Dove: Missing the Mark – Not the Point

Drawing on racial platitudes, the recent Dove advertisement has been labeled racist, an insult to women, and a major embarrassment to the company. However, not realizing that the ad would ignite massive consumer rage is perhaps Dove’s biggest blunder. Although the ad was off target by a mile, the Dove core story of female beauty in all shapes and sizes is still spot on.

Two Colors Don’t Make a White

Dove has had a tough week. Since the personal care company posted a screenshot of its latest ad on Facebook, it has been lambasted by angry customers and – adding insult to injury in an almost Shakespearean twist – glorified by white supremacists.

With ethnically founded activist movements such as Black Lives Matter and the indigenous Standing Rock Water Protectors on the rise, Dove should have known better than to feature an ad of a black woman turning into a white woman turning into a brown woman. You’re basically asking people to take a swing at you. Besides, United Colors of Benetton already owns racial diversity. So Dove would have made a clever decision sticking to its already well-established – and well-respected – brand narrative: that women are beautiful in all shapes and sizes.

Beautiful Is as Beautiful Does

The story of the ad-gone-wrong is featured in yesterday’s Washington Post. The article also quotes a 2013 Time op-ed stating that “Beauty companies like Dove and Pantene capitalize on feminist messages to hawk you products they’ve convinced you need.”

Dove is reacting to a very positive global trend where consumers are now looking beyond the product.

Sorry, Time, but no. Dove is not taking the women of the world hostage through clever marketing. On the contrary, Dove is reacting to a very positive global trend where consumers are now looking beyond the product. Consumers are not indifferent to price and features, but they demand more. They demand purpose. That companies do more than just make money. That they try to do good. That they commit themselves to creating a better world.

Purpose Is the New Black

The demand for purpose is not limited to consumers. Investors look for green, ethical investment options. Companies investigate their entire value chains to ensure that every supplier and every business partner is operating in compliance with strict moral principles. And the talents of Generation Y – the next generation of business leaders – are driven by one dominating desire when looking for their next place of employment: purpose. The top-rated companies of Great Place To Work all have a strong purpose whether it’s empowering people, combating climate change, or bridging cultures.

Dove might have missed the mark in their race-shifting ad but their purpose is on target – with flying colors.