How to Extend Brand and Thrive – Evolution of brand, Dove Case Study


Unilever launched Dove in the United States in 1957 as a bar of soap that was clinically proven to be mild for dry, sensitive skin [7]. Since 1980s the brand extended to other personal care products so much that Unilever saw Dove not as a soap brand but as a beauty brand.

This is a good time to look at ‘Dove’s Choices’ against Olay’s choices in Playing to Win book.

Winning aspiration: Dove Brand extension from beauty bar category to personal care category of deodorants, hair care products, facial cleansers, body lotions and hair styling products [6]. Olay saw itself as a skin care brand and as only a key pillar in the P&G beauty care business.

Where will we play: Dove didn’t change its market or channel. Olay moved upmarket (in masstige channel) getting the benefit of higher price. Dove embraced younger, older women and all in between while Olay limited themselves to 30-40 age range.

How will we win in chosen markets ?: Dove’s make more women beautiful Vs Olay’s better anti-aging skin-care products. Dove relied on “Real Beauty” Marketing Campaign while Olay depended on marketing campaign “Fight the Seven Signs of Aging” connected to consumer insights. Dove collected “data across a number of mediums, bridging multichannel marketing gaps” [9].  Dove got the “Branding in the Age of Social media” right. While Dove asked women to take their ‘selfie’ to redefine beauty one photo at a time, Olay asks for your selfie for ‘Skin Advisor’. This is the biggest point of difference where Dove takes an outward and holistic approach while Olay took an inward and more into details approach. The concentrated effort on skin led to SKII beauty products which work fantastically. I used their serum and my friends could tell the difference of my better skin. The research paid off as these products settled into an expensive niche.

What capabilities must be in place to win ?:  Dove had to change its brand management system. It had to break it into Brand Development and Brand building. Olay leveraged P&G’s capabilities to the company’s context in consumer understanding, brand building, innovation, going to market and scale [6].

What management systems are required ? :  Olay leverage P&G systems, channel and partner systems along with the “Love the job you’re in” [6].

To Extend the Brand or Expire

“Brands have become the barrier to entry, but they are also the means to entry”

                                                                                                                              – Edward Tauber.

Dove’s brand extension began with Dove dishwasher detergent that didn’t do well. After a long time Dove Nutrium body wash an answer to Olay’s body wash hit off well[10].  Dove then ventured into deodorants. “But if a Dove that stops perspiration as well as moisturizes is confusing to consumers, or if the advertisements are jarring, not soothing, then the deodorant may fail, and consumers’ perception of the overall brand may change for the worse” [11].

Brands should do this extension and see how it goes. My first introduction to Dove is through the deodorant ads. There’s a new generation joining the consumer markets good any time. You only risk alienating your current customers, but you are introducing yourselves to the pre-consumers youth who still don’t have no idea of what brands are out there. It is important to crack this chicken egg situation with periodic brand extensions.

Without Brand Extension, there is no chance for the future growth of business. There is no portfolio to manage according to the changing preferences. For Example, Coke relaunched Mello Yello to a new segment as well as pulled in the nostalgic older customers. But the risk is that brand extensions could fail like the Dove Dishwashing detergent which delayed their future brand extension efforts. Only in response to competition from Olay, did Unilever put out the brand extensions. Olay did expand into cosmetics business, but it had to be shut down [11]. Axe is a good example of edgy branding. That route could narrow the segment a lot. Camay soap is now only a cherished soap.

Other options are too narrow product line extension like Olay did with SKII and others which works well as a short-term strategy, but over-specialization will only lead to super segmentation. Not every household can afford an expensive elite ceramic chef knife while we need so many different kinds for different activities. Also referring to Leavitt’s customer buying a 6-inch hole, there’s a limit to how much they will spend on it.

Think of Brand Extension as a golf bag full of different clubs or a Swiss Army knife with many utilities.

Bowling Alley of Nourishing Dove

Successful extensions provide the basis for future extensions [10]. Dove Men+Care and Baby Dove extensions were only possible because Dove had done other brand extensions like the Dove Nutrium and Dove Daily Hydrating Cleansing Cloths.  Using Geoffrey Moore’s Bowling Alley model in Crossing the Chasm, segmentation and targeting helps in getting down a bowling pin but you have the whole set of pins to fully win the game.

How Dove Won the Game pre Internet

Ogilvy said of Dove’s positioning in 1957 – “I could have positioned Dove as a detergent bar for men with dirty hands, but chose instead to position it as a toilet bar for women with dry skin. This is still working” To differentiate from other beauty brands, Dove countered the unrealistic standards of beauty with real ordinary women.

A Brand is a promise to a loyal customer. Dove managed to make a good promise by knowing their customers very well as to who they really are as persons instead of their profile.

Fewer brands makes it easy to manage them. Dove went from 2.5$ billion in 2000 to 4$ billion now [5]. Before 2000 there were 1600 brands which had to be pared down to 400 brands. The winnowed brands too had to be subgrouped under Masterbrands. Earlier brand management was decentralized with no global identity and rife with problems of control. Now there would be a global brand unit for each Masterbrand, entrusted with responsibility for creating its global vision and charged with inspiring cooperation from all geographic environments [6].

Unilever uses planogram product category management based on a job description. A planogram is a visual diagram, or drawing, that provides details on the placement of every product in a retail store. Unilever is now also focusing on Sustainability with USLP.

How Dove Won the Game in the Digital Age

In 2000’s Dove debuted its Campaign For Real beauty “Tick box” billboards with withered or wonderful, fat or fit and grey or gorgeous choices [1]. 1.5 million visitors engaged on the Campaign for Real beauty website which is now defunct. The Huffpost article mentions that the campaign boosted sales.

In 2004 a fund was created for countering bullying and photography projects of how [1]. Baby Dove which started this April, ‘Real Moms’ Dove Men+Care move to the whole family scene with its nurturing [3].

In 2000 with mass media, the brand was under the control of Unilever but with social media, the control has moved to the consumers. There is a backlash for ill conceived campaigns. In 2007, Marketers no longer rule the market. They are invited guests. If they are provocative, pertinent and entertaining they get to stay. If they are overbearing, there are ways to shut them out [8].

In ‘Branding in the Age of Social media’, Douglas Holt says that Dove has used social media effectively by tapping into “emerging crowdculture by celebrating real women’s physiques in all their normal diversity—old, young, curvy, skinny, short, tall, wrinkled, smooth” [4].

Alternate Options of Real beauty

Personally I do not like the smell of the dove products. But I would use the fragrance-free versions of it during pregnancy. Via Mercato Italian Soap Bar smells very good like a lavender field. Its packaging with Matte paper and flowery details speaks more than a thousand words. Pre de Provence French soaps and Shea Butter is another beauty soap with flair. These also work on ‘provenance paradox’ formula. Their ‘origin of product’ gives them a jumpstart.

They could have gone in with a World Soap. Some limited editions like the Hart Schaffner Marx suits with their Chicago Fit, Los Angeles Fit, New York Fit. Olay has done this too with different names in different countries.

Darlingmovement suggests moving to Beauty is what Beauty does. Another angle could have been get the beautiful women to talk about their insecurities.

Dove’s Mission was making more women beautiful. It has achieved that by being relevant even after 10 years of the Real Beauty Campaign. Dove upended the beauty norms.


  6. Deighton John, Evolution of a Brand. Dove Case Study
  7. Franzen & Moriarty, The Science and Art of Branding
  10. David Aaker, Brand Portfolio Strategy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s