In decline and outspent on advertising, Dove Hair needed to do something to counteract its decade-long slump. The brand decided to differentiate itself in the category by celebrating an underrepresented segment of its audience: women with curly hair. Pop culture traditionally skews toward sleek, straight hair as the hallmark of beauty, even though 60 percent of U.S. women have curls. Dove Hair leveraged a key element of today's pop culture, the emoji, to give curly-haired women something to represent them on mobile and social media while driving awareness and affinity for the brand.
Objective and Context:
Dove Hair had been in decline for 10 years in a highly competitive $6.2 billion U.S. haircare market. The brand was dwarfed in media spend four to one compared to its primary competitor, and had no real personality to differentiate it in the category. In 2015, Dove Hair had the opportunity to change this trajectory with the launch of Quench Absolute, a new product line specifically designed to nourish curly hair. Sixty percent of women in the U.S. have curly hair, and this group spends 50 percent more on conditioners and styling products than straight-haired women. However, curly hair tends to be underrepresented in culture. Through social listening and search volume, Dove Hair witnessed an upward trend in women embracing their natural hair and celebrating their curls. The brand developed a campaign to advocate for and show a deep understanding of women with curly hair, and in return, help reinvigorate sales and drive brand awareness in a pivotal year.
For the product launch, Dove Hair wanted to reach and connect with "hair-involved" curly-haired women. Market research proved that women and girls universally struggle with their curls at some stage in their life, and that traditional standards of beauty (in this case, straight and sleek hair) can perpetuate issues of self-confidence.
The brand found that social media was full of places where "curlies" congregated to support each other (like #teamnatural on Twitter), and also vent about their frustrations. The campaign targeted a diverse community of curly-haired women, including African-American and Hispanic women, two audience segments with specific curl needs.
Emojis have emerged as a key element of today's language, with over 80 percent of people using them regularly. Emojis humanize and add emotion to conversations, and while they continue to evolve and diversify, when it comes to expanded physical features, there is a "one size fits all" approach to hair type: straight and sleek. As a result, curly-haired women are forced to create emoji hacks in an attempt to represent themselves and their curls. Dove Hair decided to change that and make a difference in curly-haired women's lives through the Dove Hair #LoveYourCurls emoji campaign.
Overall Campaign Execution:
Off the heels of launching a #LoveYourCurls film and children's e-book to spark curl pride, the emoji campaign became the third pillar to the brand's "year of curls." Speed to market was a critical part of the campaign's success, given the explosion of emojis and social chatter around curls. The #LoveYourCurls emojis went from inception of idea to launch in just two months.
At the center of the campaign was the Dove Hair #LoveYourCurls emojis keyboard, which featured more than 30 emojis and GIFs of diverse curl types and ethnicities, which are noticeably missing from the standard Unicode keyboard. During the first two weeks of launch, media and PR support drove social conversation. Paid TV integrations in The Real and The FABLife, two daytime shows which skew toward African-American females, focused on making news of the curly emojis and drumming up consumer excitement. With a large population of the curly-haired community being African-American, Dove developed specific opportunities to speak to this audience, as well as Latina women.
Additionally, the brand designed three magazine cover units in Cosmopolitan, Redbook, and Teen Vogue to drive excitement. As curls and emojis appeal to many age groups, the units were creatively customized to speak to each audience in their tone of voice while maintaining Dove Hair's brand equity. Most importantly, Dove drove awareness of the emojis in the place where they were utilized most: mobile. Activations with Twitter, Snapchat, and audience-targeting mobile platforms inserted Dove's curly hair emojis into key conversational spaces where curly hair was unrepresented.
A robust mobile strategy was at the heart of Dove's activation plan to drive awareness and qualified downloads of the emoji keyboard. The emojis were natively syndicated in messenger sticker packs via apps like Kik, Tango, and Flesky, which allowed the emojis to be embedded into the messenger apps' existing emoji stickers for easy discovery and use among the target audience. Mobile search was critical as a response mechanism to all offline and online awareness support.
Curly-haired consumers were energized by this campaign: