Dove has taken the leading roIe in the latest marketing fail towards women of color. This past weekend, the soap giant released a gif on Facebook showing a Black model removing her brown shirt, effectively turning herself into a white woman with in a cream-colored shirt. This, of course, struck a nerve with women of deeper skin tones who are all too familiar with the historic and pervasive “white is right” messaging in beauty.
Another reveal was made within the same gif of the white model morphing into an olive-toned model of apparent Middle Eastern descent, but the damage was already done. And, the ad went viral with social media fuming over its racist undertones (see here).
Here’s the kicker. The brand actually believed the ad was celebrating “the beauty of diversity” (even though it was guilty of a similar offense in 2011, likening darker skin to “before” and lighter skin to “after” results).
“Dove is committed to representing the beauty of diversity,” wrote Dove in a statement on Facebook. “In an image we posted this week, we missed the mark in thoughtfully representing women of color and we deeply regret the offense that it has caused.”
Maybe it could have been a celebration if there was actual diversity in the room where ads like this are being signed off on. A simple change in the order of the women doing the reveal would have made a world of difference.
But, we are not in the space of “could have, would have.” Dove and myriad other brands that continue to miss the mark cannot just claim to celebrate diversity to get piece of the more than $8 billion women of color spend annually on beauty. It needs to be apparent in the rooms where decisions are made and brands are curated.
For its part, Dove has gotten other campaigns right and has shared that it would use the latest viral feedback “to guide us in the future.”