Critical Discourse Analysis of Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty Advertisement

Term Paper, 2019

19 Pages, Grade: 1,7


Table of Contents:

1 Introduction

2 Theory
2.1 Corporate Social Responsibility and Communication
2.2 CSR of Dove
2.3 Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty

3 Methods and Data

4 Analysis
4.1 „Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes”
4.2 Consequences for Dove

5 Conclusion


Table of Figures:

Figure 1: The Pyramid of Corporate Social Responsibility (Carroll 1991: 42)

Figure 2: Fairclough's (1995: 98) three-dimensional framework for analysis of discourse

Figure 3: Dove's Real Body Bottles (INT3)

1 Introduction

Nowadays, companies are becoming progressively aware of the important interplay between corporate social responsibility activities and their marketing strategies. The focus is no longer only on increasing profits, but also on the company's reputation in society. Good reputation can lead to more sales, which also promises the company more profit. With the help of the companies’ marketing strategy, CSR activities can be promoted very well so that society can create a positive picture of the company and its products. Although price and quality are important factors, environmental awareness or social commitment also play a role in influencing consumers' purchasing behaviour. Therefore, it is important to include these aspects in the company’s marketing strategy (cf. Paetzold 2010: 52).

The way people communicate is constantly evolving, as is the way CSR and marketing activities are communicated to consumers. An important aspect in relation to new ways of communicating are social media platforms. The number of people who are active on social media continue to rise, therefore companies must adjust their strategies to those changes. The internet gives companies the opportunity to interact with consumers directly and find out about their preferences regarding products that are being advertised. Other advantages that have an impact on the use of social media for companies are, for example, the ability to increase the awareness of a product or brand for lower costs (cf. Ros-Diego & Castellô-Martmez 2012: 1-2). The first social media platforms that immediately come to mind are Facebook and Twitter. Both platforms have a wide reach and therefore provide the perfect conditions to reach current and new customers fast and easy (cf. Clow & Baack 2014: 269). The increasing implementation of social media platforms in corporate strategy can also have consequences, as viral marketing and the word-of-mouth effect can lead to instant failure (cf. Ros-Diego & Castellô-Martmez 2012: 2).

One company that takes advantage of its online presence with over 28 million followers is Dove. On their Facebook page they share “real women”, their stories, and experiences and allow the consumers to communicate and build a relationship with them and with each other through comments. Their communicated vision is to help women to be the best version of themselves and making them feel beautiful no matter what size, colour or shape they might have. Dove uses different social media platforms and wants to maintain its strong online presence. Their actions are based on their desire to present a positive image of the company to the world by engaging with followers, sharing video advertisements, spreading positive messages and creating hashtags. The analysis at hand will look at Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign and the body-shaped bottle advertisement, which is part of the campaign, and highly advertised through social media channels. It addresses the negative reactions triggered by the campaign's online advertisement on social networks. It is particularly interesting to see how uncontrollably negative opinions can spread on social media and if they cause negative consequences for Dove.

The purpose of this paper is to explore how Dove experienced the corporate social responsibility paradox, which occurs when a CSR campaign hurts the brand’s reputation instead of benefiting it. Dove communicates its corporate social responsibility activities, as part of its marketing strategy, through social media, which caused in some cases criticism and backlash towards the brand. Even though the message from Dove, that everyone is beautiful in their own way, was perceived positively, the way it was being advertised and represented also caused negative consumer responses toward Dove. The advertisement that was criticized and is the object of investigation in this paper, is the body-shaped bottle advertisement, that was published as part of Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign. The analysis of the advertisement will be conducted according to Fairclough’s (1989, 1995) model for critical discourse analysis. The aim of the Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is to explore the visuals, ideology and stereotypes behind the advertisement, what the reason for the negative responses could be, the role of social media in this context and the resulting consequences for Dove.

2 Theory

The following section will discuss the theoretical framework, which will provide the basis on which the advertisement is being analysed later. First, the concept of corporate social responsibility will be explained in connection with communication and social media, followed by an introduction into the concept of the corporate social responsibility paradox. Dove is a brand that is active on social media and publishes its corporate social responsibility activities on several platforms in form of its Real Beauty Campaign, therefore it is important for the analysis to explain how nowadays CSR and social media platforms are connected and interact with each other.

2.1 Corporate Social Responsibility and Communication

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an important part of a company’s business model, that deals with the responsibilities a company has to the society, to itself and its stakeholders. The general idea of a company having responsibility toward the society has been around for decades, but it was not until 1990 that it was recognised as an important business concept. Suddenly the importance of corporate social responsibility was perceived by companies and they started to include their CSR practices in the annual reports. For example, organisations like the United Nations even began to develop their own corporate social responsibility principles and started to invest in the further development of their practices. This development has led to an evolvement of several definitions of CSR over time, however most of the definitions are based on the following impacts: social, environmental, economic, stakeholder and voluntariness (cf. Adi et al. 2015: 9-10).

