Carefully crafting a brand image is a key focus of advertising.  But what happens when a brand missteps?  Morris+Mitchell recently took a look at a case of advertising gone wrong.  Guest blogger Dylan Owen shares a specific example from Dove beauty products.

Dove recently released an ad which came under fire and could lead to some customers boycotting the brand.  The problem?  Quite simply, racism.  In the 3-second video Dove posted to its Facebook site, a black woman was shown removing her top to then expose a white woman underneath followed by another woman. Many perceived this clip to be suggesting that a black woman could be found more attractive should she lighten her skin. One question that viewers kept bringing up was, how did Dove overlook the racial context of this video?  This is not the first time Dove has made this type of mistake, and at what point will they learn?

The social media outcry over this ad escalated into a public relations disaster for the brand.  Making matters worse, Dove’s apology and statement came across as insincere for many women. Dove declined to say how the ad was produced and approved but the company did state that they are “re-evaluating our internal processes for creating and approving content.” If Dove’s main goal is to represent “diversity of real beauty” then they need a better strategy.  Because of the recent controversy, similar ads have resurfaced involving race, including Dove’s Visible Care body wash ad as well as a debacle over the packaging on Dove’s Summer Glow Lotion.   

In 2011, Dove apologized for an advertisement for Dove Visible Care body wash, which appeared to portray a black woman as the “before” photo and a white woman as the “after” photo.  The ad then asked consumers which had “more beautiful skin?” According to Dove, all three women were meant to represent the benefits of using the lotion.  But when viewing the ad, it is easy to see how it could come across in a negative manner.  

In 2012, Dove encountered criticism for labeling of its Summer Glow body lotion.  The company printed “normal to dark skin” on bottles of lotion. Dove angered its 'real women' as the brand's Summer Glow suggests that dark skin isn't normal. While Dove has already apologized for its choice of words, stating that the product should have been labeled “medium to dark skin,” Bottles of the “normal to dark” lotion can still be found on the shelves. Dove did state, however, "We take this issue very seriously and are sorry for any offense caused. These bottles were discontinued in 2012. Many of our lotions focus on moisture as the key benefit and in some cases, we label them 'normal to dry skin'. This product should have been marked as 'fair to medium skin' or 'medium to dark skin'. There was a mix up with the batches, and we labeled the wrong product."

One may question Dove’s marketing strategy and approval process.  Taking such a big misstep in marketing is certainly not making real women feel beautiful.