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The Future of Marketing? Rob Walker On Dove's Newest Real Beauty Ad
Marketing | April 26, 2013

The Future of Marketing? Rob Walker On Dove's Newest Real Beauty Ad

"Not so long ago, lots of Very Serious People were predicting that the magic of technology, among other factors, would empower ad-hating consumers to tune out irritating marketing messages once and for all," Rob Walker writes in his latest article for Yahoo!. That prediction, however, hasn't completely come true. In the article, the marketing speaker discusses the way that Dove's newest Real Beauty campaign ad has actually done the opposite, as consumers are engaging with the campaign and sharing it on their own accord. "This Dove campaign is the latest powerful example of what’s actually happened: The distinction between what we label marketing and what we accept as culture keeps getting murkier." This is something he refers to as "murketing," and something he discusses in more depth in his book, Buying In: The Secret Dialog Between What We Buy And Who We Are.

This kind of advertising tactic is what is now being referred to as "native advertising," Walker explains. This is when "material [is] created by advertisers, distributed by digital publications, and positioned to seem less like a zoned-off ad and more like just another bit of content." Dove's attempt at wielding this strategy has been massively successful online. It has even prompted a fair amount of backlash and controversy. The ads feature forensic artists who draw the women featured in the video based on their own descriptions of themselves. Then, outsiders describe the same woman and another sketch is completed. The end result? Other people tended to see the woman in question as being more beautiful than she did herself. The ad received some criticism, as some people questioned why Dove didn't have a more diverse selection of women, and argued that perhaps Dove was tying beauty too much to one's self worth.

Despite some criticism, the ad received an overwhelmingly positive reception. In fact, "what has unfurled is not a show or magazine 'brought to you by Dove,' but a far-flung, earnest discussion of the meaning of beauty… brought to you by Dove," Walker explains. "The medium was not any given publication granting access to a crowd; the medium was the crowd itself." The brand has managed to promote its products, and start a impassioned social debate, without ever describing what it is they are selling. And, Walker adds, this kind of marketing is creating a stir in both the advertising and consumer spaces because of it's undefinable nature. A prominent voice on technology, consumer behavior, and pop culture in general, Walker helps audiences walk the line between storytelling and selling. He argues that attributing meaning to a product will drive consumers to value your brand, and shows you how to capitalize on the "significance premium" that determines spending habits.
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