Do Dove and Axe Sell the Same Message?

Dove's feel-good campaign is a lesson in the trickiness of branding.

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An image from Dove's "Campaign for Real Beauty" advertisements. Critics say the goodwill it earns its parent company Unilever is negated in part by sexualized ads for its Axe brand.

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Even though consumers may not take note of the two brands' messages, one advertising expert says contradiction is inherent to the Dove campaign.

"They sell beauty products. And if you're going to do that and critique the industry at the same time, that's a difficult place to be in," says David Vinjamuri, an adjunct professor of marketing at NYU.

For its part, Dove believes that "profit and purpose can work well together" in the cause of boosting women's confidence, in Machado's words.

"Dove is committed to creating a world where beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety," he adds.

While Vinjamuri believes the ad is well done and the message is positive, he says the conflict of interest may dull Dove's affirming message.

"The message is that you can make yourself better in some way. If you're talking about soap to make yourself clean, that's one issue," he says. "[But] the foundation of the beauty message is that somehow you'll be better by improving your external appearance."

That may mean that Dove and Axe's underlying philosophies are not all that different. As they both sell soap, they also sell ideas about the importance of women's beauty—albeit different notions of what that looks like. Which may mean that the distance between "real women" and busty, bikini-clad ladies fawning over manly-scented men is not so far after all.

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  • Corrected on : Updated on 4/19/13: This article has been updated to include comment from Dove.