Unilever Company: “Dove” Brand Evolution

Introduction

The brand management aspect of marketing plays an important role in fostering an organization’s competitive edge. Brand management focuses on creating a desirable image of the product or service through effective analysis and planning.

In the analysis and planning aspects of brand management, the focus is on essential elements that include brand equity, resonance, value, performance, outcomes, and the strategic decisions, which are necessary to foster the competitiveness of the product or service in the long-term. Brand management seeks to establish an exceptional relationship with the target market to meet dynamic customer needs (Deighton, 2008).

Unilever has continually engaged in brand management to enhance its global marketing approaches. The personal care products offered by the company through the “Dove” brand have received good response from the target markets in various countries. Notably, the customers using the products under the Dove brand note that the various skincare products deliver good results, thus, enhancing their beauty and self-esteem.

As such, Unilever requires fewer of such brands to foster its performance in the long-term. In this respect, this paper shows how Unilever’s “Dove” brand delivers desirable results to the consumers by focusing on brand management concepts such as value, performance, brand equity, resonance, the influence of equity, and the customers’ outcomes on the development of strategic decisions in the long-term. Further, the paper shows why Unilever needs to maintain a few of such brands.

The Brand Equity of Dove

The brand equity element of brand management focuses on the marketing outcomes that accumulate to a product due to its brand name in relation to the accumulative outcomes of the same product in the absence of the brand name. Since the launch of the Dove brand in 1997, it has risen to win the trust of customers owing to the tangible and satisfying results attained after applying its products. Today, the Dove brand adds value to its products, which affects its pricing and market share as opposed to the other products it offers. Consequently, the brand equity of Dove has secured a substantial consumer base that enhances a positive attitude toward the product associated with the brand, thus, maintaining a few brands similar to Dove is necessary.

The pricing feature of Dove’s brand equity reveals that due to the satisfaction of customers, they are willing to pay higher prices for its products as compared to that of its competitors. Notably, the brand management approach embraced by Unilever has helped Dove to gain higher brand equity as compared to the likes of Lux and Pears. However, the competitors have managed to create a similar level of awareness among the customers.

Importantly, Dove prices its soap products relatively higher as compared to the competitors and four times higher than the average price, but the brand name complemented by impressive results has won the loyalty and trust of customers, thus, putting it at a leading position in the market. Thus, introducing more brands with highly-priced products would prove suicidal for Unilever’s strategic marketing management.

The customer base feature of brand equity employed by Unilever to promote the relationship with the customers applying the Dove brand products has witnessed considerable improvement. Since 2007, the brand management endeavors regarding Dove have focused on penetrating new markets, especially in the rural and semi-urban areas. Furthermore, to facilitate effective interaction with its clientele base, Dove widened the portfolio and variety of its products to include shampoos and conditioners besides the body wash products since 2007.

Therefore, showing concern by satisfying the various needs of its customers, Dove has reinforced its brand name in the market dealing with personal care products, thus, showing its adequacy. Dove has engaged in effective brand equity approaches since the inception of the brand in 1997 by focusing on its pricing tactics and customer engagement elements of brand management.

The Value of the Dove Brand

The brand value of a product relates to the worth of the intangible brand concerning the elements of income, possible income, market value, prestige, and reputation. Amid its intangibility, the Dove brand has secured a substantial value over the years, thereby becoming an essential asset to the Unilever Company. To understand the value of the Dove brand, it is crucial to integrate the two approaches to valuation that entail the research-based and financially-driven techniques.

In doing so, one would understand how the Unilever Company bolstered the value of its Dove brand through market research endeavors besides using effective financial instruments to enhance its appeal among the customers.

For the case of Dove, Unilever has considered research-based approaches that focus on improving the brand’s strength regarding the market, stability, leadership, support, profit trend, protection, and geographic spread. Valued at 1.485 billion euros, the intangible Dove brand secures a branding index of 68.74, implying that it is the single largest generator of Unilever’s cash flows. In this respect, Unilever boasts of Dove as the market leader in the personal care sector.

Thus, Unilever ought to restrict investments to cater for more branding initiatives since the Dove brand already enhances a stable cash flow besides its high differentiation. Notably, the entire brand portfolio has enabled Unilever to take advantage of a considerable differentiation degree to foster the reliability of its products that satisfy the similar and diverse needs of the customers.

Moreover, in the European and Asian markets, the Dove brand enjoys a bigger share as compared to other Unilever products and its rivals (Singh & Sonnenburg, 2012). Therefore, for the sake of continuing to foster strategic decision-making, the brand management team at Unilever ought to treat the Dove brand as an independent segment of the Unilever brand portfolio. The communication of the Dove brand in the capital markets with the aim of stabilizing share prices besides widening its funding resources would substantially enhance the financial aspect of managing the brand.

Therefore, the value of Dove’s brand is important to the financial success of the Unilever Company, and thus, additional research on new market behaviors and opportunities should be the focus of the brand managers instead of introducing more brands.

