DOVE ‘Real Beauty Sketches’, Branded Content at it’s Finest


This week’s Dove commercial has raised quite a few eyebrows as it circulated the web. Literally. The video features a forensic sketch artist who draws skewed portraits of various women whom he has never seen based on their verbal descriptions of their own facial features.

Most of the women exaggerate their “negative” features, such as wrinkles, dark circles, and disproportions. The artist, Gil Zamora, then draws a second picture of each woman based on the descriptions of someone else, still never having seen the subject of his work. The two drawings are then held side by side for the women to compare and contrast. In every instance the picture based on the description of someone else is much more flattering.  The point of the exercise being women are more beautiful than they think.

It’s a moving piece of Dove’s “real beauty” campaign that Dove has used to support their mission “to create a world where beauty is a source of confidence and not anxiety,” according to global brand vice president Fernando Machado.

The video has garnered over 25 million views on YouTube in nine days. It’s been shared around the social networks countless times. The video is not, however, a public service announcement. It’s a commercial for Dove products. You wouldn’t know it though, based on the content of the video.

There are no mentions of Dove products, nor their features, nor their prices. There are no logos shown through the first 2:50 of the 3 minute video. Not much of a commercial, according to traditional metrics.

In the world of new media, though, the ad was one of the most successful we’ve seen. Dove wasn’t aiming to sell women beauty products, it was aiming to gain women’s trust. By getting women to believe that Dove understands them, and cares about their physical and emotional states of being, Dove earns affinity and trust – something a sales pitch could never earn. The next time a consumer walks down that particular aisle of the drug store, they’ll remember the positive feeling they had when they saw the Real Beauty sketches. That’s a big win.

This is what we call ‘branded content.’ It’s a piece of content – be it a video, an image, or just a message – that causes a viewer to associate a positive feeling or experience with your brand. It could be emotional and reveal some human truth that touches a consumer, or it could be funny, or nostalgic. Very rarely is it ever a sales pitch. If you can get the audience to forget they’re seeing a marketing message, the content becomes even more powerful. Regardless of what form the content is packaged in, the point is to make your brand more like-able, and more trustworthy. People want to do business with those they trust.

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