For those of you who have been living under a rock the past couple of weeks, on Monday 24 April, international hair and skincare brand, Shea Moisture released its new promotional video. What ensued was clearly more than the company had bargained for.
What happened in the ad?
The one-minute video featured three white women and one woman appearing to be of mixed heritage (mixed with black) who spoke of how they previously hated their hair but had learned to love it with the help of Shea Moisture products.
Black Twitter was unimpressed by this and took to the web to DRAG the brand.
The idea that any brand would not include the core customers that propelled it to success in its advertising campaign is ludicrous. It is especially painful when those customers are black women. So these customers were outraged and in my opinion, rightly so.
As black women (especially those of us with darker skin tones and kinkier hair), we are consistently underrepresented in mainstream media and often not even allowed to be the main feature in our own narrative. Is it too much to ask that the brands that we support, support us and show that they are proud and grateful to have our custom? Apparently not…
Afro hair and its history can be an emotive subject for many black women. Shea Moisture undoubtedly played a large part in the supporting the “natural hair movement” as well as the idea that black hair is beautiful. With this knowledge, it seems be a bit of a dangerous juxtaposition to have white women with straight hair talking about and trivialising hair hate, something that has been (and is still) an issue forced on the black community.
But isn’t this about the broadening of their customer base...is that so bad?
I am a champion of black business and fully support the application of good business and marketing strategies to grow black brands. I personally do not have a problem with the idea of Shea Moisture targeting a new segment of consumers. After all, as we all know, just because a product works for curly hair, doesn’t mean it doesn’t work for others.
Black British brand, Afrocenchix, has made it no secret that although their brand was made by and for black women, they also have loyal customers with European hair who find that Afrocenchix products work just as well for them. That’s great and if they can tap into another demographic, they definitely should. As should Shea Moisture.
So why has this caused mass outrage?
Shea Moisture was built on the loyal custom of black people, and until the fairly recent targeting of men, almost exclusively black women. Although the video featured a woman of mixed black heritage, it only included women with darker skin tones and kinkier hair types in a split screen towards the end of the video for no more than three seconds.
by lola @africanremy
05th May 2017
The problem arises when in order to tap into a new, lucrative market, a brand appears to abandon its core, loyal customer base. This is what Shea Moisture is accused of doing. Some were sceptical and predicted that the brand would be move in a different direction as early as 2015 when it took on Bain as an investor and are now undoubtedly saying “I told you so!”
How has Shea Moisture responded?
Soon after the video was released and Black Twitter had snatched Shea Moisture’s wig and left their edges on display, the brand did what appears to be its first sensible move and pulled the video. It also released a statement acknowledging that the company had made a mistake, stating:
“Our intention was not – and would never be – to disrespect our community”.
To add fuel to the fire, some customers have accused Shea Moisture of changing their formulas to favour European/straight hair. Shea Moisture has refuted these claims and responded to a recent Facebook comment stating:
“We would like to assure you that we have not changed any formulas. We know there is no one size fits all in hair care, which is why we would never take away something that works. We have created new lines so that other hair types can find something that works for them.”
Is this enough?
The brand appears to now be stood (right behind Pepsi) in a long line of brands who have made detrimental marketing moves by failing to look through the eyes of their customers.
Many previous loyal customers have promised to boycott the brand and take their hard earned cash to brands whom appear to appreciate their custom more. That is a decision for each individual to make personally, but I would be lying if I said that this move hasn’t made me view the brand differently and question whether I should continue to support them.
As for Shea Moisture, the brand has promised to make it up to customers and will think twice before launching its next ad campaign especially when other brands are clearly after a slice of the market.
Pantene recently launched an advert targeting black women as part of their “Strong is Beautiful” campaign featuring stunning visuals of black women with all skin tones and hair types.
Needless to say, it only adds to Shea Moisture’s embarrassment.
What are you views? Do you think it’s a big deal or are people overreacting?