Marketing Strategy of Dove

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  • Post last modified:April 27, 2019

Dove has a special place in the world of beauty and personal care products. The range of Dove products has expanded over time and so has the attraction and appeal associated with the Dove brand. However, while Dove has come to be known for its product quality which differentiates it from the large crowd of beauty products, it is also associated with many more things. Dove is a famous brand and its unique marketing strategy has also worked to increase the beauty of Dove brand multiple times. It is a brand from the Unilever family. However, it is also the most iconic brand by Unilever. Apart from the Dove beauty formula of mild cleansers and moisturising cream, Dove’s marketing strategy has also worked to make the brand a popular and household name around the world. The world of beauty and skincare has become highly competitive and there are several brands contending for market share. The market is populated by the competitors of Dove. However, it has still retained its market leading position very well. The way that Unilever marketed  Dove has played an important role in growing its demand in various corners of the world.

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Unique marketing strategy

The marketing strategy of Dove is very different than its competitors. Unilever selected to take a different route than its competitors in terms of marketing its Dove products and brand. Instead of taking the regular and easier route for churning demand by advertising Dove as the favorite of beautiful actresses and models, it decided to connect it with real people. While this has helped it connect the brand with real customers, it has also helped Dove acquire a distinct and unique image. Over time while people’s consumption patterns have changed a lot so have their attitudes towards brands and their marketing. The common advertising strategies do not work any  more and neither do the traditional advertising techniques. To achieve a leadership status in the market, brands have to do something unique and create a distinct brand image that sets them apart from the competitors. Brand image and brand equity have become important to retail sales and market share in a hyper competitive market environment. How, a brand markets its products affects its brand image as well as sales of products. In case of Dove, Unilever decided to take a modern but responsible approach.

A healthy product at the core

Dove was released in US in 1957. It has been promoted as a healthier option for the regular beauty bars with chemicals. It is also recommended by dermatologists in key markets including US, Canada and France. At the core of the product is the patented blend of mild cleansers and ¼ moisturising cream. While the main attraction of the product is its composition, its marketing is also key to its success. In a market filled with competing products, chances of succeeding only with a great product is not possible. You also need a great marketing formula to become successful. Today, Dove offers a large range of beauty and personal care products including body washes, hand and body lotions, facial cleansers, deodorants, shampoos, conditioners and hair styling products. However, even with growing product line, the basic formula is to remain wild on skin.

Reinventing the Brand with Real World Beauty Campaign

Dove was a success since long. However, Unilever reinvented the brand with its real beauty marketing campaign which also made Dove one of the most iconic beauty bars. Dove launched its real beauty campaign in 2004. The beauty bar has always targeted women which are its largest market segment.

However, in 2004 to deepen the connection between the product and its customers, it started a campaign which featured real beauties from real world. While it worked to disconnect the traditional image of beauty from the actresses and models, it also helped Dove deepen its penetration among real customers. Traditionally, the definition of glamor has remained associated with actresses and models having barbie like figures. However, Dove’s campaign worked to break this myth. The definition of beauty and glamor is much broader. However, people’s eyes had grown so used to the marketable side of beauty that  they kept overlooking the beauty in the real world. Dove’s mission was to break the stereotype. As a part of its campaign, it featured images of real women in its advertising that represented a broader image of beauty. Since its 2004 campaign, the brand has continuously retained its focus on real beauty. It is working on breaking the beauty stereotypes.

Projects for women’s empowerment

This strategy has not remained confined to just advertising. Instead Dove started several real projects that would focus on real beauties and work to increase the representation of real women in media and other marketing channels. ‘#Show Us’ is one of the several projects started by Dove in this regard. 70% of women still don’t feel represented in media & advertising. That’s why Dove partnered with Girlgaze, Getty Images, and women everywhere to create Project #ShowUs. It is the world’s largest photo library created by women and non-binary individuals to shatter beauty stereotypes. With more than 5000 images, Dove will create a more inclusive vision of beauty to all media & advertisers. However, Dove’s commitment to break the beauty stereotype is deep and to prove this as a part of its 60th anniversary celebration, Dove launched the Dove Real Beauty Pledge, consisting of 3 vows:

  1. We always feature women, never models.
  2. We portray women as they are in real life. We do not digitally distort our images.
  3. We are helping 40 million young people build self-esteem and positive body confidence.

So, in a way, the Real Dove beauty is the beauty without tons of makeup. It is the real life beauty who looks and feels beautiful without makeup or a picture perfect shape. There are more similar projects that are also a part of Dove’s marketing strategy and which focus upon strengthening the picture of real world beauty as the original beauty.

What was initially a way to connect with its core customer segment, turned later into a compelling social mission. Apart from redefining beauty, the company also focused on helping women build their self esteem. So, it launched Dove Self-Esteem Project (DSEP) in 2004 when the Dove Real Beauty campaign was in its infancy. Through this project, Unilever and Dove deliver self Esteem lessons to young people. Apart from such projects that are aimed at empowering women, the company has also carried out studies over how girls and the society in general perceive beauty . These studies show that while attitudes have changed over time, girls are even more anxious about their looks than ever.

Dove’s marketing strategy has been successful at addressing several things. It has been able to develop a strong connection with its target audience. It has strengthened and bolstered Dove’s image and has helped it create strong brand recognition. The most important thing is that the marketing strategy of Dove is not limited to seasonal campaigns which are targeted at driving demand. It is a long term strategy where the focus is on continuously growing the connection between the brand and the customer stronger. Rather than being limited to the promotion of the core product, the strategy of Dove is to address larger issues through its marketing campaign which have bothered real women for generations.


Abhijeet Pratap

Abhijeet has been blogging on educational topics and business research since 2016. He graduated with a Hons. in English literature from BRABU and an MBA from the Asia-Pacific Institute of Management, New Delhi. He likes to blog and share his knowledge and research in business management, marketing, literature and other areas with his readers.