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Dove Reverses the Made Up Selfie

What’s in this article:

  • The Dove Self-Esteem Project aims to ensure that the next generation of girls grow up having confidence in the way they look
  • Dove is making the bold move of not pushing makeup and skincare products – instead, the CTA is to “Have #TheSelfieTalk”
  • The project also teaches parents to be aware of what an ad really is and how to explain that to their kids


In a very effective video called “Reverse Selfie,” Dove reverses the usual before and after looks of makeovers. It starts with the glam shot of a perfectly manicured, made up, and digitally altered girl who then undoes it all to show what she really looks like.

The motivation for the video, Dove explains, is this:

By age 13, 80% of girls distort the way they look online. Let’s change that.

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Social media is a big part of young people’s lives — but retouching apps and the pressure to post the ‘perfect selfie’ are hurting their self-esteem and confidence. Have the selfie talk with a girl you love to reverse the damage and celebrate real beauty. The Dove Self-Esteem Project can show you how.

What’s interesting here is that Dove, which is owned by Unilever, usually pushes self-esteem via products. In addition to her beauty filters, the girl does use several cosmetics to achieve the look she tries to project to the world.

Selling women and girls on makeup to feel confident is standard operating procedure. I remember how it struck me as a kid to hear, “I’m at my best with Maybelline” because I understood that it meant that a woman cannot be her best without the help of cosmetics.

But even makeup wasn’t enough to deliver the expectation of perfect beauty. Digital enhancement of models had become such a standard practice in the industry that brands could claim authenticity just by promising not to digitally alter the images used to market their products, as we saw in Cosmetic Change in the Beauty Industry.

Here Dove is making the bold move of not pushing makeup and skincare products. Instead, the CTA is to “Have #TheSelfieTalk.”

Customer marketing challenges and opportunities

It’s all part of Dove’s self-esteem project with access to videos on relevant topics and a “kit,” which is a 32 page downloadable PDF that includes various suggestions interspersed with stats.

The kit notes that it takes girls, on average, 14 attempts to achieve the selfie they want. It also includes a warning to parents to be aware of what an ad really is:

Learn how to spot advertising with social media influencers becoming more popular than ever, it can be hard to spot what’s an ad and what’s not. Scroll through your child’s social media feed together and practice spotting posts that show sponsored content and those that don’t.

Dove launched its Self-Esteem Project in 2004. It aims to get its message to 250 million by 2030. The brand does get applauded for this direction, and that certainly leads to greater loyalty.

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