If your brand doesn’t stand for something… you’re just noise

April 16, 2019

Dove, from Unilever, is one of my favourite consumer brands because their personal care products stand for something. 

Dove speaks to the fact that most of us don’t like how we look. Unilever’s PR agency, Edelman, surveyed more than 3,000 women in ten countries and found that only two percent considered themselves beautiful.

So in 2004 Edelman and Ogilvy & Mather started the ‘Dove Campaign for Real Beauty’ to encourage women to feel better about their bodies, and in doing so made Dove a brand whose beauty is more than skin deep.

Check Out The Dove Real Beauty Sketch Ad

Part of the problem

Ironically, agencies like Ogilvy & Mather are partly responsible for the low self-esteem of girls and women when it comes to their appearance because the advertising industry inundates the public with images of young, rail-thin models. 

And even these models apparently aren’t beautiful enough, as they require makeup, hair colouring and Photoshopping to meet their brands’ unrealistic expectations of female beauty.

Even more ironically, this message that we must all aspire to be gods and goddesses is perpetuated by Axe, Unilever’s personal care brand for men!

Axe’s ads feature bare chested, athletic men admired by exactly the type of sexy young female models eschewed by the Dove campaign! 

 Click Here To Watch The Axe Elevator Ad


I know what Dove stands for. But I have no idea what Axe stands for.

It seems like just another superficial brand trying to sell products. It’s a pity the culture at Dove hasn’t crossed over into Axe, but this is often the case with large corporations that have numerous, siloed brands.

The problem with brands like Axe is that we only connect to them on a superficial level. We buy them if we like the scent or the price. But to connect with us on a level that is more than skin deep, a brand must stand for something, and Dove resonates with women who want to be appreciated for who they are.

Because the Dove campaign touched a universal emotive nerve that appealed to women at the core of their being, it became a movement: You’re more beautiful than you think.

And of course this doesn’t just make women customers feel good, it makes good business sense too.

According to the Guardian, Dove firming cream sales doubled in the first week after their 2004 billboard campaign, and soared to a 700% increase, elevating Dove’s share of the market from 1 to 6%.

Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty


Creating a movement

Now think about your own brand in this context:

What, if anything, does it stand for?

It is more like Dove or Axe?  

Is there a fundamental human truth your product or service seeks to fix or ameliorate?

Do you have the opportunity to achieve the ultimate in branding: to create a movement? 

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Darren Taylor

MD & Head of Strategy and Research

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