A couple of weeks ago Dove launched their new real bodies campaign, where they developed a limited set of body-type bottles, that resemble the different women body types that exist. The idea was that the brand believes so strongly that all women are beautiful that they even bother to shape their packaging according to each woman’s body.
This special edition bottles were a very limited edition, sent to opinion leaders and journalists only and were never meant to be sold at any supermarket.
By now I’ve read several articles by “marketing experts” who claim that Dove’s new packaging was a terrible idea and I have come to the conclusion that this situation is revealing something scary about the world we live in.
Experts — and pretty much everyone — are claiming how obvious it was that nobody would like to buy the “fat” bottle at the supermarket. I mean, if you have a pear shaped body would you buy the pear shaped bottle or the regular one (that’s also easy to hold when wet and slippery in the shower)? This packaging makes no commercial sense and you don’t need to be an expert to figure that out.
However, Dove knew that all along and it never intended to sell those odd shaped products.
So many packages with strange formats would be a logistical nightmare and supermarkets would be very reluctant to provide the necessary shelf space, even for a brand like Dove.
Dove’s intention was never to sell that packaging, but to shape one of their products packaging in the same form of different body types, because all of them are beautiful. And that’s a bold and interesting idea to promote their brand. And no, creating a physical manifestation of their real beauty campaign was not the best idea ever.
However, people are missing the point behind this situation.
The ugly side of the world we live in
The truth is that Dove failed spectacularly in one key point:
no one really reads anything these days.
In a world so full of information and where we all have access to the same communication tools, everyone wants to be heard and no one will afford to lose their precious time investigating the facts behind the news.
Even newspapers “bend” the way how they write the news headlines in order to create clickbaits that will bring visitors to their websites. Look at the last elections in the United States and you’ll know what I mean.
People complain about fake news and demand the truth, but they are not willing to spare a minute of their time to really try to understand what’s happening or to read the whole story.
About the Dove campaign, marketing experts said it was a terrible idea and nobody would have wanted to buy the fat packages. Feminists said it was offensive. Psychologists said it was predictable. Some even wrote about the amount of product inside each package. But nobody cared to understand the brand’s intention or to read their press-release.
We now live in a world where everyone’s an expert and every expert seems to be more concerned about being published and creating an audience than they are about really understanding what’s happening. Likes and followers are more important than the truth.
If not even experts care to read or research before they speak or write, who can we trust?
A lesson for brands
Every brand manager knows that there will always (and I mean ALWAYS) be someone who will be offended by their brand communication or who will find it to be uninteresting. And that’s ok: you can’t please everyone.
What brands like Dove need to understand (and every brand, for that matter), is that the world has changed. There is no real truth — not even the one created by your brand.
Customers, users, bloggers or experts: every single one of them will make a different interpretation of what your brand is and what it stands for. They will not do it because they are evil doers, but because they all shape the world according to their world view.
In a world where information travels faster than brand messages and where noise trumps facts, disaster lurks at every corner.
More than ever, brands need to excel at managing not only their communication, but also the communication that comes from the interaction with the “noise” created by everyone else.
In a calm and elegant way, Dove made it clear that they were listening to their customer’s concerns, they clarify their original intentions and show solidarity for everyone who felt offended by this campaign. They end up by stating that they have a long track record of standing for real women and they will continue to do so.
If you read Dove’s words carefully you will see that it feels like an apology, but they never apologize for anything. This makes sense because the situation that people were complaining about never existed. But Dove’s tone of voice is there and it feels as wise as it always has.
The last statement also tells us a lot about this brand. People say it failed, but end their statement clearly saying that they will remain faithful to their ideals, even if sometimes things don’t work they way they were intended.
Great brands stay true to themselves and they keep on pushing because they have a purpose. Dove has a great purpose and it doesn’t run away from it in times of crisis.
I’ve read experts claiming that this situation had costed Dove some of it’s brand equity. I think the opposite: it just proved that this is a solid brand that is not afraid of standing for what it believes in.
A lesson for managers
If your world view is limited, you will mercilessly crush a brand without caring to do any research at all. You will probably do this because your Facebook, Linkedin of Medium feeds are all so full of information that you become overwhelmed with information and simply react to what you see.
If you are a manager, you will sometimes feel the urge to make decisions based on management half truths and clichés shared by experts. This type of advice may have worked for others, but it may not work for you (knowing how world war II was won is quite useless to fight modern terrorism and the same applies to management). This is why it’s so important to have an evidence-based approach to decision making and strategy development.
However, if you keep an open and humble mind, you might just find the time to do the necessary research before talking or making any decision.
This article is not about Dove or brands. It’s about who you choose to be as an individual and as a professional.
Who do you choose to be? And when?