Dove’s Campaign For Real Benjamins

7 07 2008

Social media reminds me of a Freshman-year high school mixer.

Imagine eager brands on one side of the room, mostly staring at the floor but occasionally casting furtive glances across the dance floor. On the other side, blushing consumers glance back. And then…

OMG! My brand sparked a conversation! Now what do I do?!?

What happens when a bold brand actually gets up the nerve to ask a consumer to dance, and the consumer says “yes”? Now they’re both stuck in the middle of the dance floor, with two questions:

  • “What, exactly, are we supposed to do now?
  • More importantly, where is it OK — or not OK — to put our hands?”

According to today’s New York Times, Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty is “faltering because consumers do not connect its products to the cause.” Uh-oh. So last week, Dove launched a TV commercial that boils down to “buy our soap, and we’ll support the Dove Self-Esteem Fund”.

What happens to the quality of the conversation as Dove shifts from the moral high ground to someplace a whole lot closer to the cash register? Will things get awkward on the way?

Can the brand quietly end the conversation and look for one that pays better? Or will people who were enjoying that conversation feel rejected — and be vocal about it?

Unilever is a smart company, and very skilled at cause-related marketing. Still, this is a very high-profile campaign on a sensitive subject.

What do you think of what Dove is doing? What would you do differently, if you were in their shoes (or soap dish)?

Let me know if you predict success, or trouble ahead.

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