How Dove Engages Customers with Sincere and Authentic Cause Marketing


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According to Adam Kleinberg, CEO of Traction, consumers are increasingly skeptical about insincere cause marketing efforts which just push products. Almost half (41 percent) of the agency’s survey respondents said that insincere cause marketing was perceived as “just a spin” and 25 percent are annoyed by it. “Every brand has a corporate social responsibility … [but it shouldn’t] be furthered as a marketing opportunity,” said Kleinberg. “You have to put your money where your mouth is, and the consumers will see that.”

This is consistent with our ERDM Learnings from 15,000+ hours of VoC Interviews regarding innovation-based customer listening. Here’s what consumers said:

  • “With today’s technology, I expect brand communications to reflect my interests.”
  • “I don’t want marketing when it comes to major issues.”

Aligning your brand with a cause which is meaningful to your customers is an effective way to build long term relationships– if done authentically. According to statistics from the Cause Marketing Forum:

  • 72% of consumers have donated to charity at the register and 65% of consumers felt positively about the retailer after giving.
  • 80% of global consumers agree that business must play a role in addressing societal issues.

The “Dove Self Esteem Project” is a prime example of a brand listening to consumers and supporting their interests and concerns. The campaign offers resources for parents, educators, youth leaders and mentors to run their own “self esteem workshops.” Additionally, The Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report demonstrated the brand’s sincere dedication to help its consumers by interviewing 10,500 women across 13 countries to get viewpoints and thoughts regarding body image.

According to Victoria Sjardin, Senior Global Director, Dove Masterbrand. “For over 50 years, Dove has been committed to creating a world where beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety. With this new research, we hope to inspire women and girls everywhere to develop a positive relationship with the way they look.”

The company states that since its campaign launch, the “Self Esteem Project” has impacted the lives of more than 19 million young people across 128 countries. It now has a new goal to up its social reach by 2020 – committing to positively impact an additional 20 million over the next four years.


1. Aligning your brand authentically with a cause of importance to your customers is vital among all demographic groups, but especially significant with Millennials.

According to the Deloitte Millennial Survey, 87 percent of Millennials believe that a company should have a larger purpose than sales and profits. Additionally in the Cone Millennial Cause Study, 79 percent indicate they’re likely to purchase a product from a company they consider socially responsible.

2. Efforts in cause marketing need to be authentic or you run the risk of turning off consumers.

“There has been a shift in perception among customers of what an authentic expression of a brand is,” said Max Lenderman, CEO of cause-marketing specialist agency, School. “And jumping on a cause is increasingly being viewed as not authentic.”

“With every passing day, it’s getting harder and harder to pull the wool over people’s eyes … ” notes Jim Moriarty, director of Brand Citizenship. “We all crave authenticity. Brands can and should change the world. And the best way to do that is to initiate, support and amplify causes that are connected to the brand’s business and mission.”

3. For a cause campaign to be perceived as sincere, brands need to back up their commitment by providing resources, information, and opportunities for involvement rather than merely marketing messages.

The Harvard Business Review looked at top cause marketing campaigns and put together a list of key factors for success which included inspiring messaging; an element that people can experience in the real world and a big issue coupled with a request for a small personal action. Their bottom line recommendation? “[Create] public service engagement, not a public service announcement.”

While consumers are looking to brands to take action on matters of importance to them, insincere cause marketing is perceived as simply another sales opportunity, and consumers do not want blatant marketing on major issues. Listening to your consumers and developing innovative means of reacting sincerely to meet their needs is a key way to build long term relationships—but only if done authentically.

Ernan Roman
Ernan Roman (@ernanroman) is president of ERDM Corp. and author of Voice of the Customer Marketing. He was inducted into the DMA Marketing Hall of Fame due to the results his VoC research-based CX strategies achieve for clients such as IBM, Microsoft, QVC, Gilt and HP. ERDM conducts deep qualitative research to help companies understand how customers articulate their feelings and expectations for high value CX and personalization. Named one of the Top 40 Digital Luminaries and one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing.


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