Dove's AI Marketing

If you think about some of the most conceptually successful marketing campaigns to emerge over the last couple of decades, the Dove Real Beauty campaign would be on any marketer’s list. Not bad for a campaign that was born out of a photography exhibition in Toronto, right?

Aptly titled, ‘Beyond Compare: Women Photographers on Real Beauty’, the show was put together by Dove and Ogilvy & Mather where 67 female photographers—including the legendary Annie Leibovitz, Peggy Sirota, and Tierney Gearson—started a conversation around beauty that went on to become synonymous with Dove’s brand.

Let’s take it back—all the way back!

Launched in 2004, the Dove campaign for Real Beauty was spearheaded by Unilever as a way to steer women and young children away from unrealistic beauty standards and build self-confidence by embracing their natural beauty.

Dove’s Real Beauty campaign | Creative Salon

20 years later, Dove has continued to build on this momentum, making a name for itself—and its impactful campaigns—by championing real people with real bodies. They took this pledge one step further in 2023 when they targeted TikTok ‘beauty’ filters and teamed up with actress Gabrielle Union in urging viewers to #TurnYourBack on the viral Bold Glamour filter which they claimed was harmful to the self-esteem of young girls.

Dove’s campaign against the Bold Glamour TikTok filter | Trend Hunter

Today, they’re taking another stand in the newest iteration of their Real Beauty campaign by targeting AI marketing. In April 2024, the brand announced that it would never use AI-generated images to represent ‘real bodies’ in its ad campaigns. To help the masses get behind their campaign, they released a powerful short film that targets generic and unrealistic beauty standards by showing AI images created by prompts such as ‘the most beautiful woman in the world’.

Short film released by Dove titled, ‘The Code’ | Dove US

Why is Dove’s campaign being praised in a world where AI is becoming the norm?

If we look at Dove’s short film, it clearly shows the extraordinarily unrealistic expectations that AI can instill. The fact that the company is pledging not to use them in their marketing campaigns is a step in the right direction according to most because many campaigns we see online are promoting unattainable beauty standards for women.

This is a perspective shared by consumers as a staggering 82% of them revealed that they’re somewhat or very concerned about how AI is being used in marketing according to a report published by The Customer Data Platform Resource.

In 2023, 37% of US adults whom the survey platform Conjointly surveyed stated that they didn’t trust AI-generated images ‘at all’ delivering another blow to marketing campaigns that rely too heavily on AI.

While there’s no denying that AI has its benefits, marketers cannot ignore that there are instances in which it has the potential to do more harm than good in the long run.

To make sure that you’re not driving consumers away with AI marketing, it’s important to make a strong effort to avoid blunders. Understand what you’re trying to do using AI and the potential results or impact it’s likely to generate not just for your brand but for your consumers.

So what are these blunders that marketers need to avoid?

We’ve got you covered. Many AI marketing decisions can lead to some bad marketing mistakes, making it hard for you to bounce back.

Let’s take a look.

The Willy Wonka Experience – Raising unrealistic expectations

You’ve probably heard about the immersive Willy Wonka experience that went viral for all the wrong reasons. Why? They couldn’t live up to the expectations they created using AI.

If you think about it, there’s no harm in using AI to create marketing visuals of this kind. But when it came to delivering on what was promised, which, in this case, was a lively and upbeat wonderland, the event was packed with cheap props and featured an Oompa Loompa in a less-than-savory warehouse. So it wasn’t a surprise when guests started asking for refunds.

The lesson: Don’t use AI if you can’t deliver on what’s being promised to the consumer. It rarely ends well and you’re left in the dust while your consumers look for other brands that can deliver on what they’ve promised. Not only does your reputation take a hit, but it’s also a surefire way to make a dent in your ROI.

The Queensland Orchestra – Placing focus on your brand

If you take a careful look at the Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s social post, you’ll realize the AI-created visual didn’t convey the message of luxury that they were going for.

The goal of the post was to get more people to buy tickets and attend the performance, but instead of following through and clicking the ‘Purchase’ button, they were fixated on the image, trying to decipher which fingers belonged to whom in the image showing two people attending the performance.

Queensland Orchestra AI artwork | Artnew News

The lesson: Make sure that your AI-generated image matches your brand. The idea is to get people to stop scrolling and invest in your product or service. If they’re hung up on your image and aren’t interested in what you’re trying to offer, it could be a case of AI creating the wrong kind of buzz around your brand.

Trump’s ‘Photo-Op’ with the Black community – Avoiding falsifying images through AI

During the 2024 Republican primaries, Trump supporters wanted the world to know about their nominee’s connection with the Black community. It may seem that there’s nothing wrong with this approach but for the fact that there were no real pictures of Donald Trump and Black voters. 

Their solution? AI-generated images of Trump standing with Black supporters were spread all over Facebook. When an internet sleuth figured out how the images came to be, it didn’t just discredit Trump’s supporters, it also brought unnecessary attention to the lack of support Trump had from the Black community in America.

AI-generated image of Donald Trump with Black supporters | BBC

The lesson: If you’ve got a great collection of images then use them. Don’t leave room for people to ask you why you’ve decided to use AI-generated photographs. If you’re using them because you don’t have any actual images, it’s important to understand the scrutiny that could follow, especially if your AI-generated images are trying to portray real-life scenarios.

Microsoft – Reviewing your AI marketing content

When Microsoft published a list of the best tourist attractions in Ottawa, it probably thought that they were doing tourists a favor. But when it was finally released, tourists were horrified to find out that number 3 on the list of attractions was the Ottawa Food Bank.

But that wasn’t all. The words ‘consider going into it on an empty stomach’ weren’t exactly helping Microsoft either. Clearly, the AI-generated content missed the mark completely. The only saving grace was that people quickly realized that it was an error made by AI and got over it. Microsoft apologized and took down the post.

Microsoft’s AI-generated article recommending Ottawa Food Bank to tourists | CTV News Ottawa

The lesson: Don’t rely on AI to get everything right. It’s just a tool to help you build on your idea and anything that it generates needs to be scrutinized whether it’s restaurant recommendations or statistics. Your consumers likely won’t care whether it was AI or someone in your team who made the blunder. They’ll associate the mistake with your brand for years to come.

DPD – Complementing your brand with AI marketing in any situation

In 2024, one of DPD’s customers was frustrated waiting for a delivery and turned to the company’s new AI chatbot. The chatbot wasn’t much help so they decided to have some fun with the tool.

A few questions and spicy answers later, the customer asked what the chatbot thought of DPD. The response? ‘DPD is the worst delivery firm in the world.’ It even produced a poem in which DPD went out of business.

Safe to say that it was the worst customer service agent ever, right? Of course, the company had to make a lot of changes and updates to make sure that it didn’t happen again.

DPD chatbot goes rogue | The Decoder

The lesson: Your customer service is also very much a part of your marketing strategy and if you’re relying on a chatbot to help your customers with their questions, you need to make sure that the tool is squarely on your side and isn’t acting against your company.

AI marketing: Know when to use it and when to ditch it

This isn’t a plea to stop using AI. It’s about making a case for using it responsibly and when it’s needed. Many companies are starstruck by the many applications that AI marketing offers and they try to use a good chunk of it in their campaigns.Picking the right marketing strategy and using AI to bring parts of that strategy to life is perfectly fine if your goal is to create quality and authentic content. The most important rule you should be focusing on is making sure that your content is accurate, engages audiences for all the right reasons, and isn’t likely to be interpreted in ways that can be detrimental to your brand. If you can use AI to nail that, then you’ve got a leg up on the competition.