Please excuse the rampant use of inverted commas in this post.
Dove, where “beauty is a state of mind”, was doing viral marketing before that was even a term. Remember this?
Yes, that was when Dove exposed how the cosmetic industry uses digital manipulation to create an artificial representation of beauty. We were stunned, we were shocked, we loved Dove for revealing the truth. This was not to be outdone by their gorgeously shot and edited viral videos of ethnically homogenous women and girls reflecting on “Real Beauty”.
Dove, again, was “keeping it real”. Now, their marketing geniuses have come up with something as massive as it gets when it comes to brand-led social awareness campaigns: #speak beautiful, a crusade to flood social media streams with positive comments on women’s beauty as opposed to the disproportionate number of negative ones. Dove has some huge players involved in this campaign, not the least of which being the immensely respected cutting edge social media researcher and author, danah boyd (read her post endorsing it and my comment here). The following video was all over the Oscars last weekend attempting to take down all the negative comments on social media about women on the red carpet. No one can argue against the effectiveness of this clip.
Though I am certainly not the first blogger to write about this in the past decade, I feel it’s another good time for us to remember that Dove is owned by the multinational, billion-dollar company Unilever. Unilever also owns TRESemmé, whose web presence looks like this:
I’m not sure “diverse beauty” would be the word I would use to describe the words or imagery above. Of course, it has long ago been revealed that Unilever also owns Axe and Lynx, who are infamous for their ads which frequently resemble this:
So, I’m wondering, would that not be akin to Adidas going on a social media campaign to end low wages and child labour in sports garment production while their subsidiary Reebok carried on as per usual? Another analogy might be if Minute Maid marketed their fresh fruit juices with a hashtag #stopsugarydrinks in the interests of public health while its parent company Coca-Cola, well, kept being Coca-Cola.
It’s never been as complex and so fascinating to do work in media literacy. The next time you hear someone dismiss its importance in learning, tell them about Dove, and how hard it’s gotten to deconstruct a brand’s intentions in our world of social media. Tell them about Unilever, and how globalisation and multinational conglomerates play with their image based on context and need. Tell them, most of all, that adding “media” in front of “literacy” is becoming increasingly redundant.