Case Study: Dove

DoveCompany profile


 Founded in 1957, Dove is committed to help all women realize their personal beauty potential by creating products that deliver real care. Dove is manufactured by Unilever and is sold in nearly 100 countries around the world (Dove, 2013c). Competitors for Dove include, L’Oreal; the world’s largest beauty product company and Avon (Carando, 2009).

Dove’s Vision

             “We’re building a movement in which women everywhere have the tools to take action and inspire each other and the girls in their lives” (Dove, 2013a).


             Dove is committed to help all women realize their personal beauty potential by creating products that deliver genuine improvement to the condition of your skin and hair. Dove believes that beauty should be for everyone, because when you look and feel your best, you feel better about yourself (Dove, 2013c).

Case Study for Dove


Dove has taken their corporate social responsibility to the next level in their campaign for real beauty. This campaign was launched in the United Kingdom in 2004 by Unilever; after a study of 3200 women, aged 18-64, revealed that only two per cent would choose the word beautiful to describe their looks (Dr. Orbach, Dr. Etcoff , Dr. Scott, & D’Agostino, 2004).

Over the years Dove has continuously renewed the campaign to reach a range of female target audiences. The campaign for real beauty went global when their ads went viral. This campaign continues to be a staple at Dove as it helps them work toward their vision. This campaign’s main objective is to “empower women and get them to embrace their real beauty, thereby raising their self-esteem and their impact on the world around them” (Carando, 2009). While simultaneously promoting Dove’s range of personal care products (Datamonitor, 2005). The Dove “Self-Esteem Project’s target is to reach 15 million young people with self-esteem education by 2015” (Unilever, 2013a).


The campaign was inspired by a global study called “The Real Truth about Beauty: A Global Report” (Dr. Orbach, Dr. Etcoff , Dr. Scott, & D’Agostino, 2004). As a company within the beauty industry, Dove wanted to have a better understanding of the issues regarding women and beauty by developing this study (Carando, 2009).

The Real Truth about Beauty study was commissioned by Dove, one of Unilever’s largest beauty brands, to further the global understanding of women, beauty and well-being – and the relationship between them. It had its genesis in a growing concern that portrayals of female beauty in popular culture were helping to perpetuate an idea of beauty that was neither authentic nor attainable. Dove was concerned that this limited portrayal of beauty was preventing women from recognizing and enjoying beauty in themselves and others. The company was also aware that – in a world where female beauty is highly valued – this situation could also impact women’s well-being, happiness and self-esteem (Dr. Orbach, Dr. Etcoff , Dr. Scott, & D’Agostino, 2004).

The study revealed that “90% of the women and girls surveyed, wanted to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance, and 67% of all women withdrew from life-engaging activities due to feeling badly about their looks” (Dr. Orbach, Dr. Etcoff , Dr. Scott, & D’Agostino, 2004). Four in ten women, strongly agree that they do not feel comfortable describing themselves as beautiful (Dr. Orbach, Dr. Etcoff , Dr. Scott, & D’Agostino, 2004). By an overwhelming majority, women are more comfortable, using the words “natural (31%) or average (29%) to describe their looks” (Dr. Orbach, Dr. Etcoff , Dr. Scott, & D’Agostino, 2004).

Specific challenge

The campaign for real beauty was created to support Dove’s mission of making women of all shapes and sizes feel beautiful every day, while widening stereotypical views of beauty created by the media. This presented a challenge for Dove, as nearly half of all women surveyed (48%), feel that they don’t measure up to societies expectations (Dr. Orbach, Dr. Etcoff , Dr. Scott, & D’Agostino, 2004). These feelings can have major impact on overall self-esteem, participation and happiness.

As a result of these findings, Dove wanted “to identify the serious consequences that can result from society’s daily pressure to look good and create a legacy of body confidence” (Unilever, 2013a).  Role models, from mothers to teen idols, have a significant impact on how young girls define beauty. The campaign had to challenge, both society and the media’s perception of beauty, in order to make a lasting impact.


