Is Dove’s Marketing MO “insensitivity” ?

Dove-logo“We believe beauty should be a source of confidence, and not anxiety. That’s why we are here to help women everywhere develop a positive relationship with the way they look, helping them raise their self-esteem and realize their full potential.”


As a leading, multinational, billion dollar beauty brand that boasts of 60 years of sustainability in the market, dove’s info-graphics indicate that her target demographics caters to both men, women and children of all nationalities without prejudice, or at least this would be the message they are ever so attempting to portray, a message that on numerous occasions has been represented erroneously; with various marketing gimmicks being termed as racist and for lack of better words, “advertisements gone horribly wrong”

The billion dollar beauty brand that has been advocating for self-love circa 2004 has carried out various activations predominantly in different parts of the United States; activations that are aimed at helping the next generation of women grow up feeling happy and confident about the way they look.’ Dove has worked together with international organizations such as the Girls Scout and Girl guides in order to cater to the most vulnerable of age brackets, teenage girls.  With just 3 years short of reaching their targeted 20 million more individuals, Dove seems to be occasionally missing the mark time and time again through glitches that are now easily translated as crass, callous and racist.

A simple case that leads to question how much effort goes into pre-market consumer feedback and product promotion despite having access to information gathered from their pool of self-acceptance activations.

The billion dollar beauty  brand seems ignorant to the rise in melanin pride and the battle women of color face with harmful bleaching products aimed at making a woman feel more beautiful. More so, they seem not to sufficiently take into consideration historical cultural representations that give leeway to the interpretation of images or phrases in the advertising.

South African Minister for Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa took to his twitter account to express his exasperation toward the brand’s latest advert. “We strongly condemn this racist campaign by @Dove & note with concern that this is not the first time they have been called out for such racism.”

some historic ad’s gone wrong courtesy of Dove.

Body wash 2011
In 2011, the Dove visiblecare beauty wash advert “mistakenly” placed the woman of color under the before place-card where as the Caucasian woman under the after.

While the 2011 advert is simply saying use dove for a better skin appearance, use dove it will help with cracks and the appearance of dry and unhealthy skin, the consequential result of this advert has people claiming that it meant the woman of color had flawed skin.

In 2015, the Dove summer glow nourishing lotion was boldly branded and distributed with the label ‘from normal to dark skin,’ in the European market. A mistake that was considered too bold to be a miss. Individuals who had already bought the product took to social media to express their concern with regard to the message it put across. “Could dark skin still be regarded as an abnormal feature?”







2017 has seen doves advertising department throw jabs (intentionally or unintentionally) at women on numerous occasions all while trying to promote their self-love advocating campaign:

The Breastfeeding Information Nobody  Cared for

The seemingly erudite beauty brand jumped on the infant nourishment bandwagon and while there is a probability that dove baby products are hypoallergenic and good for the baby, many took to question the relationship between skin care and breastfeeding. In the past, directly competing brands have advocated for breastfeeding through corporate social responsibility type of projects however breastfeeding mothers termed it as a non of your business matter in response to the insensitive positioning of words and social media response by the Unilever hosted brand. Dove literally took to saying breastfeeding is ok but not everyone wants to witness it.




“The first thing that Dove should have taken into consideration, and I speak as a mother, is the emotional weight a woman bares after giving birth, breastfeeding is hard enough as it is, in the beginning, you have no idea what you are doing and apart from the nutritional value, society often will judge you if you do not breastfeed. We already know that we live in a society where majority of social clusters, and lets look at this from a global sense, are expected to go into hiding or cover up while breastfeeding. I personally have a cluster-phobic daughter so I rarely cover up while breastfeeding, often I am faced with severe stink-eyed looks indicating disapproval. I find it hilarious that Dove would be bold enough to remind breastfeeding mothers that people are not comfortable with their preferred method breastfeeding.”

The Body Shaming Investment

The brand that has taken decades to invest heavily in motivating women to embrace their body shapes seems to have unknowingly taken a slight wrong turn and delved into body shaming.  Dove took to creating “7 body shaped” body wash bottles, a limited edition that would be gifted to Dove’s global influencers. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating the different shapes and sizes that make women unique. The problem arises when we objectify and categorize women based on such. Rather than tackling the issues, the bottles seemed to advocate for body shaming.




The Body Wash Controversy

The body wash AD that was pulled down from Facebook as soon as it was put up in all honesty, makes zero sense. Trying to interpret it any further than a hot mess would have you looking into racial insensitivity, white supremacy and bleaching. The social media campaign saw a model of African decent transform to Caucasian and while the motion ad continues to perpetuate the same Caucasian model transform into a model of Asian decent, the visibility captured via screenshots only shows both the African and Caucasian models. 

☹️ Makes you wonder how many people actually went into work that very day ☹️

It is evident that the consumer loyalty of dove has been shaken by past advertising flops as research indicates that in the United States, more men rather than women purchase products under the beauty brand. 

“All of our self-esteem resources are developed in consultation with experts: global authorities on the issue of girls’ body confidence as well as those with a very real, practical understanding of girls. We also work with partner organizations that share our common goals. Our partners help us to develop impactful materials and deliver them to as many young people as possible.”

Let’s play devil’s advocate for a quick minute, could it be that dove is, through her experts, in touch with the current issues affecting self-esteem among women and it is the very same passion driving them to empower women that has led to this borderline narcissistic approach in promoting their brand? It is true that skin whitening is common in some parts of the world. It is true that once upon a time people viewed Caucasian skin tones to be more beautiful than the melanin rich shades of brown. It is true that body shaming is very much prevalent in today’s society and the sexualization of breasts makes it a little difficult to freely breastfeed in certain environments.

Dove has with every uproar it causes, managed to sustain ad-free marketing, consumer feedback, and a social media frenzy. The ad’s are on our lips, in our minds, our search history and TV screens all without having to spend a single shilling on Above-The-line-Marketing 

Meanwhile we ask ourselves, is their consumer base loyalty strong enough to draw in profitability more so in the African market despite their numerous insensitive advertisements? If anything, going by the uproar on social media, a PR miracle needs to intervene or Unilever could be facing a significant reduction in profits from Dove. 




So, do you expect dove to do it yet again? Or will they finally revisit their look into creatively selling their brands?

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