Improving self-esteem

Poor body image is a common issue, especially among girls, that can lower self-esteem and hold girls back from reaching their full potential. Dove is aiming to support young people so that they grow up with body confidence skills and are therefore more likely to greet and meet their life goals. The Vaseline Skin Fund aims to improve the lives of those affected by skin conditions by providing better access to knowledge, advice and support.

Self-esteem can impact well-being

Negative self-image can affect the confidence and well-being of many people, especially girls and women. How people feel about their personal appearance has a profound impact on their self-esteem and confidence. This is true in all communities around the world – in developing as well as developed countries.

What is self-esteem?

The effects of high or low self-esteem can be seen in how we treat ourselves and others. It affects how secure we feel and our self-confidence. Self-esteem is how we value ourselves, our self-worth, how happy we are with the type of person we are and our confidence in our own abilities.

People with high self-esteem often have the confidence to achieve their full potential. With low self-esteem we are unlikely to achieve all we can be.

Low self-esteem means that we do not value our true worth. This can lead to feeling helpless, not being in charge of our lives, resentment or blaming others. It can make us feel excluded, want to surrender our individuality or feel like a failure. At its worst, it can lead to depression, destructive behaviour, self-harming, eating disorders, or alcohol and drug abuse.

Beauty and self-image – a worrying trend

A survey commissioned by Dove in 2010 found that only 4% of women around the world believe they are beautiful. Further research commissioned by Dove with girls showed that almost three-quarters of girls aged 8–12 would like to change something about their appearance. Worryingly, six out of ten girls around the world opt out of certain activities because of appearance-related anxieties. These activities range from participating in sports and offering an opinion, to going to school and even visiting the doctor.

Dove – a clear mission

Dove is committed to helping women and girls develop body confidence and self-esteem from an early age. The long-standing Dove Self-Esteem Project (DSEP) educates young people to feel confident about their appearance and build their self-esteem so that they can reach their full potential.

Dove is our largest Personal Care brand, available in over 70 countries and with an annual turnover of over €3 billion. It continues to grow strongly, experiencing its third consecutive year of double-digit growth in 2012.

Our analysis shows that supporting this cause is good for business too. Over half (56%) of women are more likely to buy Dove following campaigns such as the Campaign for Real Beauty.

Targets & Performance

Improve self-esteem

With our Dove brand we are helping millions of young people to improve their self-esteem through educational programmes.

  • By 2015 we aim to have helped 15 million young people.
  • Over 11 million young people have received our help since 2005. Over 2 million participated in the programme in 16 countries in 2012.
  • achieved
  • on-plan
  • off-plan
  • %of target achieved

Dove is committed to helping women look and feel their best. It has made good progress in helping to raise the self-esteem of millions of young people worldwide and is on track to meet its target.

Through our Dove Self-Esteem Project, we have been encouraging youth groups and schools to run programmes. We have also created resources to help mothers and other key mentors in their family conversations around body confidence.

In 2012, Dove redesigned its self-esteem programme to capitalise better on media and educational innovation and reach more girls with a greater impact while reducing the costs for each intervention.

We are working with a Global Advisory Board of experts to make the DSEP content more rigorous and engaging. Developing global partnerships, as well as creating local communities of advocates among mothers and teachers, will help Dove reach more young people.

November 2012 also saw us expand our Dove Day employee programme, held annually around the world. The new-look format of our educational resources provided more opportunities to connect with girls and their mothers and teachers. This ensured that employees from the Dove brand team, agencies and other parts of Unilever could meet with young people at schools to talk about self-esteem and discuss body confidence, self-esteem, appearance and the media.

In total, 677 staff across 22 countries took part in Dove Day events. We recognise that these issues can be a tricky subject area so we have designed discussion and activity guides to inform our employees’ interactions. These materials are available to parents and educators as well.

The latest Dove Day gave over 5,000 pupils the tools to develop their self-confidence and overcome the pressures to conform to beauty stereotypes that can hold them back from reaching their full potential.

Other successes in 2012 have included:

  • Continuing our partnership in Germany with Ärztliche Gesellschaft zur Gesundheitsförderung der Frau - a medical society that promotes female health- to deliver body confidence workshops in schools. In 2012, they reached over 67,500 girls
  • Encouraging teachers in the UK to sign up for free workshops that are led by facilitators who have been trained by our local charity partner Beat. 39,600 pupils benefitted from this programme
  • Supporting the Girl Scouts of the USA’s “Rock the Mall” event with specific body confidence programmes. 270,000 girls attended the event and a further 792,000 girls connected via Livestream.

Do the educational interventions really work?

We want to reach people with programmes that will make a real difference to their self-esteem. Several small-scale studies indicate the positive effect of the DSEP interventions in boosting young people’s resilience around body confidence. We are partnering with academic thought leaders in the US and the UK to conduct studies to track the longer-term impact of our programme.

It is important to note that when we talk about our desire to ‘reach people, we are not referring to the audience for a Dove advertisement or the receipt of a leaflet. We define ‘reach’ as a meaningful interaction in an individual’s life through, for example, at least one hour of self-esteem education.

The Dove Self-Esteem Project benefits from a Global Advisory Board- a team of 11, including leading psychologists and opinion formers in the field. The Board has supported our analysis that this is the typical minimum level of interaction needed to start making a difference to an individual’s self-esteem.

Part of the success of our Dove Self-Esteem Project, which encourages women and girls to develop a positive relationship with beauty, has been an increased willingness among consumers to spread the brand’s affirmative message. Research by Millward Brown shows that among women in the US who are aware of the Dove Self-Esteem Project, 62% would recommend the Dove brand to others – 16% more than among those who are not aware of the project. Among women in Canada who are aware of the project, 82% would be more likely to purchase Dove. These results motivate us to continue to invest in the DSEP.

The potential for expanding our programme is enormous. To ensure success, we carefully research local conditions and cultural norms before rolling out Dove initiatives into new countries.

Vaseline Skin Fund

Skin conditions such as eczema often cause great discomfort and can have a negative impact on people's well-being. Vaseline has been an expert in caring for skin since 1870; it is therefore well placed to provide support and information on many aspects of skincare. With this in mind, the Vaseline skincare brand team established the Vaseline Skin Fund to improve the lives of those affected by skin conditions.

Guided by an external Advisory Board, the Vaseline Skin Fund (VSF) aims to provide access to knowledge, advice and support for three million people suffering from skin conditions by the end of 2013. The Fund works with not-for-profit and educational organisations to support people living with conditions such as eczema and ichthyosis. An educational film called ‘Starting from Scratch’ produced with the US’s National Eczema Association, reached an estimated additional 52,000 patients and their carers in 2012.

This brings the cumulative total for people benefitting from programmes supported by the Vaseline Skin Fund to over 2.77 million people since 2006.

The programme with the greatest reach so far has been the medical education unit on psychodermatology and skincare, a web-based education programme that has led to a certificate for doctors. The programme has been accessed by medical practitioners in more than 100 countries, including the US, Saudi Arabia, India and Egypt and has helped to support over 1.5 million end beneficiaries.

"Anxiety about appearance can put life on a limitless pause button. Today there is more pressure than ever on young girls and boys to be physically perfect.”

Dr Nancy Etcoff, (director, program in aesthetics and well being, department of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School.