Dove’s Homemade Issues

Any business that is selling a product wants its customers to like their product and review it positively or spread a positive word of mouth, to get more customers.

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Image Credit: Google Images (permitted for non-commercial reuse)

In the digital age, when a word of mouth spreads like wildfire in social media, we say the marketing message (video, picture, product information, etc.) has “gone viral”. A message from businesses can go viral for many possible reasons, but going viral is not always beneficial to businesses.

A recent example, of a marketing message that went viral and damaged the company’s reputation was a Dove body wash advertisement. I saw the commercial through a Facebook post from NowThis. The post title read: ‘WTF was Dove thinking with this ad?. The ad had gone viral when a popular social media influencer found it racially discriminative and shared it.

The three-second video that went viral showed a black woman taking her top off and becoming a white woman followed by her taking her top off and becoming a woman of another colour. The promotion and the resulting perceptions that followed is known as ‘Homemade Issues’ (Kaplan & Haenlein (2011) in their article “Two hearts in three-quarter time: How to waltz the social media/viral marketing dance”), meaning a negative outcome of a marketing campaign that went viral and was created by the company.

This outcome implies that is that marketers now have to put a greater emphasis on the possible negative reaction that their forthcoming promotions can garner in the digital space. After all, people in the current world have very low tolerance and only see what they want to see. For example, the portion of the ad where the white woman’s top change was followed by the appearance of a woman of darker colour was overseen; in addition to the fact that the extended thirty-second ad celebrated racial diversity and that the product promoted by Dove does not claim to whiten the users’ complexion.

I believe some wording with the video could or the sequence in which the women appear on the commercial could have prevented the negative publicity Dove received.

Please share in the comments section, any idea that you think could, if implemented by Dove, could have resulted in a better outcome.