- Unilever's Dove is selling limited-edition packaging of its body wash in the U.K. designed to resemble different female body types, according to a company news release. The effort is meant to celebrate different types of beauty as part of Dove's long-running "Real Beauty" platform, and is being promoted with the hashtag #RealBeauty.
- The campaign has received heavy backlash on social media and Twitter, in particular, according to Business Insider. Much of the criticism suggested that comparisons to bottles of body wash are unflattering or ridiculous regardless of body shape. "Re: the Dove thing, of course a company selling products to make you feel body positive wants you to be self-conscious," tweeted one user named Elizabeth Bruenig (@ebruenig) in a post that now appears to be deleted.
- Dove's news release highlights social media as an inspiration for the campaign, albeit in a very different way: A Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report revealed that "one in two women feels social media puts pressure on them to look a certain way.”
Dove has long put body positivity front-and-center with its messaging via the now 15-year-old "Real Beauty" campaign, but the body wash packaging represents a rare misstep for the brand. What might be most concerning for Dove is that the social media backlash doesn't just include the usual snarky cynicism, but also many calling the brand out on a lack of authenticity or even exploiting insecurities to sell its product — the exact opposite of its intended goal.
At this point, it's like Dove following you around the store saying "Other people call you fat. Not me! Other people call you fat. Not me…" https://t.co/tbYFzEoLjs— Sandra Newman (@sannewman) May 8, 2017
The Unilever brand's effort joins a growing trend of well-meaning, socially-conscious campaigns that have backfired due to accusations of tone-deafness and the ruthless rancor of social media. Pepsi's Kendall Jenner-starring protest ad, meant to champion unity in trying times, is one of the more infamous and widely mocked brand efforts in recent memory, to the point where it was pulled from YouTube.
Last July, Dove parent Unilever made the announcement it was going to "unstereotype" its advertising after research found that only 2% of ads depict intelligent women. The study also found only 3% of ads featured women in managerial, leadership or professional roles, while 40% of surveyed women reported they do not identify with the women they see in ads.