In spite of the persuasive critiques of Dove’s 9-year old “Real Beauty” campaign, the most recent installation is clearly articulated and brilliantly executed from a branding perspective. There’s a lot to question in our beauty-obsessed culture, and Dove has clearly, positively differentiated itself in the beauty marketplace by relentlessly marketing a single, overarching message: we should be content with who we are.
The company offers a breath of fresh air with its Real Beauty Sketches video, which has gone viral on every imaginable social media platform. The video exemplifies Dove’s unique brand positioning (the key elements that differentiate a brand from its competitors): Dove is an oasis of calm in a sea of hysterical voices telling women to obsess over their imperfections.
In the video, a series of women describe their appearance to a forensic artist, who sketches them without seeing their faces. After each woman has left the room, an impartial observer describes her appearance to the artist. Viewers might predict that the women would be too hard on themselves, but seeing the two images side-by-side really drives the message home.
Among multinational beauty brands, Dove fills a sparsely-populated niche; their ads convey a conviction that all women already have the right to feel good about how they look. Most ads suggest the opposite: women can only feel good about their looks if they devote considerable time, effort, and resources to changing themselves. The Real Beauty Sketches video, among other ad installments in the Real Beauty Campaign, offers a fascinating shift in the beauty product marketing paradigm—albeit one that has been met with some skepticism.
The hundreds of thousands of media consumers who share the video aren’t necessarily endorsing Dove’s products. Instead, they’re expressing support for the distinctive messages of Dove’s campaign and the Dove brand: a beauty company that focuses on assets, not flaws. Because the Real Beauty Sketches video has authentic, emotional value for its viewers, people are sharing it enthusiastically. Vividly showing your target audiences how your brand is distinct from your competitors and uniquely valuable to your audiences is the essence of brand differentiation.
Overall, the Real Beauty Campaign has cemented Dove’s uniqueness and raised its profile in the beauty market. With distinctive ads and communications, Dove is carving out its own corner of the market and actively shaping its brand, or reputation—that of an encouraging, compassionate voice that inspires women to feel good rather than self-critical.