Dove Takes on Hair Shaming in New Video Backing Diversity

Brand Finds 86% of Women Feel Pressure Over Hair Styles

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Dove is taking a stand against hair shaming in a new video that aims to combat societal pressure over hairstyles -- and also happens to mesh with its market position as a brand with products for just about any hair type.

The new "Love Your Hair" video from Havas Helia -- digital agency on Dove since 2013 but getting its highest profile project yet on the long-running Campaign for Real Beauty -- shows one woman of color who likes to straighten her hair but feels social pressure not to, and another who's heard her big curly hair "isn't professional." An Asian woman talks about social pressure against wearing her hair blonde, and a financial analyst makes the same point about wearing her hair blue. A woman driving a pickup truck defies pressure to color her grey hair.

"We were somewhat heartbroken when we heard that 86% of women feel pressured to wear their hair in a certain way," said Rob Candelino, VP of Unilever's U.S. haircare business. "Think about how much of an impact that has on a woman and her self esteem when she can't even feel confident enough to wear her hair the way she wants."

Dove aims to support women wearing their hair any way they want, he said, noting "because we have the products for all hair types, it's an appropriate message at the brand level."

That link between the message and the products is clearer than it's often been through the roughly 12-year run of Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty. Indeed, the broader female-empowerment ad genre the campaign has helped spawn often doesn't directly relate to the products brands sell either.

But Mr. Candelino has sought a more direct link as he's brought the campaign to haircare, including last year's "Love Your Curls" video from Ogilvy & Mather, which helped back a new line of products for women with curls. The brand followed that with the launch of an Emoji keyboard from Snaps, addressing a lack of curly-haired emojis.

"We saw great improvement in brand metrics" from those efforts, Mr. Candelino said. "But it was the qualitative stuff, the stuff I sat in my bed and read through religiously for hours at ungodly hours of the morning, and the letters and the emails and the comments we got in social media from women who this campaign really affected that moved us. This was the real rallying cry where we said there was a lot more to do here."

So the Dove hair team "spent the better part of the last year broadening the aperture, taking the success of #LoveYourCurls to a broader mission encompassing all women and hair types," he said. The effort has "a huge emotional quotient," he added, that could deepen women's ties with Dove.

Hair shaming might not seem like the biggest social problem, but Unilever points to cases of real impact. A waitress in Des Moines stiffed on her tip because she had pink hair. A Google image search on "professional hair styles for work" yields mostly photos of white women. A search for "unprofessional hairstyles for work" yields mainly women of color.

Also potentially problematic for Dove, a search on "beautiful hair" yields photos that mostly look like outtakes from a shoot for rival Procter & Gamble Co.'s Pantene. The video may help position Dove as the accessible alternative for women who want to defy what Mr. Candelino calls "stereotypical and narrow societal views of beauty."

All the women in the video are real people not actors, said Mark Whelan, global creative director of Havas Worldwide. "When we started talking to women, we saw that there was such a huge diversity of hair, and we wanted to showcase and celebrate all those different looks and styles," he said. "In the casting process, you get a huge volume of stories and select those that resonate the most."

Beyond Havas, agencies working on #LoveYourHair include Edelman on PR, Mindshare on media and VaynerMedia on social media.

How Women Feel About Hair: By the Numbers
Percent of women who say they feel pressured to wear their hair a certain way:
Women who love everything about their hair:
Women who hate everything about their hair:
Women who say they're always looking at other women's hair and wishing they had it:
Percent of women who say it would be great if women decided to love their hair:
Source: Unilever

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