The Imperfect Brand

It’s not often that I find advertising for a line of beauty products appealing. I grew up, like most young women in this country, staring at the pages of Vogue and Seventeen, trying to imagine what I’d look like if I just could have that brand of designer perfume or that expensive tube of blue mascara. (Yes, it was the ’80s). Unlike too many women, I fortunately made it out of the teen years unscathed. (And no, I don’t just blame the advertising industry. But it’s certainly a factor.)

So it’s especially refreshing to see the recent campaign for Dove in Canada, which was designed by Brian Collins’s Brand Integration Group at Ogilvy & Mather and recently launched in Europe. (Collins says the campaign will eventually come to the U.S.) The online campaign asks women to vote on photos of real women (“Fat or fab?” “Bald or beautiful?”), join discussion boards, and view an online photography exhibit. The photos, taken by notable women photographers such as Annie Leibowitz and Ellen Von Unwerth, have been collected in a book and displayed in shopping mall galleries. They are at once beautiful, bold, and provocative.

In trying to create an authentic brand campaign, Collins’s team used models that were not “genetic abnormalities,” he says, and tried to create a message that “stands for beauty as an attitude and not because you got lucky.” Rather than merely trying to sell Dove soap, it engages a broader idea and encourages women to create their own brand meanings. “A brand is made by a human being,” Collins says. “It has cracks and creases and wrinkles.” Sounds wonderfully like a lot of women I know.