This case study analyzes the development of Dove from a functional brand to a brand from a point of view. This happened after Unilever called it a master brand and with the brand's portfolio expanded to include other categories besides the original bath soap. This growth resulted in the brand team taking a second look at the cliches of the industry. It caused the unfolding of the Real Beauty campaign. With some issues about the campaign, Unilever resorted to the Internet, particularly the use of social media to manage such issues.
Harvard Business Review (508047-PDF-ENG)
October 10, 2007
Case questions answered:
- What is a brand? Why does Unilever want fewer brands?
- What was Dove’s market positioning in the 1950s? What is its positioning in 2007?
- How did Unilever organize to do product category management and brand management in Unilever before 2000? What was the corresponding structure after 2000? How was brand meaning controlled before 2000, and how is it controlled at the time of the case?
- Spend a little time searching blogs using Google Blog Search, Technorati, BlogRunner, or any other blog search engine to get a sense of what people are saying about Dove today. What does this discussion contribute to the meaning of the brand?
- Footnote 1 of the case leads you to a blogger who asks, with reference to the age of YouTube advertising, “Is marketing now cheap, fast, and out of control?” Footnote 2 refers to Dove as having started a conversation “that they don’t have control of.” In “When Tush Comes to Dove,” Seth Stevenson writes about the “risky bet that Dove is making.” Do you see risks for the Dove brand today?
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Dove: Evolution of a Brand Case Answers
What is a brand? Why does Unilever want fewer brands?
A Brand is a way to distinguish various companies using their name, logo, and personality. A company uses these traits to create a unified message with a distinctive image for its consumers.
Unilever’s vision was about reducing the number of brands to allow Unilever to improve the company’s brand management. The current decentralized approach resulted in a somewhat fractured approach to brand management in its various geographical markets.
Considering that the company used different individual brand managers across different geographical markets, it resulted in a number of different brands with varying brand identities and strengths.
They wanted to consolidate their 1,600 brands in order to embark on their “Path to Growth.” However, they instead wanted a global brand unit for the 400 remaining Masterbrands that had a global vision and would inspire cooperation across the markets.
- Reduce 1,600 brands to 400 brands:
- Control issues with the global structure
- Lack of global identity: They wanted to create “Masterbrands” with a global identity
- Several low-volume brands
- “Path to Growth” initiative
With fewer brands, Unilever can leverage brands with existing strong identities to allow them to market these brands as the company’s global brand or “Masterbrands.”
The company planned to execute this “Masterbrands” strategy through global brand managers and leverage Unilever’s ability to collaborate across different geographical markets.
What was Dove’s market positioning in the 1950s? What is its positioning in 2007?
Dove’s Market Positioning in the 1950s:
Dove’s market was soap, but they differentiated themselves as something different and better than soap. They called it the “beauty bar” and claimed that their product was a cleanser that would not dry out your skin because it was partly a cleansing cream.
It was changed from cleansing to moisturizing, but the company focused on its position as a functional superiority with a moisturizing benefit.
Considering that there was dermatological evidence that it would not dry your skin out compared to regular soap, they took the chance to market it as, technically, it wasn’t soap. They were reliant on its functional benefit for more than 40 years.
They claimed the following:
- ¼ cup of cream added to every bar
- Moisturizer vs. drying properties of soap: it doesn’t leave your skin dry
- Research to back it up: military research driving the special formulation
- Advertising was different and authentic: average-sized women
Dove’s Marketing Positioning in 2007:
In 2007, its market positioning was the number one cleansing brand in the health and beauty sector. In the early 2000s, Unilever wanted to make Dove one of their Masterbrands. Unilever needed to create a meaning for Dove that could apply to and extend over the entire product offerings. Thus, they chose Dove to stand for a point of view.
Dove moved away from emphasizing its functionality to trying to portray a point of view, which resulted in the “Campaign for Real Beauty.” They wanted to provoke a discussion and debate about real beauty. This campaign was done after many years of research where they found that beauty advertising and packaging created an unattainable standard for women.
Dove set a change in the idea of beauty altogether rather than marketing a functional product. They also had already extended the brand into more product offerings such as shampoo, deodorant, and the list goes on.
How did Unilever organize to do product category management and brand management in Unilever before 2000? What was the corresponding structure after 2000? How was brand meaning controlled before 2000, and how is it controlled at the time of the case?
Before 2,000, brand management was highly decentralized, and Unilever had spread itself across a variety of product categories within consumer packaged goods.
