Hair Care Brands Switch Marketing Tactics To Survive Natural Hair Movement

June 18, 2013  |  

Esperanza Spalding arriving at the Grammys. Credit: Adriana M. Barraza/

“For years we’ve trusted Dark and Lovely [relaxers] to give us just the look we want,” says a soul-soaked voice in a 1992 commercial, “soft, easy-to-manage hair.”

Fast-forward to 2013 and today’s latest Dark and Lovely TV commercial encourages women to embrace their own chemically unaltered hair instead. A brown-skinned model struts around and flaunts her coily-textured hair: “Get unstoppable curls that defy shrinkage,” the ad boasts.

The drastic shift in television advertising is a reflection of current African-American ideals on hair. The Black hair industry has completely reshaped their marketing techniques amidst the natural hair craze. Between 2006 and 2011, relaxer kit sales dropped 17 percent. Afros are taking the world by storm — and it’s scaring these million-dollar hair corporations whose cash flow depend on black women slapping chemicals onto their kinks.

More women are ignoring television ads and are now engrossed in YouTube, blogs, and other social media outlets that cater to their natural hair needs. As of 2011, there were 23.9 million active African American Internet users; a substantial 76 percent visited a social networking/blog site. These online outlets provided Black women with an opportunity to create dialogue about which products are complete crap and which products are crowned as awesome. Meanwhile, hair corporations are eavesdropping on the conversation to figure out how to re-appeal to Black women.

All over the Internet, there is a slew of women online craving to know how to define their curls and reduce shrinkage. Many natural women enviously drool at YouTube hair gurus wondering why their mane doesn’t “act” the same. These are the women that hair corporations are targeting. Their insecurities make them particularly vulnerable to falling hook-line-and-sinker into overspending on hair care goodies. Phrases like “anti-shrinkage” and “curl-defining” appear on Dark and Lovely advertising, along with loose-curled models, to prey on hair-insecure natural women.

Noticing that viewers are super-curious about the products used by YouTube hair celebrities such as Jouelzy, CharyJay, and NikkiMae2003, hair brands started shipping free products to natural hair vloggers to heighten their visibility among the starry-eyed African American YouTube viewers.

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