One of the best-known concepts of corporate social responsibility was published in the Business Horizons journal in 1991. Archie B. Carroll presents a pyramid with four interdependent areas of responsibility, each corresponding to the economic, legal, ethical and philanthropic responsibility of a company, as it is visualized in Figure 1 (cf. Carroll 1991: 42).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1: The Pyramid of Corporate Social Responsibility (Carroll 1991: 42)

The lowest level is called “Economic Responsibilities” and is the profitability of a company, i.e. the purely economic responsibility, which includes the profitable management of the company as well as the competitive position. According to Carroll, this level represents the fundamental requirement for a company to survive in the long term. Accordingly, companies must satisfy their customers with their services and products.

The second level, “Legal Responsibilities”, refers to obeying the laws and regulations set by the governments, which enables the legitimacy of action and the production of products. This is as fundamental and socially demanded as the first stage. Thus, companies must not disregard the laws and regulations of (inter)national government.

This is followed by the third level, “Ethical Responsibilities”, which encompasses the ethical actions. This is about respecting the social norms and expectations of the various sections of the public, which go beyond the legal regulations but are urgently required.

The last level in Carroll’s Pyramid is the “Philanthropic Responsibility”. In this level the company’s voluntarily commit themselves to social causes for the benefit of all. The fourth level is the company's claim on itself to do good, free of any requirements. This level is also considered as the least important one, in comparison to the others (cf. Carroll 1991: 40-42).

In their study about corporate social responsibility communication, Kim and Ferguson (2014) explained the importance of communicating CSR to the public and the best and most effective ways on how to communicate those activities. One important aspect to note is that the consumer publics expect companies to share their basic CSR information with them in a transparent way (16). Furthermore, their study shows that consumer publics were especially interested into knowing who benefits from the CSR actions and the results of the organization’s earlier CSR activities. One reason for this result could be the initial mistrust of the consumer publics, which is diminishing with more information about the beneficiaries and previous CSR activities (14). When it comes to communicating the CSR message, there are various channels to choose from. “Company- controlled media channels include advertising, brochures, company’s website or social media outlets, newsletters, annual reports, etc., while uncontrolled media include news media, experts’ blogs or non-company social media” (3). The choice of channels depend on which target groups are to be addressed.

With the increasing importance of company’s CSR activities, the field of CSR communication has also gained interest over time. Nowadays, it is not enough to act socially responsible as a company, in order to have a successful CSR campaign it is necessary to communicate the message to the public strategically. “Communicating CSR poses a unique challenge because it may generate stakeholder skepticism of an organization’s intentions for engaging in CSR” (Cho et al. 2016: 54). Even though the public wants to be informed about all social activities of companies they buy from, they also can get suspicious very quickly about the motives when there is too much self­promotion of CSR activities (54).

According to studies, media are an important factor when it comes to providing consumer publics with information. Through media presence, companies can influence society's opinion about them, as most people get their information about companies from the news media (cf. Wang 2007: 125).

Nowadays, social media play an important role when corporate social responsibility activities are being communicated to the public. When it comes to promoting the company and its activities, over time the trend has moved away from traditional media towards social media (cf. Kesavan et al. 2013: 62). Social media has not only changed the way how organizations interact with consumers, but also gave them more possibilities to reach new stakeholders. The possibility to reach many consumers at once and the ability of consumers to interact with each other through the platforms, is one of the main benefits for organizations when it comes to the spread of CSR activities (cf. Cho et al. 2016: 55). Among other things, what companies must take into consideration when they use social media as a tool to communicate their CSR message or for advertising, is how powerful social media platforms can be. The consumer is given power through social media, as everyone gets the opportunity to share their opinion and also negative experiences that one has had with the company. Once something negative is published online, it can quickly happen that other consumers join the conversation in comments of a post and the company loses control over the conversation between the consumers (cf. Grégoire et al. 2015: 173-174).

This phenomenon can than lead to the so-called CSR paradox, that explains the state in which a CSR campaign damages the company or the product that is being advertised rather than being beneficial. So far, studies have suggested that CSR campaigns have a positive effect on the relationship between companies and consumers, but this is not always the case because of “increased consumer scepticism” (Johnson-Young & Magee 2019: 179). By implementing CSR campaigns in their business strategy, companies expect to benefit from them, but sometimes, the campaign can hurt the brand, this is when the CSR paradox applies. “The CSR paradox arises when a campaign successfully generates greater awareness of, or concern for, a social issue but produce negative consumer attitudes toward the sponsoring brand” (2019: 180).


Excerpt out of 19 pages


Critical Discourse Analysis of Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty Advertisement
Justus-Liebig-University Giessen
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Critical Discourse Analysis, Advertising, Real Beauty Campaign, Dove, Linguistics, CDA
Quote paper
Seda Evirgen (Author), 2019, Critical Discourse Analysis of Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty Advertisement, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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