Certified B Corporation Badge


Dove’s #SelfEsteemProject

21 April, 2023

Dove is often lauded as a game changer. Its Campaign for Real Beauty, originally launched in 2004, has helped broaden the definition of beauty beyond stereotypical and unrealistic perceptions. And as one of the original pioneers of brand purpose, they have shown how powerful it can be – for their business, and for the world. 

This week, Dove released an arresting short film as part of its ongoing #SelfEsteemProject which documents the damaging effects of social media on adolescent girls’ mental health. The girls who are featured are just a few of the millions affected by unrealistic beauty images and hashtags promoting dangerous beauty fads across social media. 8 in 10 youth mental health specialists say social media is fueling the mental health crisis, and with 90% of girls surveyed stating that they follow at least one social media account that makes them feel less beautiful, it’s unsurprising that the self-esteem of youth is in a troubling state. 

The film is in service of one of Dove’s aims as part of its overall work in this space – making social media a safer space for young people, in partnership with Common Sense Media and the ParentsTogether Foundation. It has launched a petition to encourage people to join its campaign to progress the 2023 revision of the Kids Online Safety Act in the US. There is also a guide for parents to help their children engage with social media in a safe way. 

Of course there are complications and contradictions inherent in the campaign and the endeavour as a whole – promoting natural beauty, while marketing beauty products; speaking of the dangers of social media on social media; being owned by Unilever, which until 2020 had a skin lightening brand called ‘Fair and Lovely’ in its portfolio. 

But the brand has contributed to change throughout Unilever (which has raised its overall game in relation to the use of models and social media guidelines) and in the world of beauty brands and beyond.  

So while Dove may sometimes walks a fine line, this thought-provoking campaign shows how they have been able to continue to grow and evolve their goal of tackling serious challenges which fall within the remit of beauty, setting a great example to others of how purpose can direct a journey of impact that runs over decades. 

By Rosie Serlin

You might also like