Is real beauty controversial? A look at Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches

Source: Dove

Source: Dove

Last Sunday, Dove reinvigorated its Campaign for Real Beauty with a viral YouTube video that has gained almost 30 million views.

In the video, the women describe themselves to a forensic artist, who draws them without ever seeing them. The artist then draws them based on a description from a stranger who had spent time with the woman earlier. While the women focus more on their own flaws, the strangers describe much more attractive people. The video ends with the message, “You are more beautiful than you think.” Watch below:


Dove launched its Campaign for Real Beauty in 2004, and this is one of a few viral videos that have been part of it. In 2011, the brand scaled back from the campaign.

Like its predecessors in the Real Beauty campaign, the video has been fairly controversial. AdWeek’s David Griner sums up the criticism in 5 points:

  1. It features too many traditionally attractive white women.
  2. It seems to define beauty as being thin and young.
  3. It positions beauty as the yardstick by which women measure themselves.
  4. It shows women as their own enemies rather than victims of a sexist society.
  5. It is hypocritical because it comes from Unilever, which also makes Axe, Slim-Fast and more.

These criticisms, particularly the final one, very much echo those throughout the campaign’s history. The Real Beauty campaign is controversial by nature. It aims to spark conversation. From a marketing perspective, the video is unique because it does not mention a specific product. Instead, it aims to build an identity for the Dove brand.

It’s an interesting concept to have a brand that is selling women beauty tell women that they’re already naturally beautiful. However, I think there’s some value in the Dove campaign breaking through the mold. Even if Dove doesn’t get it 100 percent right, the brand is starting an unprecedented conversation about beauty in advertising. The Real Beauty campaign might not single-handedly improve women’s self-esteem, but it has the potential to create as much change as a for-profit beauty brand can make.

No matter what you think of the campaign, it’s sparked at least one pretty hilarious parody. The video below reveals what might happen if men were used for the Dove experiment instead of women.


CSR Roundup – April 19, 2013

Source: Instagram

Source: Instagram

With everything going on in Boston this week, it’s hard to focus on other news. Here are just a few interesting stories on CSR.

  • In the wake of this week’s tragedy at the Boston, brands like Google and Air BnB sought to help lost and stranded people at the marathon.
  • Corporate Responsibility magazine has published its list of most improved companies in CSR. Big movers include Abercrombie & Fitch, Weight Watchers and Expedia.
  • After moving away from its Campaign for Real Beauty in 2011, Dove has reinvigorated the idea with the below Sketches video. The viral video focuses on self-image and is a very interesting watch.

Q&A with Molly Malloy, CSR professional

Source: Pepsi, Stepping Stone

Source: Pepsi, Stepping Stone

Many companies today deliver social responsibility efforts in a polished package in order to enhance their communication strategy. As a J-school student interested in CSR, I have often wondered who was behind these strategies, and what goes into their work.

I had the opportunity to speak with Molly Malloy. A UNC School of Journalism alumnus who has worked with fascinating clients and firms, Malloy gained an interest in CSR before she even graduated. Check out her great insight below!


Tell me a little bit about what you do and how you got there.

I am currently the Senior Marketing and Development Manager at MacGillivray Freeman, an independent multi-platform media company based in Laguna Beach, California. The company got its start in the 1970s making some of the early iconic surf films. We now specialize in making IMAX documentaries about the natural world for leading institutions around the world (think Smithsonian) in addition to producing and distributing multimedia for all screens — mobile, online and more. It’s a small company, so I wear many hats – corporate PR and marketing, social media, branding, multimedia content development, partnership management, etc.

How did I get here? Now that’s a story I’m saving for a book that few people will read. But the short version is that I moved to New York City shortly after graduating from UNC to work in the Corporate Social Responsibility practice at the PR agency Edelman Worldwide. Through my Edelman client TED Conferences, I met an incredibly inspirational woman – a true explorer – who changed my life. Because of her, I moved to California to help build and launch the One World One Ocean Campaign – MacGillivray Freeman’s CSR project.

What originally sparked your interest in a CSR career?