The goal for the campaign, was to help start a discussion for societal change and expand the definition of beauty (Carando, 2009). In 2005, print and outdoor advertisements were produced that featured six everyday women who had real bodies and real curves (Carando, 2009).  Dove wanted to challenge the ideal body type standards set by the media that society has blindly bought into. They did it again in 2007, when they featured women 50 years and older in advertisements (Carando, 2009).

Dove’s current focus is on the self-esteem of young girls. They have created self-esteem workshops and online self-esteem tools for mothers and daughters. These programs aim to build confidence and self-esteem in young girls. Role models are key influencers for youth.

“The most important thing women can do to help girls build a foundation of confidence and self-esteem is to lead by example, by allowing young girls to see that you are confident in your own skin and joyful about who you are,” says Olympic medalist, Shelley-Ann Brown. “The best role model is a woman who knows who she has been and who she wants to become, while being proud of who she is today” (Dove, 2013b).

Communication tactics and tools

Dove began this campaign by hiring Strategy One; a global market research and opinion marketing firm owned by Edelman, to conduct surveys (Dove, 2013b). They began by asking real women about beauty and its affect on their self-esteem. When the results came in, Dove turned to the PR firm Ogilvy and together they changed the way that personal care brands are marketed (Cassies, 2007). Throughout this campaign the company has created online films such as Evolution, Onslaught and True Colors. Several communication tools used for the campaign have been funded by the Dove Self-Esteem Fund including: “print, outdoor advertisements, commercials, social media and workshops” (Carando, 2009). These tools supported Dove’s effort to create a global discussion about beauty with women all over the world. The campaign stands by Dove’s mission in using real women of various ages, shapes and sizes to promote discussion and debate about the narrow beauty standards and images set in today’s society.


Since it began in 2005, the Dove self-esteem fund has impacted the lives of more than “eight hundred thousand girls in Canada and more than seven million girls globally” (Dove, 2013b). The results of this campaign were outstanding. The media coverage for Evolution alone is “estimated to be worth $150 million  by Unilever’s American PR firm” (Cassies, 2007).

 ” In 2004, the first year of the campaign, global sales surpassed $1 billion, exceeding company expectations”(Carando, 2009).

‘The Real Truth about Beauty’ research suggests that, while beauty pressures can have consequences for young girls, positive role models in their lives could help limit their negative impact.  What was surprising however, in today’s society, mothers have a greater influence on their daughters’ self-esteem than the media and celebrities (Cassies, 2007).


Dove self-esteem ambassador Jess Weiner points out that, “when girls stop participating in the day-to-day activities of life, we as a society lose out on the women of tomorrow”(Dr. Orbach, Dr. Etcoff , Dr. Scott, & D’Agostino, 2004). Dove is working to change this and create a world where the way girls think they look never holds them back from realizing their full potential in life.

Dove’s self-esteem project helps girls build a positive relationship with beauty, in the hopes of allowing them to have a more positive body image. The project delivers self-esteem education programs for children (primarily girls aged 8–17 ) through workshops in schools or in youth groups, through activities for mothers and daughters, and online activities.

Sixty-three per cent of women surveyed believe that they are “expected to be more physically attractive than their mother’s generation (Dr. Orbach, Dr. Etcoff , Dr. Scott, & D’Agostino, 2004). While 60 per cent believe “society expects women to enhance their physical attractiveness” (Dr. Orbach, Dr. Etcoff , Dr. Scott, & D’Agostino, 2004). Dove has encouraged women to take care of themselves so they feel at their personal best, in the hopes of giving them confidence and happiness in their own unique appearance. Throughout the project, Dove has been working to create a positive beauty legacy for  women.

“As part of Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan to improve the health and well-being of 1 billion lives by 2020, the Dove Self-Esteem Project target is to reach 15 million young people with self-esteem education by 2015. By the end of 2012, over 11 million girls had been reached” (Unilever, 2013a).


Dove’s focus is to show the beauty of “real” women but younger generations want to relate to celebrities opposed to everyday normal people. As a result, it may be difficult for Dove to get their message out.  Their approach has good intentions but it is unlikely that they will reach their target audience as effectively as the media. In order to change the perception of youth, new ways need to be developed to get their attention.

