Look at the woman in this advert. Do you think she is beautiful?
If you don’t, well then…Dove’s campaign isn’t working.
BUT if you do, then Dove has made you think about how you define beauty and that, my friend, puts money in their pockets.
Notice how Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” doesn’t focus on Dove’s products. Its aim is to widen society’s view of beauty, which it achieves by changing the meaning of what we consider to be “beautiful”. This technique of changing the meaning of an object category is used make an object appear to be better or worse depending on how its meaning has been changed. One study conducted by Rothbart, Davis-Stitt and Hill (1997), presented participants with job candidates that had been ranked numerically, with their score placing them in one of three categories: ideal, acceptable or marginal. They found that participants viewed candidates to be more similar if they were in the same category compared to applicants in different categories. Dove is trying to do the same thing in this advert by trying to expand the category of “beauty” so that a variety of women, such as older, wrinkley women, can be placed in the category of “beauty” and hence be named beautiful by society.
As for the tick-box options next to the woman’s head, their purpose is to make you think about the message being presented because they are rhetorical questions. Rhetorical questions are questions that don’t expect a response but that are used to make an impact. This technique was used in an experiment by Burnkrant and Howard (1984), who found that the use of rhetorical questions alongside strong messages motivated people to process the message more deeply, which resulted in an increase in persuasion. In this advert, the rhetorical questions serve to make you question your own view on the issue of “real beauty”. It makes you take a second to consider the options and see where your opinion lies. It succeeds by making you want to mentally tick the “wonderful?” box (or if you happen to see this advert in a magazine and have a pen to hand, you may actually tick a box yourself). But it’s this self-generated persuasion that Dove is looking for in its customers, because they want you to decide if the woman in this advert is beautiful and they want you to feel justified in doing so as it will have a stronger effect on your attitude change towards a more open concept of beauty. The technique of self-generated persuasion has been found to be quite effective in producing attitude change (Briñol, McCaslin & Petty, 2012), which is good news for Dove because as more people see this campaign, more people are choosing to say that “real beauty” can include older women.
But how does Dove benefit from this? They’re not making us think about their products?
They are, however, creating an image of Dove as a company that cares about its customers and they are making us believe that they are an organisation that has a social responsibility to improve society’s perception of beauty. Dove’s positive actions are creating associations that make us view their brand in a more favourable light. Using the technique of association to enhance a brand’s image is an effective one. Zdrakovic and Till (2012) found that the stronger the associative link between a sponsor and the sponsored entity, the more qualities of the sponsored entity were reflected on the sponsor. In this case, Dove is the sponsor for the “Campaign for Real Beauty” and any positive characteristics that arise from the campaign are transferred onto the Dove brand.
So next time you need some shower gel, will a brand that is trying to help society as a whole make you more likely to pick up their product?
I think so.
And I think Dove thinks you will too.
By Daniela Mackie
Briñol, P., McCaslin, M. J., & Petty, R. E. (2012). Self-generated persuasion: Effects of the target and direction of arguments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102, 925-940.
Burnkrant, R. E., & Howard, D. J. (1984). Effects of the use of introductory rhetorical questions versus statements on information processing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47, 1218.
Rothbart, M., Davis-Stitt, C., & Hill, J. (1997). Effects of arbitrarily placed category boundaries on similarity judgments. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 33, 122-145.
Zdravkovic, S., & Till, B. D. (2012). Enhancing brand image via sponsorship: Strength of association effects. International Journal of Advertising: The Quarterly Review of Marketing Communications, 31, 113-132.