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How Dove Has Evolved Its Advertising In Over 6 Decades

Updated: Oct 12, 2023

evolution of dove advertising campaign

Introduction: Dove advertising history

Dove has a LOT of content out there and as much as I try to make a concise statement about everything that Dove did, it is as fruitless as a baby trying to reach the ceiling.

But don’t you worry dear reader, I am not giving up, and I hope neither will you. You can soak all you find here and I will be expanding this series further for this blog, later on.

Since its beginning, Dove has had a clear brand voice and has listened to its customers. Dove sure knows its customers like the back of their hands and has been riding the high tides of all the social movements in order to gain traction in the market.

I have tried to consolidate the advertising philosophy of Dove and listed all Dove marketing campaigns and business ventures in a chronological order. If you are preparing a case study, this might just be a good place to start, and if you are an ambient reader, you will have some interesting conversation points during parties if the topic just so happens to circle around beauty, cosmetics or branding.

During 1957, Unilever introduced Dove, which has now grown as one of the prominent thought leaders in the beauty industry. A simple day to day commodity, as simple as a soap bar has now been lifted to represent the idea of real beauty under the branding of Dove.

So, where did it all begin? How did they open up a whole new world?

Dove's Vision Statement: “We believe beauty should be a source of confidence, and not anxiety. That’s why we are here to help women everywhere develop a positive relationship with the way they look, helping them raise their self-esteem and realize their full potential.”

Dove aligned themselves with the idea of real beauty very harmoniously and over the years they have been able to transform the idea of beauty and have been able to touch many lives.

Dove used to be a very competitive soap bar until 2004, after which Dove totally differentiated itself from the competition.

The 60’s : During this decade, they mainly emphasized on the moisturizing capabilities of Dove bars and branded itself as something more than just a regular soap. Their taglines read “Stop using regular soaps, Switch to Dove”, while the visuals showed Dove bar against black background and cream being poured on it, showing its moisturizing capabilities.

old dove ad

Dove also launched a Face test campaign, which used print ads and TV commercials that showed one half of a woman’s face washed with regular soap and the other half washed with Dove showing its non-drying capabilities.

old dove advertisement

The 70’s: This was the time when the second wave of the Feminist Movement was much more pronounced and debates about gender norms and the role of women in society were gaining immediate traction.

Customer testimonials using hidden cameras were a big hit during this time, and therefore discontinued the usage of Face test ads. During 1975, they started an ad campaign in which a fictional beautician, Liz, explained the moisturising capabilities of Dove to a dry skinned customer.

The 80’s: During 1979, an independent study showed that Dove was milder compared to other soap bars, this news was readily capitalized upon and paired with a campaign under Dove 7-Day Test, where a woman was shown talking about the benefits of using Dove bars. They also started advertising the tagline, “Dove won’t dry your skin” and changed it from “one quarter cleansing cream” to “one quarter moisturizing cream”. These ads, under a 7-Day Test coupled with scientific and medical endorsements, caught a lot of attention propelling Dove towards its IPO.

Dove 7 day Face Test

Dove Litmus test

The 90’s: By 1994, Dove was selling across 55 countries and by 1996, they were operating across 80 countries. The most famous “Litmus Test” showing the non-acidic properties of Dove bars aired during 1991, and was coupled with testimonials collected from non-believers or first time users of Dove. During 1995, they introduced the Dove moisturizing body wash, finally stepping out of the soap bubble.

The follow through.

2000-2022: Dove had already made successful campaigns and huge profits followed during the first four decades of their operations. Now with their growing influence on the beauty industry and their perfect positioning, nothing could stop them from being the market leaders.

It was during the late 90s, when dove introduced a range of new products to the market, such as; deodorants, body lotions, cleansers and shampoo. Subsequently, hand and face-care products were released in 2003, and now they were all set to make bold statements steering the redefining idea of beauty to the whole world.

