Building body confidence and self-esteem
Dove believes beauty should be for everyone and is inspiring millions of women and girls around the world to be confident in their beautiful selves.
Body confidence affects self-confidence
Women and girls are more anxious about their bodies than ever. And when they lose confidence in their body image, many lose confidence in themselves.
Half the women we spoke to – and seven in ten girls – said they have failed to be assertive or stick to a decision as a result of not feeling good about the way they look.1 This can have a profound effect on their lives, their careers, their futures – and their health.
Eight in ten girls opt out of important life activities, such as trying out for a team or joining a club at school, if they don’t feel good about the way they look. It could even mean that they don’t want to spend time with their friends.
Seven in ten girls stop themselves from eating when they are worried about their appearance, or otherwise put their health at risk by not seeing a doctor. For adult women, it’s an incredible nine in ten.
We want to create a world where beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety. Dove, our leading Beauty & Personal Care brand, is making a positive experience of beauty universally accessible to every woman.
The Dove Real Beauty Pledge
Dove has believed that beauty should be a source of confidence for 61 years, and recommitted to this in 2017 for its 60th anniversary, renewing its vows to women everywhere.
Vow 1: We portray women as they are in real life
We never digitally distort images of women. We never show unachievable, manipulated, flawless images of ‘perfect’ beauty. Instead, we represent women as they are in real life. All women who feature in our ads have approval of the images before they are used.
Vow 2: We portray women with diversity, honesty & respect
We believe that beauty is for everyone. That’s why our campaigns never silently feature models or actresses. Instead, we feature women who represent a broad view of beauty – showing different ages, sizes, ethnicities, hair colours, styles and body types.
Vow 3: We help girls build body confidence and self-esteem
Dove is on a mission to ensure the next generation grow up feeling confident about the way they look to help them reach their full potential. Since 2005, we’ve worked in 140 countries to improve self-esteem in more than 35 million young people with our educational tools.
The new symbol that celebrates real beauty
Around 40% of women don’t relate at all to those they see in advertising. And 80% wish the media did a better job of portraying realistic and diverse body images.2
In 2018, Dove took another step to ensure beauty is a source of confidence rather than anxiety, with the global launch of its “No Digital Distortion” mark.
The ambition behind the symbol is to help women and girls navigate the media landscape. We let them know that the image they’re looking at has not being digitally altered to fit the ideals of what beauty is and isn’t.
The symbol works as a stamp to assure people that no digital distortion has been used on the women featured in Dove's imagery across print, outdoor, in-store, digital and social media. The women included are 100% as you would see them in real life – and 100% beautiful.
Real beauty, real business benefits
No young person should be held back from reaching their full potential. Since 2005, the Dove Self-Esteem Project has helped more than 35 million young people build self-esteem and positive body confidence through our educational programmes. In 2018 alone, we reached 6.3 million young people – a 12% increase from 2017. This is our biggest reach in a single year to date. Our ambition is to have helped 40 million young people by 2020.
Celebrating real beauty isn’t just building body confidence. It’s building our business too. Dove is our largest brand and it continued to grow in 2018. We’ve seen that ads with progressive portrayals of people are 25% more effective. People connect with them better and talk about them more. That means a stronger impact for our brand.
When women learn about Dove’s Self-Esteem Project, their perception of Dove shifts and they’re more likely to buy our products. We’ve seen a direct link between awareness of the project and brand equity.3 Women are 15% more likely to purchase Dove products – and in some markets, this is even higher. For example, in the US and India, the proportion of women likely to purchase Dove products increased by 21% and 7% respectively, when they were made aware of the impact of the Dove Self-Esteem Project.4
Boosting body confidence and self-esteem
Our Dove Self-Esteem Project reaches young people by offering confidence-building workshops for classrooms and educational activities for mentors and youth leaders. We work with world-renowned body image experts and leading universities to develop evidence-based educational tools that have a proven positive tangible impact on young people’s self-esteem.
Our guides for teachers (Confident Me), for parents (Uniquely Me) and for youth leaders (True to Me) help them get young people talking about body image and building their self-confidence. The titles may vary, but the theme of all our guides is the same - everyone should grow up feeling confident about their looks. The positive impact of our school self-esteem programmes has been proved by academic studies.5 Other resources include activity guides and online articles that help parents tackle tough topics, like bullying and poor body image.
Helping children shine with Steven Universe
What we watch has a big impact on how we feel, especially when we’re young. That’s why Dove has teamed up with the Cartoon Network. Our two-year partnership is helping young people with their body confidence through something they love – a cartoon!
