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Beauty and AI

Posted 31 May 2024

Chad Reynolds

In a world increasingly driven by artificial intelligence, it’s crucial to examine its impact on various aspects of our lives, including beauty standards. Recently, we had the pleasure of speaking with Ricky Shah, Director of Insights & Innovation for Unilever’s Beauty & Wellbeing business, on the AI Powered by People podcast. Ricky shared his insights on leveraging AI for consumer research, the ethical considerations surrounding AI and beauty standards, and the future of AI in the consumer goods industry.

Understanding Consumers

Ricky highlighted the transformative power of AI in consumer research. He discussed how traditional methods, like focus groups, often fail to capture the nuances of real-life consumer experiences. AI, however, enables researchers to “see what couldn’t be seen before,” providing a more accurate understanding of consumer behavior. He emphasized the shift from viewing consumers as mere recipients of questions to collaborators and co-creators in the innovation process.

The Potential Pitfalls

While acknowledging the immense potential of AI, Ricky also cautioned against its inherent biases. Since AI models are trained on existing data, they often reflect and amplify existing societal biases, including those related to beauty. He stressed the importance of human oversight and creative prompting to mitigate these biases and ensure diverse and inclusive representations of beauty.

Ricky cited Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” as a prime example of a brand actively challenging narrow beauty standards perpetuated by AI. By prompting AI with specific values and perspectives, Dove successfully showcased a more inclusive and realistic vision of beauty.

The Ethical Implications 

The conversation also explored the ethical considerations surrounding AI, particularly the rise of deepfakes and their potential to further distort beauty standards. Ricky emphasized the need for brands and marketers to exercise caution and responsibility when utilizing AI, ensuring their actions align with ethical principles and avoid perpetuating harmful stereotypes.

The Future of AI and Consumer Goods

Looking ahead, Ricky envisions a future where AI becomes increasingly integrated into the consumer goods industry. He predicts a consolidation of AI applications, with the most impactful and ethically sound solutions becoming embedded in standard workflows. He stressed the importance of continued investment in training, governance, and ethical frameworks to ensure the responsible and beneficial use of AI.

Key Takeaways:

His insights offer valuable guidance for navigating the complex relationship between AI and beauty. AI offers unprecedented opportunities to understand and connect with consumers, but we must remain vigilant about its potential to perpetuate harmful biases, especially regarding beauty standards. Brands bear the responsibility of using AI ethically and promoting inclusive representations of beauty. Ultimately, a future where AI empowers us to create a more beautiful and equitable world hinges on robust governance, ethical frameworks, and continuous human oversight.

Ricky Rap