Four Business Lessons SheaMoisture Better Learn From Their Messy #HairHate Ad

April 26, 2017  |  

This morning I opened up my medicine cabinet to get my deodorant, and there, in the far right, was my Jamaican Castor Oil conditioner.

I sighed.

I took out my deodorant and wondered if I should be ridding my cabinets and dressers of all of my SheaMoisture products.

If you’ve been away from any social media outlet over the last two days, you might have missed SheaMoisture’s epic marketing and advertising fail. Their recent campaign depicts two white women and a light-skinned woman with conventionally-accepted curly hair bemoaning their curly textures.

In SheaMoisture’s defense, this isn’t the only ad in their campaign. There’s another showcasing three Black women–one with locs or loc-extensions and two with afros with hair textures closer to 4c, the tail end of the coil spectrum.

But if you look at the mission of Shea Moisture and the inspiring story on the side of each bottle, it’s clear that their (initial) target audience was Black women. And if you’ve followed the come-up of SheaMoisture for the last few years, you’ll see the base of natural-haired Black women that led the charge. So, when Black women didn’t see themselves or their stories in a major media campaign from a brand they’ve been loyal to they got mad. They felt pushed aside and slighted.

And I don’t blame them.

If SheaMoisture is to win back their Black female consumer base, they’re going to have to put their backs into it. They need to pivot quickly and take heed to some of the following business advice.

Hire people that know the hearts, history, and souls of their customer base. It seems as if this tone-deaf ad passed the approval of editors, writers, copywriters, project managers, and whoever else went into the production of it. Not one person stopped and said, “There’s something very wrong here.” The ad was flippant and insincere and the message hallow. Media messaging for Black and white women just can’t be the same given the politics of beauty, especially hair, in this country. It just can’t.

White women, and women with hair textures closer to the grade of white women are not subjugated and have not been subjugated to the systematic levels of scorn, shame, and alienation that Black women with kinks and coils encounter when they choose to embrace the hair that grows naturally from their heads. While a white woman or women with hair like a white woman may experience “hair hate” in their private lives, they haven’t experienced government sanctions against their hair, jeopardizing their livelihoods and the ability to unconditionally serve their country.

Study Beyoncé. If there’s ever a woman that speaks to the souls of Black women in the 21st century, it’s Beyoncé. Beyoncé’s last two albums caressed, sang sweet nothings, and poured honey into the spiritual and emotional lives of Black women. Her music, her imagery, her social media, her musings and her various philanthropic support for Black causes made it very clear that she stands for and with Black women. Messaging within and between marketing campaigns is coherent, thoughtful, and executed impeccably.

Shea Moisture is going to have to be very visible and very active throughout this quarter to repair their relationship with Black women. Shea Moisture is going to have to get their public relations and marketing teams in formation. Members of this team have to be Black women that love and advocate for Black women or they will run the risk of creating another insensitive campaign.

Expansion doesn’t mean exclusion. If Shea Moisture wants to diversify its customer base, then they have to do it in a way that makes sense for each of those specific target markets. Perhaps they should start a different line like Pantene, who knew it would be suicide to lose their white, female customer base as they expanded into products that catered to Black natural hair.

Black purchasing power is real and he who doesn’t hear shall feel. Black women are characterized as loyal consumers; we stick with a brand through thick and thin. But I’m hoping that this media diss will help Black women see that they can’t be too loyal to brands that are not loyal, kind, or inclusive to them. More importantly, I’m hoping this snafu will help Black women see that they can convert that purchasing power into savings power or investment power.

There’s probably a whole lot of hand-wringing, finger-pointing, and firing happening at the Shea Moisture headquarters today. Hopefully this crisis will give them food for thought. As advertising is a species of propaganda, we all know the outrage has nothing to do with hair and everything to do with respecting the bodies, economies, and humanity of Black women.

Kara is a speaker, author, and founder of The Frugal, an award-winning site dedicated to helping black women radically transform their relationships with their money and themselves.  Get your free copy of The 5-Day Financial Reset Plan today.

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