Dove Reverse Selfie

cannes lions 2022

How Unilever's Dove became a multi-billion superbrand

Sonoo Singh led a panel session with the Dove CMO, Alessandro Manfredi; WPP/Ogilvy's Jo Bacon, and Dan Fisher, global ECD for Unilever at Ogilvy

By ian darby

Dove, the Unilever-owned "beauty bar" has proved to be a Cannes sensation down the years. Since the launch of 'Campaign for Real Beauty' in 2004 it's scooped Lion after Lion with its purpose-focused work, the latest success being 'Reverse Selfie' at this year's Festival. The brand is also a massive consumer success story around the world.

To discover more, Creative Salon's co-founder, Sonoo Singh, led a Cannes discussion with Alessandro Manfredi, the chief marketing officer at Dove; Jo Bacon, the global client lead on Unilever at WPP/Ogilvy; and Dan Fisher, global executive creative director on Unilever at Ogilvy.

The session unpacked the critical role creativity plays for Dove as it unlocks the power of purpose to drive culture, and makes a lasting impact on society and business.

Sonoo Singh: "Unilever has been the poster child for purposeful marketing. But with every single brand trying to save the world, there's been a growing cynicism around work-washing. So how can Dove continue to be both relevant and believable?"

Alessandro Manfredi: "My experience of this brand has been that purpose is a formidable driver of business growth and social needs, and the two can co-exist. We have like three reasons why we have been successful so far. Keeping that balance first is the purpose we have chosen, because it's something to do with the product category when we talk about 'changing the world of guilty' because we are a new teacher...The second thing is being authentic. Meaning that you can adjust from advertising - advertising is great sometimes to change behaviour, but to do something about the problems that we talked about. So, internally we talk about 'branding versus brand' - it's great to have a brand say when you need to do something about it. And I think the third thing is unapologetic create a momentum to change behaviour, but at the same time you generate brand awareness, brand affinity and you grow your business. The more you do that, then the more you create a snowball effect and you're gonna' grow faster as a brand, and you're gonna' actually do even more good in society."

Sonoo Singh: "Dan, Dove has had a very strong creative strategy tackling toxic beauty culture since 2004. But, as a creative, how do you keep refreshing that idea? Do you find it challenging and frustrating at the same time?"

Dan Fisher: "The key word is clarity. The environment is quite challenging so that's not easy of course but I think when I started out in this role it was being clear where we needed to go. And [Alessandro] and I sat down when we first met and talked about our hotshot ambition for the brand, and obviously the passion for how you decide what to do next. I think that conversation helped identify the conversation."

Sonoo Singh: "Jo, Dove's been leading a cultural definition about the definition of beauty. But what are the kind of risks you take as an agency working on some of these ideas, and also when working with real people in campaigns?"

Jo Bacon: "I think the only risk is not getting it right... I think the challenge is how do you keep refreshing things? What we have shared at the heart of everything we do is an obsession about the social campaigns that we want to push. And I think when you're challenged with issues that girls are facing every day there's some very strong emotional connections that we want to add. Some very big impact on girls and women today.... The big strategic shift we've made to the work more recently, probably over the last few years, has been to sit down and work out where the new toxic influence is coming from where the new challenges to girls self-esteem is coming forward. And what is it that's creating even more harm today than it was 16 years ago? So, I think the risk is not keeping going with the same vision, and not understanding the next challenges that girls today and tomorrow are facing and that's what we strive to do."

Sonoo Singh: "How do you advance the conversations around toxic beauty culture beyond advertising campaigns?"

Alessandro Manfredi: "Women not feeling beautiful, with the advent of social media and the pressure of the problems of lock down, it's actually worse so the fight is still there. And it's to get people aware of the dangers and to ensure that moms and parents have the right conversation and provide tools to get better. So, our self-esteem programme is the biggest provider of body confidence. We've educated 82 million children so far with at least six months of body confidence, and resilience."

The session concluded with each of the panel's selection of their Dove creative work - featuring 'Evolution' from 2006, 2020's 'Courage is Beautiful', and 2021's 'Reverse Selfie'. It was powerful way to end a fascinating discussion on how genuine purpose can also work hand-in-hand with brand and business success.


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