Dove’s Cause Marketing of Self Esteem, Part II

Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty was launched in September 2004 on the heels of global study commissioned by Unilever called ‘The Real Truth about Beauty.’

Among the findings was that a scant 2 percent of all women defined themselves as beautiful. Better than 3/4th (81%) strongly agreed with the statement “The media and advertising set an unrealistic standard of beauty that most women can’t achieve.”

The Campaign for Real Beauty launched with an ad showing six ordinary woman (that is, non-models) flaunting their curves in white underwear. Many similar ads followed.

It proved to be an influential campaign. In 2006 Spain outlawed overly thin models on runways. In 2009 Glamour not once but twice featured model Lizzi Miller, who at 5’11” 185lbs confidently sported a small paunch!

The campaign continues, but to make best use of an existing relationship with the Girl Scouts of the USA, Unilever started the Dove Self Esteem Fund in 2006.

The initial cause marketing effort was more PR than marketing. When you signed a Dove Self Esteem pledge banner at a photo shoot of the original six women in Times Square, Dove would donate $1 to the Girl Scouts.

In 2008 Dove commissioned a second study, “Real Girls, Real Pressure,” this time on the self esteem of girls 8-17. The study included two components. An online survey of 1,029 girls with a follow-on study that involved interviews of 3,344 girls in 20 major cities in the United States.

The findings showed that self-esteem woes identified among women in the original 2004 study were first manifest in girls as young as age 8. Among the findings: 57 percent of girls have mothers who criticize their looks; 62 percent feel insecure or not sure of themselves. Among those with low self-esteem 75 percent report negative activities like smoking, drinking, bullying and cutting classes.

In the wake of the Real Girls study, Dove invested the Campaign for Real Beauty with more substance and added two more charity partners, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and Girls Inc.

Nowadays, to my reading, the Campaign for Real Beauty concentrates more closely on girls than women. Better to arrest the epidemic of low self-esteem before it develops rather then after it’s exhibited itself.

So Dove has developed and distributes online self-esteem workshop curricula, workbooks for moms and daughters, and an online self-esteem workshop. There’s been a raft of ads… the one above is called Onslaught… along with the usual social media outreach.

Each of the three charities has their own take on building self-esteem among their members.

All this has led to much deserved praise for Dove and Unilever. I could certainly do the same.

But rather than merely add my own encomiums, I encourage Unilever to cut the Campaign for Beauty loose, the way pink ribbons and the Boxtops for Education are now bigger because they’re no longer associated with just one sponsor.

When I say cut the CFB loose, I don’t mean to cut it from its moorings in self esteem among girls. In fact, the branding and the ideals of the Campaign for Beauty are now easily and widely enough understood that Dove couldn’t make it about anything but self esteem.

What I mean is that it’s time to set the Campaign for Real Beauty free from the constraints that are inherent with one-company sponsorship so that it can really grow to the next level.

The CFB is at a point when the only way it could get bigger… and more effective… is if Unilever allows people and other companies into the movement.

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