The summer prior to my senior year at UNC I interned in the Global Communications practice at Starbucks Coffee Company in Seattle. I use the full company name as I still have college buddies who are convinced I was a barista that summer. One of the projects I worked on while at Starbucks was helping to finalize the company’s CSR report. In working on the report, I was floored by the company’s commitment to giving back to the community, environmental sustainability and to overall corporate stewardship. It was very clear to me that people who work at Starbucks are proud to work there because of the company’s robust CSR platform. With Starbucks boasting one of the most loyal brand followings in the world, I became really interested in finding out whether consumers (perhaps unconsciously) liked the brand for the same reasons employees liked working there.

And so, as an honor student in the Journalism School, I wrote a senior thesis (with Professor Boynton as my advisor) aimed at answering that question. I believe it was called “Good Coffee, Good Company?” I hope this blog post leads people to checking it out in the J-School library, as I’m pretty sure my grandpa is the only person who ever has. Despite the rumors of senior theses being terrible, I really enjoyed working on mine. And in writing it, I became a true CSR enthusiast and decided to find a job in the “industry” after graduation.

What do you see as the main challenge that affects practitioners in the social purpose/CSR field? How about for companies that are trying to conduct CSR?

I think there are two main challenges, and they are the same for both practitioners and companies: Authenticity and differentiation. In the five years since I’ve graduated, CSR has quite frankly blown up. With events like the Gulf oil spill and the financial crisis, consumers, particularly in the U.S., are demanding that their companies be more transparent and behave responsibly. And while this is a good thing – a great thing – it creates an authenticity challenge. With CSR now something that every company is expected to do, it means there are some companies out there that are not really doing anything substantial, but that are communicating the little they do very well. On the flip side, there are a lot of companies out there that are really moving the needle but aren’t communicating their efforts very well. A company who does CSR well is truly authentic – they walk the talk in terms of their commitments AND their talk is actually interesting and understandable to the average consumer. On an individual level, a good CSR practitioner needs to both hold their company accountable for their CSR platform and be an innovative communicator and marketer.

Because CSR is now such a prevalent concept, companies are also challenged with breaking through the noise when it comes to activating and communicating a CSR platform. Publishing a CSR report, hosting a community day, etc. won’t cut it. Companies must differentiate or die.

A great example of differentiation is the Pepsi Refresh Project (full disclosure: a former client of mine). With the launch of the Pepsi Refresh Project, PepsiCo became one of the first companies to activate their CSR platform as part of a 360° consumer-facing marketing campaign to fund crowd-sourced community projects.  The entire campaign activation was activated online and at the time, driving with digital to the extent they did had never been done before. Pepsi also put their money were their mouth was – foregoing their annual (and massive) Super Bowl advertising buy to execute the campaign and help fund the winning projects. They brought in unique partners – GOOD and Global Giving – who gave the project instant credibility and authenticity on the philanthropy side. Pepsi reaped a wide range of benefits from the campaign, from increasing brand love with consumers, old and new, to winning countless awards for the campaign. So moral of the story, be authentic and be different.

How do you think digital marketing and new media have affected cause marketing?

Digital marketing and new media have turned cause marketing on its head – for better or worse. On one hand, brands and organizations have incredible tools and platforms at their fingertips to be able to communicate their CSR stories instantly to consumers. And the great thing about content-driven platforms like YouTube, Instagram, etc., means brands are tasked with showing not telling.

Using these same tools and platforms, consumers can now engage in a 2-way dialogue with companies and hold them accountable like never before – sometimes with game-changing repercussions. The 24/7 digital media engine puts the pressure on brands and organizations to ensure that their cause-related efforts are transparent and innovative.

On the other hand, new media and digital tools have in some ways contributed to a form of shallow cause marketing.  We’ve created a culture of “like” and “+1” that can lead to mass consumer support of a cause that they may not understand but that seems sexy or cool. You have to ask whether that digital engagement is actually creating positive social change or if it is just what it is — a bunch of likes and +1s.

