Last month I received two emails from friends, within about 30 minutes of each other that both said pretty much the same thing: Dove did it again. My friends were referring to Dove’s latest installment of its Dove® Movement for Self-Esteem, which launched in 2004 with the Campaign for Real Beauty. The latest campaign, called Choose Beautiful, includes a video shot in Shanghai, San Francisco, London, Sao Paulo, and Delhi. In each city, Dove’s masterminds placed signs above side-by-side doors. One door said Beautiful and the other door said Average. The video shows women examining the signs, and most of them choose the Average door.
The drive behind the campaign is to help women see that all women—all people—are beautiful in some way. Like the videos that came before it, Choose Beautiful struck an emotional chord with viewers, with many shares on social media declaring it an important message for women to see. Since it launched last month, the video has been viewed more than 6 million times—another viral success in a string of viral successes for Dove. The Real Beauty Sketches video, which Dove premiered 2 years ago, is considered by many to be the most viewed ad ever.
Since 2004, Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty/Movement for Self-Esteem campaign has reportedly helped boost sales from $2.5 billion to $4 billion. What is it about these commercials that seem to resonate so effectively with their target audience? The campaign was inspired by research suggesting that just 4 percent of women say they consider themselves beautiful. And perhaps that’s it. Maybe the campaign has been so successful because it forces us to think about what it means to be beautiful, or strong, or confident.
Dove’s campaign is not without critics. Many argue that the campaign still focuses too much attention on what is considered “traditional” ideals of beauty. Some also say that the campaign capitalizes on the fact that only 4 percent of women consider themselves to be in the beautiful category while ignoring the fact that 71 percent of women are satisfied with their physical appearance. Others have argued that the campaign is hypocritical given that Dove is in the business of products designed to make women more “beautiful” while producing videos promoting the idea that all women are beautiful in their own right, without any beauty accoutrements.
But the bottom line is that regardless of whether you think Dove’s videos are the stuff of marketing genius or manipulative and patronizing, it’s promoting a conversation and challenging the definition of beauty—a conversation the ladies of HealthComU think needs to take place. Last month, fellow HealthComU founder Julie wrote about Lane Bryant’s #I’mNoAngel campaign, which challenged the longstanding image of the conventionally beautiful Victoria Secret angel.
Just this month, software company Axosoft jumped into the conversation with the It Was Never a Dress campaign, declaring that the ubiquitous bathroom woman image that we all know so well was never wearing a dress—she was wearing a cape. The company says it launched the campaign because “In science, technology, arts, mathematics, politics, houses of worship, on the streets, and in our homes, insightful women are often uninvited, overlooked, or just plain dismissed.”
Health communicators have the important role of furthering the conversation about what it means to beautiful…and smart…and talented…and confident…
A version of this post originally appeared on May 12 on MMG’s blog, the Healthyist.