For years, Dove only marketed cleaning and personal care products for women. A few years ago, it added the Dove+Men line, and today, it is expanding into products for babies, including wipes, lotions, and baby washes. Although the extension certainly seems like a reasonable move, it also might constitute a competitive strategy, designed to take advantage of the struggles of other big names in the baby care market.

Dove is well known for its moisturizing products, so it argues that an extension that leverages this expertise for a different type of consumer is utterly appropriate. In addition, it gained recent experience with product line extensions when it introduced its lines of products for men. Much of the advertising Dove already uses features families too, such that it does not seem like much of a stretch to focus on the babies that already appear in the ads.

These arguments are all compelling and likely true. But there’s another factor at work too. Johnson & Johnson, the clear market leader in baby care products, has encountered a troubling controversy, based on allegations that its talcum powder can increase the chances of ovarian cancer. Although the company denies these claims, sales of its famous baby powder have dropped precipitously. Such a challenge for one company represents opportunities for others, so Dove might be strategically seeking to make use of the market opening that Johnson & Johnson’s troubles have created.

These discussions and rationales make it seem like the product line extension is a no-brainer. But history also shows that many companies struggle to gain a foothold in markets for baby care products. For example, Huggies had great name recognition for diapers, but it was unable to ever get parents to purchase bath products under that brand.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Does this product line expansion increase Dove’s breadth or depth?
  2. How did trends in the wider market likely influence Dove’s decision to introduce its line of baby products?

Source: Jack Neff, “Unilever Gives Birth to Baby Dove as Johnson’s Tries to Bounce Back,” Advertising Age, April 5, 2017