Dove needs to refocus on honesty, not rely on ‘stunts’
Dove is losing sight of its strengths following a string of attention-seeking ads this year, industry leaders have warned.
Last week, the brand pulled an ad for Baby Dove that was widely criticised for seeming to validate the views of people opposed to breastfeeding in public. In May, Dove was ridiculed on social media for a range of bottles designed to represent women’s body shapes. Moreover, print ads in January that mocked Donald Trump by featuring “alternative facts” were attacked for not fitting with the brand’s identity, despite winning praise for their humour.
Daryl Fielding, chief executive of The Marketing Academy Foundation, said the examples missed the mark because they were “shallow, irrelevant to product or just not connected to the brand’s positioning of honesty”. Fielding led the development of Dove’s “Campaign for real beauty” in 2004 while at Ogilvy & Mather.
The breastfeeding ad lacked a connection with the products despite the importance of the issue, she said, and raised a problem without offering a solution. The “alternative facts” ads, meanwhile, missed a “huge opportunity” to either flag up the brand’s association with honesty or discuss Trump’s attitude to women.
Dove is in danger of being a brand that “simply wants to be heard”, Leo Rayman, chief executive of Grey London, said. He argued that Dove was trying to start a debate about breastfeeding for the sake of it, while the special bottles had the opposite effect to the intention: “If you truly are the champion of diversity, you would understand that people probably don’t want to be reduced to six shapes.”
A Unilever spokeswoman said Dove was “proud of the strong and sustainable brand equity which we have built through our campaigns” and it would continue to use “a wide variety of creative executions with the objective of supporting our consumers to feel confident and empowered”.
Sean Kinmont, founding partner and creative director at 23red, defended the brand, saying that recent failings came not from “malice or cynicism but an attempt to be the good guy”. Dove now needs to tread carefully to maintain its “contract of trust”, he added.
Theo Izzard-brown, chief strategy officer at Mccann London, suggested that Dove should pick a “fresh, culturally
charged battleground” in which to be a powerful voice.
However, Emma Worrollo, managing director and founder of The Pineapple Lounge, which specialises in family marketing, said Dove had become a victim of the purpose-driven marketing that it pioneered. Consumers have been “overexposed to brands wading in too deeply on social and political issues”, she said.
Thirteen years after the launch of “Campaign for real beauty”, Dove should be forgiven “a few missteps”, Malcolm Poynton, global chief creative officer at Cheil Worldwide, said. But he urged the brand to “continue its mission on a mass, populist scale” rather than rely on stunts.
Dove pulled the ad last week
Print ads featured ‘alternative facts’