Dynamic Marketing Communiqué

Reversing the damage of social media on the “Selfie Generation”: How did this brand do that? [Thursdays: Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing]

March 30, 2023

Miles Everson’s Business Builder Daily speaks to the heart of what great marketers, business leaders, and other professionals need to succeed in advertising, communications, managing their investments, career strategy, and more. 

A Note from Miles Everson:

Are you familiar with Guerrilla Marketing? 

For those of you who aren’t yet, this marketing strategy is unconventional, engaging, impactful, and sometimes, inexpensive. Campaigns of this type spark an emotional reaction that leads to effective and lasting brand recall. 

I personally enjoy knowing about these stunts. They remind me that promoting or advertising a brand doesn’t always have to be too formal or traditional. 

Today, we’ll talk about an empowering guerrilla marketing campaign. 

Read on to know how one soap brand used this marketing strategy to combat the negative effects of social media on teenagers—especially girls—who are trying to find their place in the digital world. 

Miles Everson
CEO, MBO Partners
Chairman of the Advisory Board, The I Institute

Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing 

Before the digital era, glossy photoshopped ads in women’s magazines were condemned for their part in generating a dangerously idealized definition of beauty. 

Size zero, runway-ready figure… 

Flawless, porcelain-like skin… 

Picture-perfect smile… 

These are just some of the unrealistic beauty standards that society has embedded on many women’s minds—that if they don’t have these physical qualities, they’re not considered “beautiful.” 

Today, young girls face the same problem. In fact, recent studies show that by the age of 13, 80% of girls distort the way they look online just so they could be aligned with society’s beauty ideals. 

That’s why one soap brand took action to counter these false beliefs and help its target market rethink how they see beauty. 

The name of this brand? 


Photo from Maple Holistics

Since the 1950s, Dove has been working with advertising agency Ogilvy. It all started when the agency’s founder, David Ogilvy, marketed Dove soap as one that “creams your skin while you bathe.” 

From there, the companies’ relationship has resulted in a series of campaigns advocating for REAL beauty, such as: 

  • Real Beauty Sketches
  • #StopTheBeautyTest
  • Courage is Beautiful

Combating the Negative Effects of the “Selfie Culture” 

In a past “Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing” article, we featured Dove’s 2006 “Real Beauty” campaign that consisted of 3 video ads tackling different issues surrounding the beauty industry. 

One of these videos was “Evolution,” which highlighted various pursuits to change women’s appearances into something completely different for the sake of publication. 

15 years later, Dove released a sequel to this video ad. In 2021, the brand once again tackled the issue of digital distortion through the lens of retouching apps and filters. 

Enter the “Reverse Selfie” campaign… 

According to Alessandro Manfredi, Dove’s Executive Vice President: 

“Now that social media has grown to be part of our everyday lives, digital distortion is happening more than ever and tools once only available to the professionals can now be accessed by young girls at the touch of a button without regulation. Girls all around the world have begun to feel the pressure to edit and distort how they look, to create something ‘perfect,’ which cannot be achieved in real life. After a year of increased screen-time, there’s never been a more important time to act. 

Dove wants to change this by highlighting this issue and providing free tools for parents and carers, to help the kids in their lives navigate social media in a positive way.” 

So, how did this campaign play out? 

“Reverse Selfie” featured a 13-year-old girl locked in the artificial world of social media. The video began with an image she posted of herself online. Then, as the name of the campaign implied, the action rewound, reversing all the tweaks and staging that had gone into creating that image. 

Photo from YouTube

The first to disappear in the “Reverse Selfie” video was the filter that let the woman choose impossibly full, perfectly coiffed locks. Next were the tweaks to her chin, nose, and eyes. Touch-ups used to remove her blemishes disappeared next, then the woman’s lips were un-plumped until they returned to reality. 

Afterwards, the video showed the removal of the hairspray and makeup the woman applied before taking the selfie… and suddenly, viewers understood the shocking truth: 

It’s not a woman whose image they had been watching in the video, but a girl barely into her teens! 

Photo from YouTube

The copy at the end of the “Reverse Selfie” video read: 

“The pressure of social media is harming our girls’ self-esteem. Let’s reverse the damage.” 

The video ad also included the link to Dove’s social media kit to encourage parents to download it and have the #SelfieTalk with their children. 

Wait, there’s more! 