Brand managers were in charge of designing strategies, delivering profit targets, and making daily marketing decisions. Each brand was operating independently and competed within its categories. Moreover, a staff of brand assistants worked under the policies of a brand manager.
Considering there were disadvantages to this structure, the issues of control of brand management outweighed it. Also, there was no unified vision of what the portfolio should look like. Keep in mind that there were some brands that had different identities in different parts of the world. That resulted in Unilever’s brand confusion in 2000.
After 2,000, Unilever started splitting responsibility for a brand between two groups; one was in charge of brand development, where it was centralized but targeted globally, and the other was in charge of the brand building in specific markets where it was decentralized based on the major geographic regions Unilever occupied (localized brand building). They ended up reducing their portfolio to 400 core brands.
They created the path to growth initiative where they separated the functions of brand building and development. They also concentrated on product innovation in order to fuel their internal growth. Lastly, they created an initiative to create an overall umbrella brand across all of Unilever’s brands.
Before 2,000, the brand meaning was controlled as Dove was a cleanser. It aspired to be a healthier option for moisturized skin that doesn’t dry it. It was honest, authentic advertising based on dermatological research and emphasized the functional superior benefit of using Dove as opposed to any normal soap.
They had a simple meaning behind their brand: Dove will not dry your skin. Their strategy was decentralized and cannibalistically capitalist, pushing each band manager to compete with their in-house brands.
At the time of the case, Dove focused on consumers’ emotions, specifically women’s insecurity and fears in the beauty industry. They listened to the market and gathered results to make a talking campaign.
They also stood for a point of view to popularize a movement that aims to help women see their personal beauty that is already there. They used the emotional stimulus to implant the product deep into the consumers’ minds. Dove became a brand that held a statement of who you are.
Spend a little time searching blogs using Google Blog Search, Technorati, BlogRunner, or any other blog search engine to get a sense of what people are saying about Dove today. What does this discussion contribute to the meaning of the brand?
The discussions online contribute to the meaning of the brand, where it creates a conversation meaning.
To further elaborate, it allows the consumer to judge the brand (Dove) based on their perceptions, not just how well the brand is doing (Dove’s performance), but also on Dove’s ability to draw their emotions regarding beauty.
The consumer target was not only about women, as it turns out. It was also about men.
Footnote 1 of the case leads you to a blogger who asks, with reference to the age of YouTube advertising, “Is marketing now cheap, fast, and out of control?” Footnote 2 refers to Dove as having started a conversation “that they don’t have control of.” In “When Tush Comes to Dove,” Seth Stevenson writes about the “risky bet that Dove is making.” Do you see risks for the Dove brand today?
After reading the articles, I agreed with the authors to a certain degree, as I do not think it was a risk for Dove. It was mentioned that technological advancements enable information exchange among individuals to become faster and more proactive, and I agree with that.
Social media has connected us closer and broken down cultural and geographical barriers in order to form a virtual society where people are able to interact freely, sharing their emotions and information across the globe.
Considering we are quite connected through the internet if a marketer reaches one person, they will be able to share it through their social media, and it quickly can travel across the globe in a combination of word of mouth and social media.
This happens because people have certain relationships with people around them, and doing so will generate more consumers, as people sense that consumers talking about a brand are more trustworthy and reliable.
The marketing strategy is not cheap. It all depends on how they market the brand. In this specific case, Dove wanted to generate a buzz for the campaign and wanted more people to participate. Their strategy was to use the ordinary in order to highlight the extraordinary.
Considering that the models that were in the ads were normal people, Dove approached YouTube instead of the TV to start a conversation. This allowed consumers to share it with their peers, and it was a cost-effective approach that enabled them to refine their target audience more appropriately.
Dove took the opportunity of relationships amongst their consumers in order to consolidate the credibility of their “Real Beauty.” This resulted in consumers sharing the video and simultaneously becoming the brand’s endorsers. Dove’s message brought value to a certain group, and doing so did not risk the brand’s mission.
The more involvement from people, the more awareness the brand receives. Using models that are not fit conveys a message that real beauty is within all of us. However, Dove did receive criticism. Several people thought that using Photoshop ended up devaluing the ads’ efficiency, while Dove focused on “Real Beauty.”
Keep in mind that when consumers looked at billboards with unfit and normal women, it ended up confusing them about the brand message. Consumers weren’t sure whether the models’ weight was the new standard of beauty or whether real beauty meant that they should be satisfied with who they were.