Ethics & Corporate Social Responsibility Marketing

Everywhere you turn these days there’s a mega corporation trying to prove how much they care about you, your community, or your cause. They spend millions of dollars giving us warm fuzzies in the hope that we will return the favor by purchasing their product, give them a little free press, and ultimately become a loyal customer. Corporate Social Responsibility can be a power tool for creating loyalty and shifting the consumer precipitation of a corporation; but are they passionate about the cause or simply chasing the dollar it promises?

Today, I would like to take a look at one of these campaigns and perhaps in the future I will examine others.


Dove’s Real Beauty vs The Axe Effect

Personally I love the Dove campaigns. There is no question that Dove is trying to help shape how women of all ages perceive their own beauty. In 2006 Dove Canada’s Real Beauty campaign video “Evolution” attempted to pull back the veil of print advertising and expose the process in which they altered images to create these “ideal” female forms. A moving and thought provoking video that served as the launch of their Real Beauty Workshops for girls. A great example of a corporation using its clout for social good.

The question is: What do these campaigns tell us when we see that Unilever, Doves parent company also owns Axe?

It’s interesting as marketer I love the Axe campaigns, they are fresh and humorous at times; but a parent of both a boy & a girl I have taken a deeper look at effects of advertising on target demographics.

There is no question that Dove is doing things that are right for girls and women and for me the hypocrisy doesn’t come in the form of “raunchy and sexualized stereotypes” of females, but rather the contrasting effects on its male target demographic.

Where one hand promotes self-esteem and healthy body image for females, the other hand they perpetuate the exact opposite for the male demographic. Picture perfect males, with gorgeous females hanging off them 24/7 is not a good image for either sex. As an average sized male (right around 200Lbs) that has struggled with body images issues for years, I would be quite curious to hear what Doves “highly credible third-party experts” have to say about the Axe effect’s impact on young male self-esteem, body image, and perception of sexualized situations.

In the end business is business and Marketing is just that, marketing. Although when corporations tout their corporate responsibility efforts in advertising campaigns and “Self-Esteem Funds” I don’t feel its out of line to expect a higher level of accountability.

Unilevers take on the Dove Axe realationship:

Doves Evolution Video: