Social media can be an ugly place. The open, unrestricted and often anonymous nature that's led to the popularity of Twitter and Facebook has also made those environments prone to negativity and ugliness. Even with the top marketing professionals in the world pushing the power of positivity, true positive staying power is rare. This is exactly why Dove's “Real Beauty” campaign was a fantastic example of positive honesty done well.
In 2004, Dove set out to begin a global conversation about the need for a new definition of beauty after they realized the societal norms had become “limiting and unattainable.” It was Dove's goal for each and every woman to not just realize their beauty but to embrace it with confidence. And, though the campaign remained rather nascent for most of its first decade, it exploded in 2013 through the use of a few imaginative social media strategies.
Quality Over Quantity
Much in line with JetBlue's “Fly It Forward” approach, Dove understood a single gesture that's both effective and genuine could harness more power than dozens of posts, tweets or ads with no direction or purpose. So, in 2013 Dove released its “Real Beauty Sketches” video. In the ad, an actual FBI sketch artist completes two different drawings of the same woman—one based on her descriptions, another based on a stranger's. Every time, the woman's picture was much more beautiful based on the stranger's description than from her own.
The three-minute spot contained a powerful message: Women are far too hard on themselves about complying to a certain “image” or societal body type—and Dove proved it. In less than a month, the video elicited more than 114 MILLION views in more than 25 languages. However, the reactions didn't stop with views, as men and women across the world took to Twitter and Facebook to not only share their reactions but also to offer encouragement and kind words to others. Fernando Machado, VP of Dove Skin, explained,
“The campaign evoked an emotional reaction in millions of people that inspired them to share the positive message with others. Beyond just the millions of views and publicity impressions, it is the outpouring of testimonials from around the world that is exciting us.”
Dove transformed a three-minute spot into a global phenomenon. How?
They truly understood their customers, and they gave them a cause to rally behind and a platform to do it on. In an instant, their brand became synonymous with honesty, transparency and beauty. They gave their customers the cause and allowed them to help spread the word!
Partnerships and Perceptions
For Dove, the “Real Beauty Sketches” video was only the beginning. Now that they had reached their audience on social media, it was time to empower them. They knew powerful partnerships would be a must.
If an ultra-connectivity had given rise to these negative, unattainable standards of beauty, who better to partner with than Twitter? In early 2015, Dove partnered with Twitter to launch a collaborative campaign aimed at transforming the notions surrounding beauty and also the ways in which it was discussed using social media. The two began imploring women everywhere to abandon typical social media criticisms and adopt #SpeakBeautiful.
However, in order to build both campaign and brand awareness, Dove needed a splash, and it used the 2015 Oscars to provide just that. On a night where social media tends to be overly cynical and judgmental, Dove urged women across the world to tweet positively about body image and beauty throughout the show, while including #SpeakBeautiful! Within hours, the hashtag was trending across the United States.
And the campaign worked! According to research by Vayner Media and Dove:
- In 2015 alone, #SpeakBeautiful was tweeted more than 168,000 times and created more than 8 million social media impressions.
- The hashtag led to a massive reduction in negative Tweets about beauty and body image, dropping from more than 5.3 million in 2014 to 3.4 million in 2015–a 36.8 percent decrease
- The #SpeakBeautiful campaign changed how people thought of the Dove brand, increasing brand affinity and brand sentiment among consumers more than 17 percent.
A Community Conversation
These calculated campaigns have created a community around Dove and its products. Because consumers identify so deeply with the company's mission to change the culture of our society, they simultaneously stand behind the brand while participating in the conversation. Dove's campaign did a great deal of work to show consumers that their brand had a mission for societal good behind their products, which is exactly what the consumers of today desire.
Al Eidson is the owner of Eidson & Partners, a business and marketing strategy consultancy, and a founder of SparkLabKC, an early-stage startup accelerator program in Kansas City. He's an expert in taking products to market and has launched more than 220 new products and ventures through his career. He's also proud of killing off a great many problematic products before they hit the market. His vision involves meaningful and lasting products through innovation.