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 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

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

CSR Roundup – March 6, 2013

It’s a video bonus! Check out one debate to find out what CSR has to do with charity. (Hint: it’s nothing.)


Meanwhile, in print:

  • It’s the era of “we, not me,” according to PRWeek. Employing a new buzzword, one expert says “corporate socialanthropy” defines the new era of reputation management for businesses big and small.
  • A case study discusses the international definition of a socially responsible company.
  • If today’s students are tomorrow’s CEOs, there are great things to come in socially responsible business! A high school entrepreneurship class challenges students to develop “for-purpose” business plans—breaking through the traditional for-profit model.
  • What do John Deere, Pfizer and PepsiCo have in common? They’re all contributing to development in emerging markets.
  • Ethispere released its ranking of the World’s Most Ethical Companies for 2013, with a record of 143 companies.