The Real Beauty Campaign After 2004, Dove made a game changing pivot from trying to be the most different soap bar to being the idea of real beauty, that is incorruptible in the hands of worldly pretenses. With this great vision, Dove started challenging the beauty stereotypes and embarked on its own journey to make the idea of beauty not a source of anxiety but a way of confidence.

dove bar 2004 ad

Phase 1 (The Tick Box 2004): Featuring regular women without intensive post-production, these billboards and advertisements asked the people to go online to cast their votes on their definition of real beauty, encouraging community engagement and also aiding data collection.

dove women's rights

Phase 2 (2005): This was a benchmark advertisement campaign by Dove, dismantling the stereotypical notions of a perfect female body. Dove featured six women with regular bodies and curves, directly challenging the thin figure stereotype. The ad promoted their firming lotion.

Phase 3 (2006): Dove released three sets of ads in progression, namely — Evolution, Onslaught and Amy.

  • Evolution: This video has compelled people to think about how the conventional idea of beauty is manipulated by advertising, businesses and agencies. The ad shows a regular woman going through an intense makeup session followed by a Photoshoot. After the photoshoot, a perfect photo is selected and is edited to make her neck look long and more appealing, then the camera pans out to show the image overlooking busy streets and the video ends with text on screen — “No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted”, followed by Dove’s self-esteem fund logo.

Evolution Commercial

  • Onslaught: This ad conveyed the same message as the previous one but with special attention to children. It ends with the text — “Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does”.


  • Amy: This ad forced people to dive deeper into their own perspectives of beauty and challenged their self perception. It shows a small boy calling out “Amy” from her front porch, while Amy doesn’t answer even though she hears being called several times, then the screen fades out with a text appearing — “Amy can name 12 things wrong with her appearance”, “He can’t name one” . The advertisement is followed by — “Sent to you by someone who thinks you are beautiful” . Here Amy is supposedly a young girl who conforms the beauty standards established by industries and ad companies.


2007: During the early 2007, Dove started a campaign called Real Ads. This campaign called out to their customers, asking them to create ads for Dove and the winning ad would be aired during the Academy Awards commercial breaks.

2013: During this year, Dove hired a CBI trained forensic sketch artist to sketch the self description of a person and compared the sketch to the other sketch of the same person described by a stranger. This turned out to be a deep and hard hitting ad, shattering the stereotypical self perception.

Real Beauty Sketches

Latest: #ShowUs is one of the recent and most impactful Social Media campaign, wherein Dove partnered with largest stock photo distributor, Girlgaze and Getty Images to create a photo library where women and non-binary people from all over the world were represented. The most unique thing about this campaign was that the people in the images got to choose their own search terms and define their own perception of beauty. These people felt more realistically represented.

Apart from ad campaigns dove has been releasing helpful content for their customers like:

  • “Detox Your Feed: The Parents Guide”- a short educational film meant for parents and caregivers about how to teach their children about harmful effects of Social Media.

Detox your feed

  • The Confidence Kit”- Free Dove Self-Esteem Project Workbook and a tutorial about how to talk to their kids about toxic Social Media advice.

  • “Dove Real Talk Parent Workshop” - A free live stream event with cultural expert Jess Weiner and Leading Psychotherapist Nadia Addesi.

2019: In 2019, Dove partnered with National Urban League, Color of Change and Western Center on Law & Poverty in order to co-find “Crown Coalition” in order to advocate for the passing of The CROWN Act.

The CROWN Coalition stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. This legislation demands protection against race-based hair discrimination in the workplace and schools, based on hair texture and protective styles such as braids, locs twists and bantu knots.

Doves Latest Campaign, “My Beauty, My Say” : With #MyBeautyMySay campaign, Dove features stories of amazing women who stood up for their own beauty. Dove collects articles from different women who were stereotypically judged for their appearance and showed courage to fight back the stereotype.

Dove had two distinct phases as far as the approach towards TV spots and marketing materials were concerned. During the first phase (1975-2004) they tried to emphasized on the non-drying and moisturizing capabilities of a dove bar and supported the claim with customer testimonials and medical and scientific endorsements.

After 2004 Dove had a solid vision that was as transcendent as beauty itself. Dove was relentless and had a vision to make the idea of beauty more inclusive and a mission to make everyone feel beautiful from inside and not compare themselves to the industrial standards.

With such a differentiating factor dove will remain relevant to the market as long as beauty has standards and as long as the beauty industry exists.

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