Why do they do this to me?

I've waxed eloquent over the marvelous campaign to enhance teenage girls' self-esteem — spearheaded by the viral video smash hits Onslaught and Evolution — sponsored by Dove, the soap people.

But now it's pointed out that Unilever, the parent company of Dove, also owns the Axe deodorant brand. Axe is infamous for its shameless advertising use of buxom, scantily clad, sex-crazed women to sell its product to young men.

Lots of folks are blasting Unilever for the obvious hypocrisy. No so obvious if you don't normally keep charts of which mega-package goods companies own which brands.

So do I want now to diss the Dove campaign? No. It's a hugely effective campaign with a very important message. I want Dove to do more, not less, and to keep refreshing the effort and making it more powerful.

But one has to wonder what's going on in the heads of the top brass at Unilever. Their official release says:

“The Axe campaign is a spoof of 'mating game' and men's desire to get noticed by women and not meant to be taken literally … Unilever is a large, global company with many brands in its portfolio. Each brand's efforts are tailored to reflect the unique interest and needs of its audience.”

Nonsense. They know exactly what buttons they're pushing with the Axe commercials. And using different approaches “tailored” to the audiences of different brands isn't remotely a justification.

If Unilever really cares about the integrity of its Dove campaign, it needs to do something about Axe. They can't have it both ways.

No nonprofit or charity would get away with this kind of hypocrisy. Imagine PETA selling furs to raise funds for animal welfare.

Nonprofits are held to higher standards of integrity than corporations. But the times are a'changin.

There's something about hypocrisy that seems to be getting more and more upsetting to people. As trust, which depends upon consistency, becomes a more and more valued “commodity” in all aspects of our lives, perhaps it's not surprising that hypocrisy should become more and more distasteful … and people's internal radars would become increasingly sensitive to it.

These days, if you want to mortally wound your brand — be it a nonprofit or corporate or political one (or even personal one … your reputation) — accept hypocrisy in its actions.

Tom

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