Dove tries to patch-up beauty issues with new film

Unilever hides brand to get "genuine" reaction from women

Dove has conducted a social experiment to help prove that “beauty is a state of mind” and documented the results with a four-minute film as part of its long-running “Real Beauty” campaign.

As part of the experiment, the Unilever-owned brand along with psychologist Dr. Ann Kearney-Cooke invited seven women to wear a custom-made “beauty patch” for two weeks that would help them feel more beautiful. “We invited women to be part of a research group testing a revolutionary product,” says Kearney-Cooke in the video. “RB-X is a beauty patch developed to enhance the way women perceive their own beauty.”

Participants were also asked to keep a video diary of their progress.

During the two-week trial the women started to feel a boost in their self-esteem. At the end of the experiment, it was revealed that the patch they had been wearing was a placebo.

“Dove Patches” is a global initiative that was shot in Los Angeles by Ogilvy Brazil and launches today in 56 countries. The seven women in the film were selected through a casting call and told it was for a documentary and not a Dove-related film, a conscious decision by the brand.

Sharon MacLeod, North American vice-president of personal care for Dove told Marketing that the global team, of which she is a member, was looking for real responses and didn’t want the brand’s affiliation with the project to influence the outcome.

“So many people have now seen [last year's] ‘Dove Beauty Real Sketches’ as an experiment so the last thing we wanted them to do is start thinking, ‘Oh is this like that’ and actually affect the outcome, and we didn’t want to impact the things that they said. We wanted it to be genuinely based on the insights,” said MacLeod, who was vice-president of marketing for Unilever in Canada until late last year.

The idea behind the film is based on a global study conducted by Dove that found 80% of participants felt anxious about the way they look and one-third of women say beauty pressures are self inflicted. MacLeod said the movie is intended to help women see themselves differently and realize that beauty is a state of mind.

Was there concern that the participating women would feel they had been tricked once it was revealed the patches were placebo? MacLeod said the team was prepared to respond to any negative feelings about the experience, but the women called the experiment a “life altering experience.”

“We felt confident it would be a positive experience for them,” she said. “And obviously we’re very respectful of the women. If any of them felt uncomfortable and didn’t want to be in the film, they never would have been included.”

When asked if Dove had followed-up with the women to see if the effects of the experiment were long-lasting, MacLeod said, “Many of them said it was a life-changing experience so you can image that will live on in their life into perpetuity.”

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