Invisible Children’s STOP KONY campaign is a good example of why brands and organizations need to use digital marketing and new media responsibly when it comes to cause marketing. Put out a compelling message and a cutting-edge piece of content on high-impact channels and you could very well reach millions of people overnight. But are you prepared to handle that level of engagement internally? Have you thought about how that engagement could negatively affect your cause, existing programs and relationships with key stakeholders?

But at the end of the day, when I visit sites like GOOD, Kickstarter or or see #WorldWaterDay trending on Twitter, I’m incredibly inspired about how far cause marketing has come and where it’s going because of digital marketing and media.

What have you learned about CSR since you broke into the field as an intern?

I’ve learned that there are a lot of inspiring stories out there — of people, companies and organizations doing good. A lot more than most people would think. I have also learned that it is easier to pitch a sad or scary story than a good one, and you have to work really hard to get a good story seen and heard in mainstream media.

What do you think we have to look forward to in CSR in the coming years?

I look forward to more companies like TOMS and Warby Parker building their entire brand on CSR concepts, effectively addressing some of the world’s biggest challenges while also making a profit. I think we will see some incredibly innovative CSR partnerships struck between seemingly very different organizations and individuals. And most exciting for me personally, I think we will see some awesome multi-platform CSR storytelling that is increasingly more entertaining and inspiring.

What advice to have for new grads hoping to work in CSR?

Since I graduated, I keep an email sent to me by a man I admire framed on my desk that says, “Keep your passion and energy burning every day, that’s the secret. The world is in front of you.”

That’s all you can and should do.

Should corporations do more to help fight sexual assault?


Twilight actress Ashley Greene speaks at a NO MORE event. Source: Campus Progress

Last week’s post discussed three ways companies are helping fight sexual assault. As a former intern at the Orange County Rape Crisis Center, I was excited to further explore a topic that I care about in the context of CSR. While doing research on these businesses, I figured I’d have a lot of hits –it was the beginning of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and I thought corporations would want to get in on the conversation.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find a lot of buzz about SAAM, especially from corporations. From Target to Verizon, a number of corporations and their foundations are supporting organizations like RAINN and NO MORE. However, it doesn’t appear that most make the issue an important part of the corporate communication strategy.

Is this a good move on their part? It’s not a secret that CSR is usually about more than social responsibility. Companies frequently use CSR to make good in areas in which they have some perceived negative effect. No business wants to be perceived as increasing sexual assaults.

However, in my opinion, there could be some good in putting some corporate power behind this important cause. Nearly one in five women in the U.S. report being sexually assaulted, according to a 2011 survey. Statistically, this must include both customers and employees of most, if not all, large corporations. This issue affects every company because it affects our country, and therefore companies should address it.

Furthermore, due to the Steubenville case and other recent events, rape has been a major topic in the media. But rape remains a fairly taboo issue, and this lack of discussion breeds misconceptions. By supporting companies that seek to end sexual violence, corporations could help prompt discussion and be leaders in a crucial conversation on sexual assault.

With or without companies, this conversation is happening. Through movements like NO MORE, survivors and advocates are helping bring national attention to the fight against sexual violence. It’s fantastic to see that a number of companies have helped in the fight, through financial support and otherwise. In my opinion, now is the time for even more corporations to join this important movement.

CSR Roundup – April 11, 2013

Whole Foods

Source: FastCoExist

  • Talk about local produce – Whole Foods is building a greenhouse farm on the roof of its forthcoming Brooklyn store. The store will grow organic produce for the new store and others throughout the city, but some residents are worried it’s a sign of gentrification.
  • Here’s an interesting Q&A on Harvard’s sustainability office, which was established in 2008.
  • As part of Mary Kay’s Don’t Look Away campaign to end domestic violence, the 2013 Dallas International film festival will feature a Mary Kay pink carpet. The pink carpet event will feature celebrities, information about the mission to and a PSA produced by Mary Kay Inc. on the company’s campaign to end abuse.
  • Here are the top 10 CSR pros to follow on Twitter. (This college undergrad somehow didn’t make the list…)
  • In partnership with the University of Maryland, Google has developed a tool to help prevent deforestation. The real-time forest monitoring system will synthesize information to help provide information that could lead to better use of forests.
  • In case you missed it, here’s a great article on how millennials spur capitalism with a conscience—but it’s got to be about more than marketing and PR.

