Review of Dove: Evolution of a Brand 

by John Deighton

It’s nearly impossible to find a paper amongst the Case Centre’s award-winning papers in the past seven years that does justice to prominent female business leaders. Dove: Evolution of a Brand by John Deighton, however, is a paper that I am fond of because it gives me the opportunity to read about women in strong and successful leadership positions. I am fond of the paper not only because it tells the tale of Dove, a leading brand, but it also tells the story of how a marketing strategy was completely changed based on how women view beauty advertising. This is the story of how Dove’s ground breaking “campaign for real beauty” came about. It is a real story with real people.

The story began when Silvia Lagnado, then Global Brand director for Dove, initiated research into how women responded to advertising in the beauty and fashion industry. She found that women were deeply discontented with how they were portrayed. This led Dove and Unilever to investigate alternate approaches to women’s beauty advertising. Deighton’s paper describes what happened through this research, through company politics and alternate ideas, to the development of the final “campaign for real beauty”. It was a highly controversial and risky campaign.

The OpEd Project measures where women are published in the media. They normally fall into one of four categories, known as the Four Fs: fashion, family, furniture and food. This paper could fit into either the fashion or the family categories.

Although this paper features strong leaders from both genders, it is one of the few papers that meet my criteria: (1) it has to have one woman in it; (2) who is in a leadership position; and (3) who talks to another woman about the business. Women and men seem to interact easily about the business according to this paper.

Women hold senior leadership positions with worldwide and regional responsibilities at Dove, which is one of the largest multinational companies in the world. This paper shows women being entrepreneurial and strategic thinkers. It also highlights women using entrepreneurial skills.

Deighton gives examples of leadership by both genders, which can only be helpful in counteracting any leadership gender bias that may potentially be held by business school students when reading case papers.

The final campaign was a success for Unilever. It also touched a chord with the public, creating a wealth of social media discussions on the topic.

Dove: Evolution of a Brand by John Deighton was published by Harvard Business School-#9-508-047 in 2008. It is eight pages long, thirteen with attachments.


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