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Brands We Like: Dove

Eric Groves

By Eric Groves

Is your brand making emotional connections?

Here’s a quick question for you. What’s the brand behind the last commercial you saw on tv or heard on the radio? Go ahead. Scan that mental DVR of yours. Probably not so easy to answer.

Now, let’s try another one. What’s the brand behind the last commercial that made you laugh or cry? Much easier to answer, right? Of course, it is! You remember because it made a connection with you. It might have made you laugh or cry. It might have shocked you or upset you. Bottom line: somehow, someway, the advertiser tapped into your emotions.

It’s no secret that brands have worked hard to make connections with their advertising for years. The world’s biggest brands have succeeded by using emotions to help connect you, the consumer, with them. The best ones have used them to inspire you to act. Coca-Cola taught the world to sing and to ‘do the right thing.’ Nike (a branding partner of ours) told us to ‘just do it’ and pushed us to our limits so we could ‘find our greatness.’ And, Wendy’s hit the old funnybone and fed the fast food fire by asking ‘Where’s The Beef?’ All of these were successful campaigns for their respective brands because they connected. They made you feel something.

Recently, one brand has not only succeeded in creating an emotional connection with their #1 target demographic, that being middle aged females, it has also managed to appeal to a much tougher audience to connect with – middle-aged men. (It also managed to connect with one of the toughest, old cynics out there… it managed to connect with me. And, I’ll be the first to admit, it connected so much, one recent ad made me break out the kleenex.) That brand is Dove and they are the feature in this month’s “Brands We Like” post.

What was the brand problem that needed cleaning?

It all started in the early 2000’s when Dove’s brand was falling behind the competition. Their executives met with their PR firm, Edelman, and decided it was time to focus on creating a bond with their ideal end customer (the mysterious female.) After what seemed like endless meetings, Dove execs landed on crafting their message and connection with ‘beauty’ as their common theme. But in order to fully craft an effective brand strategy, a little research had to be done. After all, they were planning to execute a campaign skewed toward women around ‘beauty’ but before they could, they had to find an answer to a very important question: what did beauty actually mean to women?

In order to find the answer, Dove and Edelman planned a massive study. The purpose of the study was “to explore empirically what beauty means to women today, and assess whether it was possible to talk and think about female beauty in ways that were more authentic, satisfying and empowering.” In all, Dove surveyed close to 3,500 women between the ages of 15 to 64 through 10 countries and took away some major surprises. They found that all over the globe, women were not happy with their appearance. Additionally, the survey showed that “beautiful” was not a word that women associated with themselves and that the vast majority of survey respondees rated themselves “average” in terms of their physical attractiveness.

It was clear what needed to be done. Dove would plan and execute a promotional campaign that would establish themselves as a thought leader in the beauty space for the present and the future. As new products were introduced and tweaks made to that good old white bar of soap, the hope was conversations about beauty would be had.

After months of worldwide photo and video shoots, endless hours of research and countless meetings concentrated on tweaking of the messaging, it was time to unleash the “Real Beauty” campaign. But, could this plan really connect with what women were thinking and feeling to help Dove become more pertinent and profitable at the same time?

The clean result.

Over a decade later, the answer is pretty clear. Although Dove executives don’t release their profit margins, they will emphatically tell you that the campaign has boosted brand loyalty. The campaign can still be seen – all over the world in print, on billboards, on tv and radio and worldwide on the internet. Dove’s “Evolution” clip was one of the biggest YouTube smashes (back when YouTube first became a thing) and one of their Real Beauty spots that put women front and center as they describe their appearances to an artist, became one of the most-watched videos of all time.

But, here’s the kicker. Not only was the message and brand connecting with women — it was also connecting with men. Fathers, husbands, grandpas and boyfriends everywhere were empathetic to the cause, responding very well to the brand. And as Dove continued to introduce new products, they had a whole new audience to market to. Little did I know that I would be one of that audience. Their message that power and beauty come from within had really become a part of my DNA. That emotional connection they worked so hard to craft had made me more than just a customer, it had made me a brand proponent.

Fernando Machado, VP of Dove Skin, was quite happy, “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 are exciting us.”

I imagine the testimonials are still pouring in because the campaign has not slowed down. If anything, it has gained even more momentum as evidenced by a different spin on the Real Beauty campaign. (And, yes. That’s the ad that made me cry.)

Just like the Coca Colas, Nikes and Wendy’s before them, Dove went out of their way to not just sell to their customer- but, to connect with them as well. By digging deep into core emotions and crafting a bond with their end-user, they continue to position themselves as a brand out in front of a movement. In Dove’s case, “Real Beauty & Real Strength” were real emotions that continue to bring home real results.

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