Sunday, March 30, 2008

YouTube Videos Question Authenticity of Unilever's Campaign for Real Beauty Message

We recently discussed Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty and the viral videos generated as part of that campaign (i.e. the Evolution and Onslaught videos). What we haven't discussed yet is an interesting marketing dilemma facing Unilever, the multinational corporation which owns the Dove brand along with about 400 other brands, including personal care brands Axe, Sunsilk, and Lux. Obviously all of these product lines have different brand personalities. So what do you do when two of them clash? That's exactly the dilemma we are talking about here. While Dove's viral videos have been trying to redefine our perception of real beauty, Axe's marketing strategy has been reinforcing the exact stereotype of the woman as sex object that the Dove videos have been trying to dispel. So what's Unilever to do?

Can they reap the benefits of Dove's success in rebranding itself as a socially responsible brand while at the same time supporting Axe's message of female sex appeal? Should Unilever allow one of its own brands to undermine Dove's mission? Can the Dove message come across as authentic when other Unilever brands blatantly reject it? Is this hypocritical?

Here are a two YouTube videos that are calling Unilever on its apparent hypocrisy:





Also see this post from AdPulp.

1 comment:

Zane Safrit said...

I don’t see Unilever as being hypocritical. I think their branding and brand reflects consumer’s diversity: our own inconsistency, our own internal mixed messages, our fantasies, wishes and hopes. Dove’s campaign has been wonderfully received, open the doors to lots of discussion on the impact of marketing for people’s self-esteem, self-image. And it’s sold a lot of product to that community that’s open, embracing, of that message. And for those consumers who don’t, won’t, aren’t ready for it, uncomfortable with it, reject it, refute it, scoff at it, don’t need it, whatever…Unilever’s got a product for them. Commercially agnostic.

Would it be more appropriate if Unilever inflicted its values on consumers and say “well we approve of only those people who support the Dove brand’s message. Everyone else is sexist, insecure, confused, unacceptable and so are your consumer desires for products that reflect your values. We’ve decided these are the right values. Henceforth, consumers can either get with our program that’s appropriate for humanity or…go without.”

And yet there are those companies that do support a particular slant with offering only products that reflect those values. And it’s their choice to be entirely consistent with their products and messages and serve one community of consumers.

Would they impose their values on consumers in any greater way than if Unilever suddenly renounced all beauty products but Dove? No.

I don’t where the pendulum’s balance is gained in a culture between its consumer products representing the values of its consumer and its consumer’s values representing the product choices forced on them with interruptive marketing. But my gut feeling is like democracy and leaders, we get the brands and corporations we deserve.