Unilever drops the ‘normal’ from its products and that is for a greater good

Learning from the successful repositioning of its sub-brand Dove, Unilever is changing its approach to beauty. A bold move, and a very much welcome one.

Unilever drops the normal

Unilever drops the normal from its beauty products

Looking at the commercial perspective, the greater majority of woman that we see in the adverts have been modified or ‘photoshopped’ to fulfil the fake idea of ‘’beauty’’.

However this year brought some positive news: Unilever, one of the world’s largest consumer goods manufacturers and the owner of well-known brands such as Simple, Sunsilk and Dove committed to removing the word ‘’normal’’ from the whole range of its beauty and personal care brands’ packaging and advertising.

The move comes after a new research conducted by Unilever among Millennials revealed that 74% of people want the beauty and personal care industry to reflect a boarder definition of beauty.

In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic shaped new consumer and market trends: according to Global Beauty & Personal Care Trends 2021, beauty routines are now also used to combat stress and anxiety by bringing normality during uncertain times. Considering this factor, the appearance of “normal” is likely to become a contradiction of the impending era of self-acceptance. A result? A shake in the future strategic planning for many brands.

The report also highlighted that a brand value proposition is becoming measured by quality, meaning the impact of the purchase is seeing as a decisive factor. Consumers are directing their loyalty towards brands which can reflect on their individual lifestyle needs.

While this is a welcome movement,the question that comes to mind is ‘Why so late Unilever?’

In 2004, Dove launched a revolutionary campaign: The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. The company decided to tackle the unrealistic interpretation of beauty after findings of major global study, The Real Truth About Beauty, revealed that only 2% of women around the world would describe themselves as beautiful. As a result, their primary message of Dove campaign was to celebrate woman’s uniqueness by creating ads that feature real woman and change their perception of beauty.

The well-developed campaign led to serious conversations on an international level about beauty, stimulating one of the most powerful marketing forms: world of mouth. It led to enormous media exposure, resulting in 700% uplift in sales but most importantly, it created a very clear place for Dove in consumers’ hearts.

Previously seen as unchanging and boring, Dove successfully repositioned itself from beauty brand to a personal care brand. Further, it formed a perfect platform on which they launched a number of new products such as hair care and shower gels.

Over the years, Unilever shifted its strategy from a silent parent-brand to an endorsed parent-brand, implying a stronger association of their own image with its sub-brands. This allowed them to build endorsement credibility for its individual brands and supported the process of their differentiation. So-called ‘’adding vitality to life’’ strategy began through a simple process of adding Unilever new logo design to every product followed by the restructure of their recruitment processes and employee trainings.

In other words, Unilever has logically planted a “vitality” seed in their operations which is slowly starting to flourish under the evolving era of unrealistic beauty standards.

To determinate the strength of a parent-brand it is worth to consider its brand equity through the impact on customer’s interaction and loyalty with its sub-brands. Dove was the one that efficiently detected and exploited potential market niches which gave their purpose a real meaning. They achieve this by building their consumers’ trust and a sense of a community that aims to fight for every individual self-acceptance. They continue to add value not just to the lives of its customers but to the whole society following their cutting-edge campaigns such as “Evolution” and “Real beauty sketches”.

Therefore, should their ability to learn be seen as a critical resource that enhances the effectiveness of the whole group performance?


Unilever has also been undertaking an advancing growth strategy by acquiring more brands, particularly in the premium beauty sector. With the expansion of their business comes the incredible market opportunities, allowing companies to share and obtain their knowledge.  But more importantly, with expansion comes the power of predominance. And just like some plants that produce structure to outcompete other species for dominance in order to adapt to life on land, Unilever have the potential to change lives of many people. 

Understanding and pursuing our own purpose has never been so crucial as nowadays and this also strongly relates to brands. Since their future strategic approaches concerning the era of “normal” beauty are bound to grant us either empathy or relentless fantasy.

At the end of the day, we all should ask ourselves one question:

What does real beauty mean to me?

Dorota is a Council Development Associate at GLG and a member of KnowThyBrand advisory board where she brings her dedication and support as well as her contributions to the company’s efforts for gender equality.

Written by Dorota Rubazewicz

Dorota is a Council Development Associate at GLG and a member of KnowThyBrand advisory board where she brings her dedication and support as well as her contributions to the company’s efforts for gender equality.

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