What Brands Can Learn From Dove's Ad Fail

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Ok so I had to comment on the backlash recently received by Dove, a brand that markets and sells to millions of women everyday. I am a black woman who has used their product from bath bars to deodorant for many years and has even supported their mission towards self-esteem and body positivity. I feel let down and disgusted that a brand that I have given money to over the years is not a true champion for celebrating beauty and diversity in its truest form.
In case you missed it, on Saturday, Dove released a Facebook ad that pictured a black woman turning herself into a smiling white woman.
Social media wasn’t having any of it as angry comments and criticism on Facebook and Twitter erupted almost immediately. The company in response took it down and issued an, in my opinion, weak apology.
Dove states, “An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully. We deeply regret the offense it caused.”
In reading the comments and articles written about this incident in the past day, one thing that many people are asking is how could Dove’s marketing team approve such an ad like this? Could they not see it as blatantly offensive? This troubles me. For 13 years this brand has stood for women’s empowerment, celebrating diversity, and defying mainstream standards of beauty. Yet, this is not the first time Dove generated an ad that was clearly offensive. In 2006 another campaign was a photo of a black woman with a ‘before’ sign over her head and a white woman with an ‘after’ sign.

C’mon Dove. We have to do better.

In my career, I have worked with some of the top marketing firms in NYC and have been part of the teams managing the accounts for popular brands like Lexus, American Airlines, and even Unilever which is Dove’s parent company. Though I was not directly involved in the making of the ad campaigns, I worked closely to those that did. In many cases, the creative teams leading these brand campaigns, did not reflect the actual demographic of the product it was targeting.

So when a blatantly racist ad gets approved and released by a nationally recognized brand, TWICE, this is clearly a symptom of a larger problem.
The old model of non-inclusion at the corporate level is crumbling.
In order for brands at the highest level to reach the masses, all voices must have a seat at the table. Your consumers are holding you to a high standard and in integrity to your word. Mistreat that and you lose our trust, period.
I am proud that people whether they use the product or not, did not let Dove get away with it’s blatant lack of sensitivity. However my fear is that next week this time, this will be old news and the problem will persist until another offensive ad crops up.
Soon big brands will have to pay attention as newer, more inclusive beauty brands walk their talk and promote inclusion of all shades. Rihanna’s new makeup line Fenty, that launched this Fall, is a great example of this. Her product effectively hit the mark of representing all skin shades without making it’s users feel excluded or that one shade is better than another. Well done.

I’ll end in saying this: for all brands big and small, whether you are a solo run business or a giant figurehead in the industry ~ remember it’s what you DO, not what you say, that makes you who you are.