Dove’s Brand Resonance

For the sake of enhancing the customers’ connection with the brand, the marketing managers need to employ the concept of resonance that entails embarking on ascending steps, forming a pyramid. Essentially, brand resonance involves behavior loyalty, attitudinal attachment, a sense of community, and active engagement to facilitate the delivery of desirable outcomes to the customers situated globally (Deighton, 2008). In this regard, Unilever has concentrated on improving the relationship with its customers by reinforcing the resonance element of its brand management through several approaches.

To enhance the behavior loyalty of its customers, Unilever endeavored in the Real Beauty Campaign since 2002 (Banet-Weiser, 2012). The resonance approach aims at influencing the customers to make regular and repeated purchases of the care products under the umbrella of the Dove brand. In this case, the advertisements that publicized the Real Beauty Campaign promoted the sales of the Dove brand products.

Additionally, the ability of the products to attain positive results has enhanced the company’s alteration of the customers’ behavior loyalty, as seen in the rising purchased amid the high prices of the offered personal care products. As a result, the campaign also secures the customers’ attitudinal attachment, thereby creating positive perceptions regarding the brand, implying that fewer brands are essential for maintaining the already built relationship.

Furthermore, the brand management endeavors of Unilever have fostered a sense of community among the customers associated with the brand. Besides, the company builds a sense of community by creating an organizational culture that is geared towards customer satisfaction (Deighton, 2008). For instance, during campaigns, the company representatives engage customers comprehensively to understand their needs and preferences and facilitate active engagement. Moreover, the Dove brand has seen active engagement with customers on social media as it featured among the top brands on the Love List.

To foster active engagement with its customers, Unilever has invested in social media and web analytics that also monitors the behavior of its customers on the online platforms. Therefore, through resonance, the Dove brand has won the hearts of many customers who find a personal touch thanks to the interactive aspect of Unilever’s brand management.

The Performance of the Dove Brand

Unilever’s Dove brand has attained exemplary performance since the introduction of several marketing initiatives such as the Real Beauty campaign (Banet-Weiser, 2012). The Real Beauty campaign has bagged a collection of awards that denote the exceptional performance of the Dove brand. Importantly, the initiative has created a perception that the products under the Dove brand realize true results. Notably, the ability of the soap products to nourish and make dry skin healthy has attracted more customers who identify the brand as the leading one in the personal care products sector. For this reason, the brand secured annual sales worth $ 4 billion in 2014 implying that concentrating on it has the potential of generating more sales in future.

The Dove brand has seen an impressive record of accomplishment over the years as it boasts of several international awards. For instance, in 2014 and 2015, the Dove brand ranked at position 215 and 235 respectively, in the Global 500 awards. In 2011 and 2012, the company secured position 6 in the Netherlands top 50 in a row, thus, showing the impressive performance in Unilever’s country of origin (Singh & Sonnenburg, 2012).

The financial performance of the Dove brand also shows that it makes a significant contribution to the Unilever’s profitability. In 2013, Dove garnered an operating margin of 14.435 that translated to an 11.97% profit ratio. In this light, the intangible Dove brand has managed to impress the customers who continue to purchase its products revealing how it has influenced them thus far.

Additionally, the brand has altered the perception of its customers especially women who have acquired new meanings of beauty. In this regard, a considerable number of its women clients identify the brand with confidence that complements their beauty. Furthermore, the continued use of social media in Unilever’s brand management approaches has influenced its customers to associate beauty with the social media as opposed to the traditional media.

Consequently, more women use incorporate hashtags associated with the Dove brand to express their beauty on the various social media platforms. Recently, a social media performance evaluation compared the effect of the “Real Beauty” campaign by Dove and the “Love My Body” campaign by Victoria’s Secret that showed the former’s praise of the “real” feature of its products (Banet-Weiser, 2012).

Conclusion

Unilever’s establishment of the Dove brand in 1997 served as an important strategy to bolster its marketing strategies in the care products sector. The brand equity element reveals that Unilever is ready to maintain the high prices of the Dove products since it does not encourage its customers from seeking similar products from other players in the industry. Since the pricing technique is also customer based, the company regards the maintenance of the brand as key for its stability. Additionally, the value of the intangible brand created by Unilever several years ago has witnessed considerable growth as it is estimated at 1.485 billion euros.

Therefore, the company should consider a few of such brands as a strategy for its long-term decisions to stabilize cash flows and product differentiation. Furthermore, the brand resonance approaches fostered by the Real Beauty campaign have improved the engagement of the brand with its customers. Moreover, the impressive performance attained by Unilever as denoted by the financial results, awards, and customer perspectives reveals that the company needs not to establish more brands like Dove, but focus on promoting its sustainability in the long-term.

References

Banet-Weiser, S. (2012). Free self-esteem tools? Brand culture, gender, and the Dove Real Beauty campaign. In R. Mukherjee & S. Banet-Weiser (Eds.), Commodity Activism: Cultural Resistance in Neoliberal Times (pp. 39-56). New York, NY: New York University Press.

Deighton, J. (2008). Dove: evolution of a brand. Harvard Business Review. Web.

Singh, S., & Sonnenburg, S. (2012). Brand performances in social media. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 26(4), 189-197.