Dove: How Dove Combats Beauty Biases


Campaign Summary

The Indian beauty market has seen a steep rise in domestic direct-to-consumer (D2C) personal care brands that serve the needs specific to the Indian audience. To sustain growth in a cluttered and price-sensitive market, it was imperative for Dove, a leading international beauty brand, to establish differentiation and loyalty by being more culturally meaningful to Indian women.



Driven by its global purpose of challenging beauty stereotypes and finding a local connection that resonates, Dove conducted a study that discovered 80 percent of schoolgirls in India face a beauty test. Based on this startling insight, it launched #StopTheBeautyTest, a campaign aimed at sensitizing society on how early body shaming starts in India and its effect on young girls.

While the brand activated a mixed media campaign to spread awareness on the issue, it struggled to create a tangible difference towards it.

Target Audience:

Dove is a women-centric brand; however, to tackle the social evil of beauty tests that teenage girls face, the brand targeted young girls to combat negative self-image. The brand also wanted to illustrate that media often imposes toxic beauty biases on young minds.

Thus, #StopTheBeautyTest was an appeal from women, targeted to every individual, community, and society at large that continued condoning beauty stereotypes.

Creative Strategy:

In India, schoolgirls are put through beauty tests to ready them for marriage. This early conditioning takes the disguise of concern or crude humor in everyday interactions even with near and dear ones. Hence it was crucial to innovate a means of intervening in occurrences of body shaming before they reach another young innocent girl.

To prevent beauty tests to happen in real time, Dove leveraged a technology that is preinstalled on almost all smartphones and works across all mobile activity: smart keyboard apps.

These apps use AI to make communicating across the digital world more intuitive, engaging, and fun through their auto-suggest feature. Dove recognized the opportunity this technology provided and partnered with Bobble AI, one of the largest Indian android smart keyboard apps with users across all ranges of smartphones, to create an innovative real-time intervention that could prevent beauty tests to occur.

Whenever a user typed any mean comment targeted to a woman, intentionally or unintentionally, they were presented a message in an unexpected, unmissable way that led them to Dove's self-learning material on how to build self-esteem instead of eroding it. This made the user rethink the impact of their words on the receiver's self-confidence and enable a choice to actually #StopTheBeautyTest.


Dove's campaign translated the brand's global purpose of championing "Real Beauty" to India. This year, the brand focused on where beauty tests truly start: adolescence. In these formative years, society imprints an idea of perfect beauty. This definition becomes the unrealistic yardstick by which young girls measure their beauty, leading most girls to the realization that they are not beautiful by society's standards. Dove's campaign wished to bring this insight in a powerful way to engage, educate and inspire them to make a conscious choice to stop the beauty tests.


Overall Campaign Execution:

The activation had two important steps. First, Dove sought to build a target keyword list of the most used comments that act as triggers for AI to identify users who are about to commit body shaming. Second, Dove aimed to present the brand's message in such a way that makes the user rethink their typed message before they press send.

To build an effective set of triggers, Dove took the following approach:

  1. Face-to-face interviews with hundreds of women to collect the types of comments girls encounter to map similarities in patterns of usage of mean comments between the offline world and online ecosystem.
  2. Social listening across 61 million occurrences of body shaming across social media and networking platforms helped identify the most common types of comments used and forms of body shaming.
  3. A keyboard partner further validated their frequencies across mobile typing activity.

On triangulating this data, Dove's analysis revealed how and which forms of body shaming are prevalent in today's connected world. This enabled Dove to isolate the list of comments to be targeted to reach the maximum intended audience. Using machine learning, the list was made holistic by including misspellings, colloquial usage, and ensuring that they were specifically targeted to females. Based on their frequencies, the comments were divided into three broad forms of online body shaming: color (5 percent), hair (10 percent), and size (80 percent).

For each bucket, Dove crafted contextual thought-provoking messages which were delivered as a branded auto-suggestion prompt that created a moment of truth.

Designed not to disturb the regular typing experience, clicking this message led users to Dove Self Esteem Project, which educated them to help build confidence instead of damaging it.

AI detected the pre-defined trigger comments being typed and auto-suggested a relevant stimulating message before a user intentionally or unintentionally imposed a beauty bias. For instance, a user could type "try losing weight," and an auto-suggestion encourages them to believe "all sizes are beautiful" before they press send.

Mobile Execution:

A national survey revealed that 89 percent of women reported feeling uncomfortable about themselves when they read comments about other people's appearances on social media platforms.

At 83 percent penetration among 10 to 14-year-olds, Indian teenagers are the youngest to reach mobile maturity worldwide. With 60 million adolescent Indian girls now online, 77 percent of them spend over 56 percent of their time expressing, sharing, and chatting across their mobile universe every month; as such, they were also now vulnerable to the online body shaming phenomenon.

India has more active WhatsApp users (487 million) than active social media users (467 million), and over 50 percent of Indian teenagers prefer chatting to audio/video calls. As both these cohorts were increasingly connecting over chat apps, the toxic body shaming comments have also crept into everyday messages. While it was hard for the brand to intervene in offline and verbal occurrences of body shaming, to make online chatting conversations more humane towards girls, Dove turned to AI that is present on all smartphones.

Business Impact (including context, evaluation, and market impact)

Dove was always a brand that held high brand perception scores. However recent efforts by heritage brands and digital-first brands were posing a challenge and there was a need to stand differentiated.

  • 18 percent reduction in size-based comments on the keyboard
  • 10.5 percent reduction in color-based comments on the keyboard
  • 8.99 percent CTR on the innovative message prompt
  • 7.4 percent increase in brand awareness
  • 28.5 branded content recall
  • 10 times the increase in website traffic
  • 1.5 increase in content downloads from Dove's Self-Esteem Programme
  • 100 percent growth in new subscribers on Dove's YouTube channel
  • Earned PR value was approximately $120,000
  • Dove "inspires women to feel more positive about the way they look" score went up by 400 BPS
  • Campaign received a positive post evaluation update on ad recall and brand awareness, on Facebook and YT respectively

Categories: | Industries: | Objectives: Data/Insights, Experimental/Innovation Technology, Social Messaging/Chat Apps/Text Messaging | Awards: X Global Gold Winner