Steven Universe, the critically acclaimed cartoon series, has become a global pop culture phenomenon, and is recognised for its themes of inclusivity, empathy and relatability. The show’s diverse characters fight evil by getting strength from their body type, perfectly matching the Dove Self-Esteem Project’s commitment to building body confidence and self-esteem in young people.
To build self-esteem, we’ve created six short episodes on issues that matter to children, like teasing and bullying, competing and comparing looks, and understanding how the media can be manipulated. It wouldn't be Steven Universe without a song, so we also developed an exclusive body confidence song, ‘We deserve to shine!’ And we’ve published an interactive and personalised e-book, ‘Your Magic Mind and Body’.
All content was co-created with body image expert Dr Phillippa Diedrichs from the University of the West of England’s Centre for Appearance Research. Grounded in scientific evidence, our priority was to make content that would have a meaningful impact on young people’s self-esteem. Research shows that media can be a powerful source of influence on young peoples’ perception of body image and emotional intelligence. And thoughtfully designed inclusive content can create more positive attitudes and behaviours towards their own and others’ health.
This is the first time the Dove Self-Esteem Project has reached directly to the child. We’ve also raised awareness about the partnership among influencers and parents through PR activity and a global communications campaign. So far, our partnership with Steven Universe has reached more than 12 million young people.
Advocating for women at the UN General Assembly
We’ve been working with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) since 2013 to get our message across to more young women.
Our Free Being Me programme has reached 4 million girls in over 125 countries, and we’re aiming to reach 6.5 million by 2020. In 2017 we developed a new badge programme called Action on Body Confidence, to equip girls on how to address the issue of body confidence in their local communities. As the girls develop new advocacy skills, they will be able to make their passion heard, allowing them to act as a life changer in smaller communities and ultimately, reach even more girls.
In 2018, we hosted our inaugural Young Women’s Advocacy Forum at the UN’s General Assembly for girls to speak out about body image issues that they feel passionate about. 11 delegates from 10 different countries, aged 18-25, advocated for more education on body confidence and self-esteem in their countries. They also received advocacy programming and skill development so they can continue taking action to raise this issue in their local communities.
Dove Day for thought leaders
Every year, Dove Day catalyses our employees’ efforts to help boost self-esteem among young people globally. In 2018, we expanded our reach into new countries and Unilever offices to reach 21,000 young people, with 1,500 employees involved across 28 countries.
In 2018, Dove achieved accreditation from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) as cruelty-free. Since January 2019, PETA’s cruelty-free logo has begun to appear on Dove packaging to assure customers that Dove does not, and will not, conduct any tests on animals anywhere in the world.
PETA has also recognised Unilever’s ongoing work on developing alternative approaches to animal testing and commitment to promoting their adoption worldwide. For over 30 years, we’ve been developing ways for assuring our products are safe, which don’t involve testing on animals. We collaborate with more than 50 partners across the world, including governments and NGOs, openly sharing our scientific expertise and approaches with all interested stakeholders.
Unilever is also supporting Humane Society International’s #BeCrueltyFree initiative. This is leading legislative reform in key beauty markets to ban cosmetic animal testing and trade. As part of this, Unilever is investing in non-animal safety assessment training for future cosmetics safety scientists.
To facilitate the adoption of a global animal testing ban for cosmetics, we’ve offered to collaborate with an even broader range of stakeholders on a global scale to share our safety assessment approaches. We’re hopeful that through collaboration – among companies, NGOs and governments – it will soon be possible to assess the safety of all cosmetics products without the need for animal testing anywhere in the world.
Self-esteem: not just for girls
It’s not just girls and women who are affected by low self-esteem. Men are too.
Over half of men have been told that a real man should behave in a certain way.6 That kind of pressure can lead to bullying, depression and suicide.
We’re tackling ‘toxic’ portrayals of masculinity to help liberate men to be themselves and feel good about it. A campaign from our male grooming brand Axe asks, ‘Is it OK for guys?’.
This is part of our broader efforts to #Unstereotype advertising and change harmful social norms across our brands.
1Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report (PDF | 2MB) (2017), based on responses from more than 10,500 girls and women aged 10-64 in 13 markets.
2Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report (PDF | 2MB) (2017), based on responses from more than 10,500 girls and women aged 10-64 in 13 markets.
3 Millward Brown Dove Masterbrand Dove Self-esteem Project Analysis, September 2016, [Base: Women aged 24-54, USA (758), UK (400), Brazil (643), China (399), India (632)].
4 Millward Brown Dove Masterbrand Dove Self-esteem Project Analysis, September 2016, [Base: Women aged 24-54, USA (758), UK (400), Brazil (643), China (399), India (632)].
5 Behaviour Research and Therapy Journal (2015).
6 Promundo and Axe: The Man Box – a Study on Being a Young Man in the US, UK and Mexico, 2017. 3500 men surveyed.