Three ways companies are helping fight sexual assault

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month! Visibility is a crucial part of the fight against sexual assault. There are many misconceptions surrounding rape, and it’s an issue that affects many people. It is important to support organizations helping survivors of rape, and to take the issue seriously as something affecting people worldwide.

In honor of SAAM, I wanted to take a look at companies who are helping speak out against rape. Based on my research, there aren’t tons—and I’ll discuss that in my next post.

For now, here are three ways companies are helping start a conversation on sexual assault.

Through Leaders

Source: ABC News

Last month, Christine Mau, a designer for Kleenex, came forward as a survivor of sexual assault. (In case disclosure is necessary, I once interned at Ketchum, who did PR for Kleenex parent company Kimberly-Clark.)

Mau is responsible for the oval-shaped Kleenex box. She also helped design rainbow colored pad and tampon wrappers for Kimberley-Clark’s U by Kotex brand. In light of these accomplishments, she was named a woman to watch by Advertising Age in 2010.

Mau is now the face of NO MORE, a “new, overarching symbol” to brand all efforts to fight sexual assault. The organization seeks to make the NO MORE symbol immediately recognizable, like the pink breast cancer ribbon or the yellow support our troops ribbon.

Mau’s prominent work with Kleenex has been an important part of publicizing the NO MORE movement. Ketchum tweeted about the inspiring story, indicating that Kleenex is standing behind their designer. However, it doesn’t appear that Kleenex is actively supporting NO MORE. Thus, although the Kleenex brand is involved in telling Mau’s story, this is not technically a CSR move.

Through Fashion

Source: LA Times

Source: LA Times

Paige Denim, a high-end denim brand, developed a “RAINN Blue” wash to benefit the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), an anti-rape organization that runs a national sexual assault hotline. The designer donated 20 percent of proceeds from the denim to RAINN throughout April 2012.

The wash is no longer available for purchase.

In addition, Actress KaDee Strickland worked with Gorjana, a socially responsible accessories company, to develop a necklace especially for RAINN. Gorjana will donate 80 percent of the sale price back to RAINN, and it is still available on the Gorjana website.

Through Technology

Source: Mary Kay

Last year, loveisrespect developed the nation’s first text message abuse helpline with the help of sponsors like Mary Kay, Verizon, and mark. Respectively, the sponsors donated $1 million, $250,000 and $100,000 to the program. Teens and young adults could text “loveis” to 77054 to get help from trained advocates.

Crayton Webb, Mary Kay Inc.’s director of corporate social responsibility, said in a press release that Mary Kay was focused on breaking the cycle of domestic violence before it starts.

“Understanding that Millennials and Gen-Y communicate predominantly through text, Mary Kay is excited to support the ‘text for help’ program focusing on prevention,” said Webb. “Our partnership with loveisrespect will offer young women and teenagers another avenue to get help and understand what healthy dating relationships look like.”

Mary Kay’s donation was part of the company’s larger “Don’t Look Away” campaign, which seeks to educate people on the signs of an abusive relationship.

Did I miss any major campaigns? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Stay tuned for my next post on (in my opinion) the relative lack of companies talking about sexual assault.

CSR Roundup – April 4, 2013

CSR Roundup – March 30, 2013

It’s a CSR roundup–Saturday edition!

Symbology: Fusing fashion with social responsibility


For most companies, CSR is a single facet of an overall business—just one way to give back to communities. I am a CSR supporter, as obviated by this blog, and I believe these campaigns can create positive impact. But it is a rare and special thing when social responsibility exists at the heart of a business. North Carolina fashion startup Symbology is one of those gems.

Symbology is a fashion company with sustainability at its core. This new label uses a fair trade model to combine ethically sourced fabrics with high fashion design. (I actually had the chance to model for Symbology’s fall/winter 2012 lookbook, but please don’t hold that against them.)

Founder Marissa Heyl said she was intrigued by the idea that through fair trade, capitalism could empower people rather than exploit them.

