16 Aug 2009
Dove – the quintessential thought leadership case study:
When Dove launched its Campaign for Real Beauty, little did it realize the global impact it would have on women and the debate around real beauty, let alone double-digit growth for the brand in the second business quarter of 2005, a sales increase of 11 percent in the first quarter of 2005 and a total US dollar sale increase of 6 percent to $500 million.
This was a fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) product launched in a truly unconventional way, through a website that does not carry one advertisement nor mention any of Dove’s products. It took very brave marketing executives at Dove to make that decision and hats off to them, because this has to rank as one of the world’s best examples of a great thought leadership campaign.
Effectively what the campaign did was create a forum for women to participate in a dialogue and debate around the definition and standards of beauty. The campaign aimed to ‘change the status quo and offer in its place a broader, healthier, more democratic view of beauty’. The dedicated website http://www.campaignforrealbeauty.com is a wonderful example of how to engage with a target audience online.
The campaign started with a research paper, ‘The US Dove Report: challenging beauty’ , http://tiny.cc/Fu4Sf which was followed by publication of a second major research report: ‘The real truth about beauty: a global report’ http://tiny.cc/VTxv4 . And while there are many elements to the campaign, Dove initially invited women to the website to participate in a conversation about beauty stereotypes. Advertising, billboards and a PR campaign helped direct women to the site, but it was the website which became the spiritual hub of the campaign.
Thought leadership in action – engaging with your consumer
The site was designed to be a ‘starting point for societal change’ as well as a sanctuary for women, and it represents what Dove believes. Dove invited women to engage in a global dialogue about beauty stereotypes that it says had a ‘profound effect on the self-esteem of women’. The website is personal and private, and encourages women to express how they feel, while giving them the opportunity to have their voice heard through an online voting system. It also has a variety of tools to help improve the self-esteem of girls and women.
To this end, the Dove Self Esteem Fund was recently launched to help free the next generation of women from self-limiting beauty stereotypes. It aims to reach five million young women by the end of 2010.
Long-term thought leadership
Dove tapped into something deep and enduring. It engaged with its customers in a way it never has before and in a way many products never will. In so doing, it has created customer evangelists and great word-of-mouth for the brand. It is also used in presentations around the world as an example of a company truly engaging with its customers on issues which really matter to them.
The Dove campaign for real beauty is the quintessential thought leadership campaign for four key reasons:
- It taps into the needs and hits the hot buttons of its target audience
- It identifies the passion and emotion in the brand
- It readily provides great content
- It cuts the umbilical cord with its products and focuses on issues which matter to its target audiences.
The issue, real beauty and self esteem, became synonymous with the brand and Dove now owns that space.
The Dove campaign is a great reminder to all of us marketers, brand, advertising or public relation professionals about why we should be brave with our work.
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