- Dove has debuted a short film that depicts the experience of Black girls and women who face discrimination based on their hair, per a press release. "As Early As Five” depicts three scenarios from elementary school to high school and into adulthood, all inspired by real-life events.
- The beauty brand is using the campaign to raise awareness for CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act legislation to make race-based hair discrimination illegal. The act, which would help protect an estimated 2.3 million Black children nationwide, is the law in 14 states and 34 municipalities.
- While the Unilever brand has frequently utilized purpose-driven marketing tactics, this latest effort comes amid as some investors claim the company has prioritized progressive marketing messages over business fundamentals.
Dove's "As Early As Five" short film aims to raise awareness about both the discrimination that Black girls and women face due to their hair and CROWN Act legislation that would make such discrimination illegal. The short film is informed by new research that reveals that 53% of Black mothers whose daughters have experienced hair discrimination say their daughters experienced the discrimination as early as five years old, and approximately 86% of Black teens who experience discrimination have endured it by the age of 12, making this a nearly universal experience for its Black consumer base.
The Dove 2021 CROWN Research Study for Girls finds that hair discrimination is happening early and continues as a girl gets older, that exposure to hair discrimination has a negative impact on Black girls' self-esteem, that hair discrimination also has a generational impact and that hair bias and discrimination are prevalent in predominately white schools where Black girls are most vulnerable to racial bias and discrimination.
"Black women are 80% more likely to change their hair from its natural state to fit in at the office," said Unilever's Esi Eggleston Bracey, in the press release. "The new body of research illuminates the pervasive nature and deep impact hair discrimination has on Black girls, highlighting the horrific multi-generational impact of narrow beauty standards in America."
Dove has used short films and other content to trumpet its purpose-driven effort for years. The company in 2021 launched a campaign in Canada to raise awareness of how social media harms the self-esteem of preteen girls. The film urged people to have "the selfie talk" with a loved one to explain how image manipulation on social media creates unrealistic beauty standards. Previously, Dove teamed up with singer Kelly Rowland on a music video that encouraged girls to be confident in however they choose to wear their hair, part of the brand’s ongoing commitment to celebrate diversity and empower women that followed other similarly themed campaigns like "Love Your Curls" and "Love Your Hair."
While the timing is likely coincidental, this latest campaign comes as parent company Unilever is under fire for this type of purpose-driven effort. As investor criticism grows that the marketer doesn’t have its priorities straight, Unilever is reorganizing to focus on five category-specific groups, each of which will be accountable for delivering its own strategy, growth and profit globally. It expects to cut about 1,500 jobs.
Last week, Unilever abandoned plans to buy GlaxoSmithKline’s consumer health-care business for $67 billion. Its shares have fallen by about a quarter from their record high in 2019.