The celebrated 'Campaign for Real Beauty’ by the toiletries brand Dove is regarded as one of the world’s most effective advertising initiatives. It was the result of a lot of hard thinking and research analysis. I made a small contribution to its development by identifying the success formula of the advertising that came before. Up until 2004, Dove used consumer testimonials for most of its ads. They featured an ordinary consumer, always a woman, talking about the product and what she about it. The majority worked OK, but some were vastly superior. The meta-analysis revealed the criteria driving strong performance.
How the woman came across in the ad was critical. The more relaxed, natural and genuine the better. This led to lengthy casting sessions to find the perfect person.
Just talking about the product’s functional benefits resulted advertising that was quickly forgotten. If the testimonee also talked about how having good skin made her feel, the ad was more engaging and persuasive.
The Woman’s life
The most effective ads were when the woman also gave us a glimpse into her life. If the conversation touched on about something other women could identify with, the story helped make the ad more memorable. Everyday topics worked well. An anecdote from the woman’s daily life or how she tried to achieve a good work-life balance, for example.
It became clear that the target audience loved it when they saw a confident, charismatic woman talking in an authentic way about herself and her ordinary life. We conducted further, qualitative research that confirmed what we had learnt, and this led to the idea of taking female empowerment to the next level in future advertising. The rest, as they say, is history.