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Storytelling Close-Up Dove: The Tireless Commitment to True Beauty
Brands Lifestyle & Health 13 December 2022

Storytelling Close-Up Dove: The Tireless Commitment to True Beauty

In our storytelling introductions, we often ask: What distinguishes a normal beauty campaign from Dove’s campaigns? Or what does Dove perhaps have to do with Star Wars? The answer: Good storytelling! Let’s take a closer look at why this is the case and why we so often use Dove as a role model. To do that, we’ll first get into the theory, namely the cosmetics company’s hero’s journey.

Titelbild Storytelling Close-Up Dove
Quelle: Shutterstock

The Dove Hero’s Journey – How it all began

Facts and figures about the first steps of the company’s foundation and further expansion can all be read on the company’s website. Founded in the 1950s, Dove gained a foothold in the German market in 1991; by 2003 the brand included shower gel, bath products, body lotion, deodorant and hair care products. To date, no difference to other beauty brands.

Then in 2004, the change from the familiar to the adventurous: Dove introduces a skin-firming skincare line that supports “no models but firm curves” in a “sensational advertising campaign.”

“For the first time, “real women” were shown in advertising as they really are: by no means perfect, but still self-confident, cheerful – and beautiful.”

Apparently a novelty in the perfect beauty industry and advertising world.

Core story of Dove – Defeating the Monster

In 2005, the Group then went one step further and launched the “True Beauty Initiative”. In doing so, the brand manifested its core message as a mentor: Dove took a stand against outdated beauty ideals for the first time. If we base this on the brand mentor archetypes defined by Jonah Sachs, Dove takes on the role of defender on the one hand, who stands up for people who are particularly worthy of esteem and beautiful. On the other hand, the role of the witness, who exposes injustice and acts as the conscience of society.

In this role, Dove confronts the actual heroines (aka the customers) with their lack of self-confidence or an unrealistic beauty ideal with the aim of changing their self-image, as already shown, for example, in this simple but impressive video clip  from 2006.

Dove’s Storytelling Strategy – Sustainable and Authentic

This initiative was by no means a one-off marketing campaign, but the start of an entire story strategy on the basis of which the cosmetics company constantly creates new, authentic content that is on everyone’s lips. One of the best-known and much-cited advertising campaigns is the award-winning video “Real Beauty Sketches” from 2013, which impressively addresses the gap between how others perceive us and how we see ourselves.

The story is about different women who are the subjects of two portraits drawn by an FBI forensic scientist. One is based on their own description, the other on the observations of a stranger they met only a few minutes ago. The results are surprising for the participants as well as for the audience. The protagonists realize that they see themselves much more self-critically and are much friendlier and more beautiful in the eyes of others.

Storylistening – Listening to the Target Group to find Stories

How does Dove come up with stories like this? By listening to its target group.

“A survey by Dove on satisfaction with one’s appearance with more than 6,400 women from around the world found that only two percent of German women describe themselves as beautiful. And these complexes about appearance arise at a young age.”

After all, one of the cornerstones of storytelling is to identify the needs of the audience as mentor and reflect them in the heroic journeys of the target audiences.

Dove KampagneSource: Dove

Storytelling in Series – the Plot remains, the Cast changes

Years later, Dove remains true to itself and its mentoring role, adding chapter after chapter to its storytelling strategy. In 2018, for “The Voice of Beauty” campaign, the cosmetics company cast real testimonials for a new skincare line not based on their looks, but on their story alone. The result is 18 portraits of unique women with inspiring stories that literally “get under your skin.” Whether a stuntwoman, a kidney donor, or the founder of a breast cancer foundation – they are all heard in the promotional video.

Core Story Today – From Storytelling to Storydoing

Even though the core message is still the same, one thing has changed over time. Dove no longer acts as a witness who points out injustices, but has developed into an activist in communication, who, after clear words, also lets actions speak. For example, Dove, like other care brands of the Unilever Group, now does not use excessive image editing for its models. Or it “smuggled” its own pictures of real women and various models into image databases and agencies and “gave them away” to other brands in order to set an example for diversity in advertising.

Dove Storytelling Kampagne
Source: Dove

The Target Group is always the Focus of the Campaigns

Meanwhile, Dove is fighting the toxic beauty ideal on all levels. Be it with an influencer campaign against bodyshaming. With „Stop the Beauy-Test“ gagainst the traditional Indian marriage market, where 90 percent of female singles in India have the feeling that they will be rejected for marriage because of their appearance. With „Reverse Selfie“ against the self-optimization mania that first-class edited selfies on social media already trigger in young girls, or with „Toxic Influence“ against the sick beauty advice they encounter there. The list goes on and on.

The latest campaign, „Under Pressure“ addresses postpartum stress among young mothers after giving birth. What all campaigns have in common is that those affected are not left alone, but receive support on the respective landing pages or YouTube pages. Thus, Dove still fulfills the important role of defender, which stands up for all those who need a voice in an unrealistic beauty world.

Would you like to gain further insights into corporate storytelling? Then I recommend our Storytelling Close-Up of McDonald’s.

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