“I visited women in slums and in villages, and really just fell in love with the women and their families,” Heyl said. “More than feeling sorry for them, because a lot of them came from really difficult situations, I felt more just a sense of bonding.”

Symbology currently works with five artisan groups in different parts of India. Heyl develops samples with interns from NC State and Meredith College. For some designs, she uses graphic design software to create patterns that she knows the women in India can recreate. The women carve the patterns out of a block to print the fabric. Heyl also uses traditional blocks from India that will translate well to clothing in the US. After creating the fabric, the women send it to the United States to be sewn into a final product.

Heyl sees fair trade as a way of connecting women through fashion. By creating economic opportunities for women in India, Symbology helps these women break the poverty cycle using their existing skills.

“Fair trade is much more than a buying relationship,” Heyl said. “It’s about developing holistic communities and retaining wealth and talent and education in villages in India.”

The model is especially significant for helping women. Heyl said in some communities, women aren’t allowed to leave the house without a man.

“There’s literally half of the population in a lot of developing countries where women are not given an opportunity to be part of the workforce,” Heyl said. “By utilizing these techniques of home based craft that are handed down from generation to generation, women can earn an income without having to get a lot of additional training and education.”

Symbology’s socially responsible business model comes with some challenges. The label is still fairly new and faces all the obstacles of any fashion startup. In addition, Symbology has the unique challenge of educating customers about sustainable design, quality of fabrics and the importance of knowing where their clothes come from, according to Heyl.

“It’s central to our success as an ethical fashion label, and more importantly, to the sustainability of the fashion industry.”

But despite these challenges, Symbology is on the right track for growth. The label’s upcoming lines were featured at Redress Raleigh, an eco-conscious fashion show on March 23. The clothing is sold at Ten Thousand Villages, a fair trade retailer, as well as high-end fashion boutiques. And Heyl said she’s planning on expanding to new communities in South America.

“I want to be able to travel and visit new groups…and work with these artisan communities,” Heyl said. “That’s my dream.”

To learn more about Symbology’s roots, check out Heyl’s TEDxRaleigh talk below. You can also shop Symbology at

Wal-Mart loses reputation manager and pro communicator

Wal-Mart, a major player in CSR communication, will soon bid farewell to its corporate reputation expert. Wal-Mart recently announced Vice President of Corporate Affairs Leslie A. Dach will leave the company in June.

According to Bloomberg, Dach oversaw public policy, government relations, corporate communications and sustainability initiatives since joining the company in 2006. As such, CSR was a major part of Dach’s legacy. He sought to improve the company’s corporate image through environmental and anti-obesity initiatives. An internal memo announcing his leave states, “We have broken new ground in areas like sustainability, women’s economic empowerment and hunger and nutrition.”

Indeed, his work seemed to make an impact. YouGov’s BrandIndex measures whether people have heard positive or negative things about a company, ranging from negative 100 to positive 100. According to The New York Times, Wal-Mart’s score rose from a negative 5 in 2007 to 20 in 2009.

Even critics of the organization noted Dach’s positive impact. The company “became much more adept at constructing a public image that would appeal to liberal audiences after he came on board” according to Stacy Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which reportedly opposes many of Wal-Mart’s policies.

Dach says his leave has nothing to do with recent company woes. (It’s possible he was tired of his long commute – more than one thousand miles from his home in D.C. to corporate headquarters in Arkansas.) However, the move comes at a time when many businesses are choosing not to integrate CSR messaging in their public relations strategies. A Grayling Pulse survey found that only one quarter of organizations with a corporate social responsibility strategy are integrating it into their corporate communications strategy.

Dach had a background in both public relations and politics. Before working at Wal-Mart, Dach was the vice chairman of Edelman, helping run the CSR consulting division. Under Dach’s lead, the company supported President Obama’s individual mandate in health coverage. Wal-Mart also courted the support of the first lady when announcing a new commitment to healthy foods and fresh produce in 2011.

Despite the results of the Grayling Pulse survey, it is a fair assumption that Wal-Mart will be a leader, and not a follower, in CSR communication. However, it will be interesting to see if Wal-Mart’s next reputation management executive takes a similar communications-based approach to CSR.