In Branding


Brand Storytelling

“Dove Real Beauty”

In my quest to find meaningful brand stories and discussions today, I came across a YouTube video called, “Dove Real Beauty Sketches.” It sounded interesting and perhaps sharable so I watched it. It was so interesting in fact that I decided to take a break from the search for a moment to discuss it.

Meaning, authenticity, and inspiration

At Allegory Studios we pitch the idea of creating meaningful brand stories every day. Ultimately what proliferates your brand is how perception intersects with your customer base to create real life connectivity. Relevant brand stories bring people closer to real life discussions and eventually the point of purchase – how does this product or service make me feel?  Whether happy, sad, angry or indifferent – a story allows people to relate visual and aural experiences to their own lives.  The real job of a brand then is not only to create a compelling story but to reinforce that messaging throughout every medium that touches the end user – from business cards and belief statements to ad campaigns, customer service methods and even to the messaging a company propels internally to its employees.  But I digress… back to Dove.

First, take three minutes to watch the Dove Real Beauty Sketches video. The focus in the video is on women (no surprise) but a man might identify equally.  How did it make you feel?  Or better yet, did it make you feel anything at all?  I was surprised – I thought this ad was beautiful and thought provoking and so very, very smart!  I shed a tiny tear thinking about the message for every woman and then I thought, my gosh – what a brilliant brand story.  These guys get it.  They created a message that resonated perfectly with their target audience.  Women everywhere are sharing this video, “everyone needs to see this!” – four days on YouTube and almost 7.2 million views.

Interestingly enough but not surprisingly, there are folks out there who are taking it to the next level – upset with the ideals Dove chose to focus on and reinforce. The naysayers highlight racial sensitivity, objectification of women, lack of focus on the true human spirit and what really makes people beautiful.

Dove is a product – the very first thing they do is get to know the target audience better than they know themselves. What are their needs and wants, their fears, what makes them tick? I doubt it’s a surprise to anyone that Dove’s target audience is middle-aged white women. Women that are approaching that stage in life when they begin to lose a connection to their youth and question their outward beauty. This video sketch not only speaks to them, it makes them feel – it makes them reflect and compare these ideals to their own lives. It makes them think about trying to be better people to themselves, it encourages them to identify with their inner strength. None of this would have been possible without a well-crafted story.

Have they introduced racial sensitivity and caused some women to feel objectified? Certainly. Was it overtly offensive? No. The less sexy picture begs the question – was this brand story on point, was it successful? Yes it was. It caused middle-aged white women to reflect on real life and it prompted others who are perhaps not the primary target to challenge the idea with an engaging discussion. Whether it left you with melancholy, wonderment, happiness, resentment or anger – it left you with an emotion and it forced you to relate the experience shared in the video to your own life and experiences.

The brand element

From a branding perspective they could not have done a better job. While they may have alienated some, isn’t the greater focus on corporate responsibility. Or, at a very base level, fiscal responsibility to their shareholders to sell products? They are not idealists, they are strategists and marketers. Maybe I’m being too insensitive but at the end of the day they created a successful message that moved their target audience, something important enough to share with their peers and spark discussion.

Will the video inspire me to run out and buy a bar of Dove soap? No, I can’t stand the smell. But it certainly has made me reflect and connect the brand to a bigger discussion – at a minimum passing the opportunity to get one more eyeball to view Dove’s brand message. And, hey – maybe you will go buy the soap.


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