“Dove’s research suggests that there is much work to be done to help young girls deal with the beauty pressures that mount between their tween years and early adulthood,” says Sharon MacLeod, Dove director. “There is a significant opportunity to intervene early-on to help young girls address their sources of beauty anxiety, to develop a positive relationship with their beauty and realize their full potential” (Dove, 2013b).

The campaign has not had the desired effect on everyone. Some people feel that “Dove’s ultimate message was that women still needed to use their products to be beautiful”(Bissell & Rask, 2010). Studies show that average-sized models can sell products just as well as thin models (Bissell & Rask, 2010). Women and girls have been surrounded by factors that influence beauty ideals and self-image their whole lives, it is unlikely that these views can be changed easily.  This is likely why Dove is currently focusing on the younger generations through workshops and online.

A third party research study concluded that participants, exposed to an image of a Dove model, would still be more likely to compare themselves to the media’s definition of beauty (Bissell & Rask, 2010). “This simply suggests that women remain dissatisfied with their body shape and size, and continue to idealise body shape images that are not similar to their own” (Bissell & Rask, 2010).


“A girl’s inner beauty critic moves in by the time she is 14 years old and continues to erode her self-esteem as she ages”(Dove, 2013b). Dove is working toward reshaping the future of beauty though workshops. As a girl, I know that even in developed societies, the pressure to look beautiful can hold girls back from participating in their lives, and following their dreams. When we look at the cultures in society today we see that there is more pressure than ever for girls to be physically perfect. Research conducted by Dove of girls aged “10–17 revealed that 60% of girls have chosen not to participate in something because they believed they didn’t look good enough” (Unilever, 2013a). It is no surprise that girls are most likely to avoid activities that require them to display their bodies or showcase their looks – such as going to the beach, to a party or on a date – but the more shocking truth is the “15% that chose not to go to school and the 12% that avoided going to the doctor” (Unilever, 2013a).

Dove’s focus is on “real” women so they are naturally the feature of their commercials. However, in today’s society young girls with self-esteem issues are more likely to look up to celebrities who don’t advertise that they have a team of people making them look radiant and flawless. In order for dove’s work to have a larger impact the role models for young girls need to be forth coming and honest. We see commercials everyday where actors don’t appear to have pores, blemishes or imperfections of any kind and that is what makes girls and women alike feel insignificant and ugly. Doves’ next part of this ongoing campaign should be to make role models real. Possibly through documentaries. People need to know that their role models don’t wake up looking perfect every day. The model used in the Evolution video was not well known by the younger generation and may not have had the desired impact on them. In order for girls to wake up to reality and feel comfortable in their own skin they need to see their role models doing the same. The hope is that one day, “true beauty will not be driven by theory or ideology, but by its resonance in the hearts and minds of those who encounter it” (Dr. Orbach, Dr. Etcoff , Dr. Scott, & D’Agostino, 2004).


Bissell, K., & Rask, A. (2010, Novmember 1). Real Women on Real Beauty. Retrieved November 7, 2013, from Ebscohost:

Carando, G. (2009, March 1). The Dove Real Beauty Campaign. Retrieved from Blogger: Public Relations Problems & Cases:

Cassies. (2007). Brand/Case: Dove. Making it fly. (B. C. Inc., Ed.) Retrieved November 1, 2013, from Cassies online entry system:

Datamonitor. (2005, June 1). Dove Campaign for Real Beauty Case Study. Retrieved November 4, 2013, from ebscohost:

Dove. (2013a). Our Vision. Retrieved November 1, 2013, from Dove:

Dove. (2013b). Surprising Self-Esteem Statistics. Retrieved November 1, 2013, from Dove: Article:

Dove. (2013c). About. Retrieved November 3, 2013, from Facebook:

Dr. Orbach, S., Dr. Etcoff , N., Dr. Scott, J., & D’Agostino, H. (2004, September). “THE REAL TRUTH ABOUT BEAUTY: A GLOBAL REPORT”. (StrategyOne, Ed.) Retrieved October 31, 2013, from Dove:

Unilever. (2013a). Reshaping the Future of Beauty. Retrieved November 1, 2013`, from Unilever:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s