Accompanying the film was a set of photographic posters. Each split in half, the posters depicted natural faces of girls against heavily edited versions to emphasize the impact of retouching apps. 

The posters also included powerful statements like, “instant face apps, lasting damage” and “retouching her face also crops her confidence.” 

The campaign was delivered in multiple markets worldwide across TV, print, digital media, and social media. 

Was Dove’s “Reverse Selfie” campaign effective? 

Overall, the campaign received good press coverage, with media outlets highlighting the significance and positive impact of the “Reverse Selfie.” 

It also became popular on social media, with Dove’s campaign posts generally receiving more engagement than product-focused posts. The split-face graphics and video snippets appeared the most popular, possibly because of their shock factor. 

These were the results of the campaign: 

  • The campaign garnered over 6 billion media impressions globally—the highest ever for a Dove campaign.
  • After the launch of the “Reverse Selfie,” Unilever’s internal brand tracking index showed Dove’s year-on-year brand power increased by 5%, resulting in a 12% increase in cross-category value sales.
  • After the campaign, Kantar research showed Dove’s brand favorability increased by 19%, brand affinity increased by 21%, and there was also an 8% uplift in women agreeing that Dove inspires them to feel positive about how they naturally look.
  • The “Reverse Selfie” social media tool kit downloads increased by 4,000% after the first week of the campaign, and became an educational tool in schools across the U.S.
  • A total of 66 million TikTok users engaged with Dove’s #NoDigitalDistortion challenge.
  • Dove bagged the following awards for its “Reverse Selfie” campaign:
  • Grand Prix Winner at the 2021 Marketing Society Awards
    1 Gold Lion, 2 Silver Lions, and 1 Bronze Lion, and 12 Shortlists at the 2021 Cannes Lions Awards
    1 Gold Award at the 2021 U.S. Effie Awards

Clearly, these figures and recognitions highlight the “Reverse Selfie” campaign’s positive impact across societies in different parts of the world. 

Kudos, Dove and Ogilvy! 


Over the years, Dove has led a cultural conversation about the definition of beauty, and has become known for provocative advertising that combines social responsibility and brand marketing.

Through campaigns such as the “Reverse Selfie,” Dove continues to advocate for REAL beauty and shows it is not operating on a solely capitalistic agenda. These marketing tactics also show the brand’s concern for its target audience. 

Given the success of such campaigns, it is likely that Dove will continue to drive their social marketing forward.

Has the “Reverse Selfie” campaign encouraged you to have the #SelfieTalk?

Remember: As a business owner, leader, or marketer, you shouldn’t just conduct marketing campaigns for the sake of marketing your brand. You also have to show how your product, service, or campaign can make a positive difference in your target market’s lives and the society as a whole. 

The more consumers see your business as a brand that cares, the more they will interact and transact with you. 

We hope you’re inspired by today’s guerrilla marketing feature! 

(This article is from The Business Builder Daily, a newsletter by The I Institute in collaboration with MBO Partners.) 

About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s

“Thursdays: Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing”

Jay Conrad Levinson (1984) said that Guerrilla Marketing “works because it’s simple to appreciate, easy to execute, and inexpensive.”

Guerrilla Marketing is unconventional.

Looking beyond the traditional ways of advertising, marketers, and advertisers need to spice things up in order for their brand to have campaigns that not only make an impact but also stick to their target market’s mind.

Guerrilla Marketing usually aims to have direct contact with consumers.

This type of direct contact should spark an emotional reaction that leads to consumers effectively remembering the brand.

It’s about making a big impression and making that impression last a long time (if not forever).

Guerrilla Marketing can be inexpensive.

The effect of this is being able to create a buzz around the brand, and the strategy used to market it. Almost everything is passed around through word-of-mouth.

Word-of-mouth is one of the greatest outcomes and it usually doesn’t cost anything.

This is every business’ or brand’s dream!

Every Thursday, we publish tips, examples, and other useful content on unconventional ways of marketing and promotion.

Learn more about how to grab your target market’s attention and make an amazing first and lasting impression without having to spend a lot of money.

Businesses don’t really need to spend much for a guerrilla campaign. You do not need a big budget to be successful. You just need creativity and a good imagination.

Hope you’ve found this week’s guerrilla marketing insight interesting and helpful.

Stay tuned for next Thursday’s Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing!


Kyle Yu 
Head of Marketing 
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities 
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