Saturday, July 20, 2013

Dove's real beauty from sketches to camera shy - Questioning insecurities

It's insecurity that is always chasing you and standing in the way of your dreams.

~Vin Diesel 

Dove's real beauty sketches and camera shy YouTube videos have generated considerable viewership (organic and paid) and curiosity among netizens world wide.

To put things in perspective Dove's real beauty sketches video has received 55+ million views and their next video camera shy has received 14+ million views (as on 20th July, 2013).

One important factor that I feel made these videos so popular was the fact that both of these videos target insecurities and ask a question - Are these insecurities really valid?

The Dove's real beauty sketches video sends the message - "You are more beautiful than you think". It does so by narrating a powerful story that is simple yet makes us curious. The strength of the message comes from the underlying theme that gives hope and confidence. This video also showcases middle aged women and highlights the importance of beauty that gets lost as priorities in life change. And this affects the manner in which they communicate, interact and feel about themselves.

The next video, "Dove Camera Shy", takes this story a step further and looks at the broader female audience (almost all ages). The comparison of kids not shy of the camera as compared to women conscious and insecure of their appearance (indicated by their reluctance to get in front of the camera) makes for a powerful story.

The second video also takes the "real beauty" narrative by Dove forward. Normally brand don't capitalize on the success of one campaign and this prevents in creating a compelling story and strong associations for the brand. Dove's real beauty story is almost 9 years old, which began with market research in 2004 that indicated that only 4% of women in the world consider themselves beautiful.

But is it the 'Dove Real Beauty campaign' all that good?

But all popular things have their share of dissatisfied people with some valid points. Jazz Brice on her tumblr blog posted some valid points on the video that made her uncomfortable.

When it comes to the diversity of the main participants: all four are Caucasian, three are blonde with blue eyes, all are thin, and all are young (the oldest appears to be 40). The majority of the non-featured participants are thin, young white women as well. Hmm… probably a little limiting, wouldn’t you say?
Out of 6:36 minutes of footage, people of color are onscreen for less than 10 seconds. 
When the participants described themselves, these were some of the things that were implied as negatives: fat, rounder face, freckles, fatter, 40— starting to get crows feet, moles, scars…  Whereas some of the implied positive descriptors used by others were: thin face, nice thin chin, nice eyes that lit up when she spoke and were very expressive (my actual favorite),  short and cute nose, her face was fairly thin (this was said twice), and very nice blue eyes. So… I don’t know if anyone else is picking up on this, but it kinda seems to be enforcing our very narrow cultural perception of “beauty": young, light-skinned, thin. 

Her questioning the idea of beauty described through the blog also showcases a broad change in consumer cultures. Consumers no longer are accepting marketer defined meanings. Meredith Nash in a post argues that the idea of beauty coming from a company that also sells weight loss and skin lightening products, the marketing cynicism shows through.
In spite of its (very effective) emotive appeal to female consumers to challenge beauty norms, paradoxically, Dove’s “real beauty” advertisements capitalise on women embracing cultural beauty standards. Dove’s marketing strategy is premised on the same idea that advertisers have been selling women for decades – that what is most important about women is how they look.
The campaign is troubling because Dove asks women to accept the myth that there is such a thing as “real beauty” and that achieving it is important for women. However, women can only achieve self-acceptance and a positive body image as consumers of Dove products.
There is also a larger ethical question - Should we exploit the insecurities of people to sell something? In the name of identifying need and fulfilling it, how is Dove better than phony babas solving problems through black magic.