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What Makes a Beautiful Campaign?

Posted At: April 29, 2013 5:00 P.M.
by Kaitlyn Honnold

What happens when a clothing company tells you to buy fewer clothes?

Or how about when a beauty product company tells you you’re beautiful just the way you are?

Such is the trend of companies trying to balance desired profits and social responsibility, and I’ll tell you what: I’m conflicted.

Dove’s most recent campaign drove home the idea that people judge themselves more harshly than others: especially women. Dove enlisted a forensic artist to sit behind a curtain and draw the women on the other side as they described themselves, and then again to the description of how others described them.

The three-minute viral video really plays on the heartstrings. One of my friends posted on Facebook:

“Ladies- you all need to watch this. The video brought tears to my eyes. YOU ARE ALL MORE BEAUTIFULTHAN YOU KNOW.”

The first time I watched the video it’s like I was under a spell. I watched in awe as these women described themselves in a way that’s as close to the GEICO Caveman as trendy city women could get.


Dove Sketch 2 FInal



I thought, “How could those women describe themselves like that?! They’re gorgeous!”

It wasn’t until I was thinking about it a few hours later that I realized none of the women were “normal.” Well, they had one woman with a gap in her teeth, but if that’s the one fault among these absurdly trendy and good-looking women that’s supposed to make me feel “beautiful,” I may be out of luck.

My second thought was how hypocritical the whole concept was. Dove is a beauty product company, and beauty product manufacturers benefit from your insecurities. They bank on the fact that you feel you should look better, in whichever ways that may entail.

The message, at face value, is a great one. But, in the end, Dove is still trying to sell you products to get rid of those crow’s feet it just praised as “beautiful.” So, what’s more important: the message or the profits?

Now, compare Dove’s campaign to Patagonia’s Common Threads Initiative.

Patagonia is a technical and lifestyle apparel company based in Ventura, Calif., that grew with the humble beginnings of Yvon Chouinard’s climbing career.

The Common Threads Initiative launched in 2005 with the message: “Reduce, Repair, Reuse, Recycle and Reimagine.”

Patagonia says, “We design and sell things made to last and to be useful. But we ask our customers not to buy from us what you don’t need or can’t really use. By taking the Common Threads Pledge, you ‘agree to buy only what I need (and will last).’ Everything we make – everything anyone makes – costs the planet more life than it gives back. The biggest, first step we can all take to reduce our impact is to do more with what we have and take good care of it.”

Patagonia’s campaign offers everything from ways to take care of your clothes to repairs on your more used items.

However, Patagonia’s endgame is still to sell more clothing, right? How is this campaign any different than the Dove campaign?

I mean, Patagonia even ran this ad in the New York Times on Black Friday — the biggest shopping day of the year :

patagonia NYT ad

You could argue that Patagonia’s Common Threads Initiative is even more hypocritical than the Dove campaign. And I may agree with you.

But what makes Patagonia different is how it has reacted to the criticism. Patagonia’s blog, The Cleanest Line, outright addressed the hypocrisy of a clothing company telling you to buy less.

It said, “[…] Patagonia is a growing business – and we want to be in business a good long time. The test of our sincerity (or our hypocrisy) will be if everything we sell is useful, multifunctional where possible, long lasting, beautiful but not in thrall to fashion. We’re not yet entirely there. Not every product meets all these criteria. Our Common Threads Initiative will serve as a framework to advance us toward these goals.”

In addition to the statement above, Patagonia offers quantifiable evaluation for each of its strategies. Hypocritical as it may be, at least Patagonia is trying to influence something measurable, but like I said, I’m conflicted.

Part of me thinks the trickery at play in the Dove campaign overshadows the message. But, as a woman who hates the first day of swimsuit season as much as the next, I can appreciate what it’s trying to say. Patagonia on the other hand is trying to change the entire structure of consumerism, but the company has the research to back it up. Which do you think is the more successful campaign? How do you measure the success? What are some other campaigns that have to fight accusations of hypocrisy?

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