An Analysis of Dove’s Breakthrough Marketing Campaign, “Real Beauty”

One of the most impactful ever

Hustle Monk
Published in
6 min readSep 2, 2020


Image by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

Dove is a household name, which we all grew up with. We associate the brand with the iconic Beauty Bar, which is not as harsh as regular soaps, and after a single wash, leaves the skin feeling clean, soft, and supple.

How did Dove manage to stand out and carve a niche for itself in the Beauty Market? What made Dove’s sales skyrocket and make it a global giant?

Where It All Began

The brand came to life in 1957 in the United States, with its primary product being the famous Beauty Bar, claiming to use only mild cleansers. The revolutionary idea was that the bars not only cleansed the skin, it also provided moisture at the same time. Yes. One-fourth of the Beauty Bar consisted of moisturizing cream, making Dove the only company to bring about this idea in the late 1950s.

Vincent Lamberti is the brains behind this product and holds the patent for the Bar. A lot of stir was created once the product was launched because of the extremely different and relatively new claim made by them, a soap bar that not only cleanses but focuses on moisturizing the skin.

Analyzing the Product Line

Dove’s Nutrium Moisture technology was a great hit in the Beauty Market. This technology asserted to replenish the skin with natural nutrients, hence making it softer and smoother.

Skincare lotions and creams were launched next, with the revolutionary Deep Care Complex, which mainly focused on reviving dry skin, and feeding it with all essential nutrients to keep the skin moisturized for 24 hours. The consumers loved the products in the skincare range as the scent was mild and perfect for daily use and the product did what it claimed, it helped moisturize the dryest of skins, and locked the moisture in throughout the day.

The early 2000s saw the rise of Dove’s range of antiperspirants, which again had the special moisturizing formula, which allowed the underarm skin to not break with dryness after the use of something as harsh as a deodorant. The brand also marketed the product in such a way that it doesn’t leave behind any residue on the fabric after use. This was a stand apart point compared to the then existing antiperspirants in the market.

Dove’s haircare range was a massive hit with the users. It seemed like the one-stop solution to all your hair problems. From frizziness, dandruff, dry and damaged hair, hair fall, loss of luster, Dove had the answer to all of these. It came out with Pro-Moisture Complex, which promised to moisturize and nourish the scalp from within. It named the product as “Hair Therapy” as it is equivalent to a wash from the salon. It provided the hair the therapy it needs with just a singular wash. It also released a set of shampoo and conditioner with the Oxyfusion Technology, which claims to “breathe life” into fine, limp, and thin hair, resulting in a 95% increase in bounce and volume. Dove has recently launched the Advanced Hair Care Series, which uses exotic ingredients like red algae along with the groundbreaking keratin complex, which is mainly used for severely damaged hair that occurs due to aging.

Baby Dove's range of products was the final feather in the cap for the brand. It released an entire series for infant body care, from baby bathing bar to baby lotions, ensuring an infant-safe body care experience. Dove developed a no-tears formula, which was also hypoallergenic in nature and maintained the baby’s skin pH as neutral. They gained the trust of new mothers by testing the formula out on their own children. They also appealed to the general public by solving the issue of diaper rashes, which was the biggest irritant for infants. The Sensitive Baby Bar made sure to thoroughly cleanse as well as moisturize the baby, and keep the child’s skin healthy throughout the day.

The Game-Changing Campaign

Let us start by analyzing the sales of the Beauty Bar in the early 2000s, compared to the rest of Unilever’s products. A study conducted by the Massachusettes Institute of Technology in 2000, on Unilever’s products shows us the sales and the consumer’s reaction to the Dove Beauty Bar. Upon conducting a non-survey comparison with random brands like Ragu Pasta Sauce, Caress Bar Soap, Suave Bar Soap, Mealmk Stirfry, Dove Body Wash, and the Dove Bar Soap, we can clearly see the Beauty Bar leading by a large margin by considering the audience’s response to each of these brands.

Dove’s Beauty Bar and Body Wash range helped Unilever take over its biggest competition, Proctor & Gamble, and dominate the American Soap Market in 1999. Today, Unilever sells $331 million worth of Dove bar soap a year, more than 24 percent of that market (measured by revenue). But slowly, the sales started becoming stagnant for Unilever, with P&G introducing Olay to the consumer market. They needed to change their strategy.

In 2004, the birth of the “Real Beauty Campaign” took place. Dove changed its marketing strategy and started advertising “Real Women” in their advertisements. They wanted to address issues of body shaming, and the fact that natural beauty comes from within. The year was 2004 when Dove and Ogilvy & Mather organized a photography exhibit titled “Beyond Compare: Women Photographers on Real Beauty.” The show featured work from 67 female photographers and was the beginning of the revolution in the world of beauty that would lead to the Real Beauty campaign.

An experiment was conducted for the Real Beauty Campaign, where women were asked to describe their physical selves in detail to an FBI trained Forensic artist, Gil Zamora, from behind a curtain. The result of the experiment showcased how more than 80% of the women had distorted versions of themselves in their heads and were less confident about the way they looked. As soon as the video of this experiment got released, the reach was unbelievable. More than 50 million people viewed the Dove video within 12 days of its release. To date, Real Beauty Sketches has been viewed almost 180 million times.

Dove appealed to women all over the world by introducing the Self-Esteem project, with the mission of the next generation growing up loving themselves from within, loving their body for what it is, and acknowledging that true beauty comes from within.

Image by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Dove collaborated with a number of leading psychologists, body image enthusiasts, and health care specialists to work on the campaign, and came up with evidence-based studies to help the younger generation grow up with a body-positive mindset.

The brand started the #ChooseBeautiful Campaign, which focused on women all over the world to embrace their own unique selves. To create the video, Dove reached out to the women from five different cities globally- Shanghai, Delhi, London, Sao Paulo, and San Francisco to understand how different cultures influence the choices women make when it comes to their bodies, and in turn, help them make positive ones. Dove wanted to show all these women that they had the power to wake up, and no matter what, choose to be beautiful.

The Real Beauty campaign has won two ad awards to date and has sold an enormous amount of product. Sales have increased to $4 billion today from $2.5 billion in its opening campaign year.


Dove as a brand has gone above and beyond the traditional purpose of selling Beauty and Body care products to its consumers. By introducing the Self-Esteem Project, it not only became the stalwart idea of women’s beauty, but it also became the industry example for branding, marketing, and consumer reach. It has been more than a decade since the launch of the Real Beauty Campaign, but the impact is so great that it is still remembered by people universally.



Hustle Monk

Freelance Content Writer | Digital Marketer | Brand Consultant Follow Sharadha on LinkedIn-