, presumably, when it can’t, it just uses a series of molds that women are supposed to fit themselves into. There’s the tall-and-skinny Olive Oyl look, willowy, the pear-shaped bottle, one that’s top heavy, another that’s bottom heavy, the short and dumpy, and a seventh that might make you think you had picked up a bottle of shampoo.
No matter what a woman looks like, she can indulge in happy objectification and throw her lot in with whatever category comes close enough to her reality so she can belong.
Other journalists said the problem with the campaign was that it focused too much on Dove’s image and not on the customers it professes to empower.
“With this campaign, Dove has moved from celebrating the diversity of the human body to celebrating the diversity of its products’ packaging,” Clayton Purdom wrote in an A.V. Club article.
The Atlantic’s Ian Bogost used an illustrative example to show how Dove’s campaign misses the mark:
A pear-shaped woman has run out of body wash. She visits the local drug store, where she finds a display of Dove Real Beauty Bottles. To her chagrin, now she must choose between pear- and hourglass-shaped soap. She must also present this proxy for a body—the one she has? the one she wishes she did?—to a cashier to handle and perhaps to judge. What otherwise would have been a body-image-free trip to the store becomes a trip that highlights body-image.