Dove: The Accidentally Controversial Brand

Following on from our last post about the fall of Ryanair, this month we’re thinking about another brand with problems – Dove.

The arbiter of inclusivity, the promoter of diversity – Dove has spent many millions of dollars creating a brand which is for “every woman”. The extraordinarily famous Real Beauty brand campaign has permeated the zeitgeist on more occasions than one, and is used as a case study in brands and agencies worldwide.

An assumedly quick turnaround social media advert has turned years of solid brand building on its head. The problem? A Facebook ad which seems to show a black model turning into a white one, following the use of a Dove body wash.

Dove Social Media

Understandably, the fallout has been sizeable. Social media boycotts, a very public apology, and the use of said black model as a spokesperson to insist she doesn’t feel like a racial victim. Brand sentiment has plummeted, with a fall of positive sentiment from 62% to just 32%. Sentiment surrounding the ad itself currently is 81% negative*.

It’s an example of how a “quick” reversioning of an advert for social channels can go horribly wrong. The original TV advert, presumably carefully crafted and approved over many months before going live, carries little risk of these concerns. But the haphazard screenshotting of the ad to make a quick Facebook ad has had a much bigger impact that anyone could have imagined.

They were similarly lambasted for a press advert released in 2011 which appeared to show a black woman turning white, following the use of their, you guessed it, body wash.

Dove Social Media

In a further twist of irony, Marketing chief of Dove’s parent brand, Unilever, was last month quoted as saying:
"When your ad is being called 'racist' by people across social media, you've done a lot more than 'miss the mark’.

It just goes to show that, no matter how secure your brand position is, and how loved you might be, you can never underestimate the power of social media to turn things around in an instant.

*Source - Meltwater