4 Things Beauty Brands Can Learn from the SheaMoisture Ad Fail
Here at Naïra NYC we love to see other brands thrive, particularly those that champion people of color since we share the same mission. When we noticed that social media was blowing up, in the worst way, about SheaMoisture‘s new ads, we had to take a look for ourselves.
Their commercial addressed the subject of “hair hate” showing one black woman with 3C type of curls, and two white women with straight to wavy hair. Noticeably absent was the quintessential SheaMoisture customer — black women with natural hair. How could the consumer that turned this small, family-owned business into a multi-million dollar powerhouse be completely missing from their marketing messaging? It did not go unnoticed, with people calling out Shea Moisture on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook saying that the brand had abandoned their core customer in this commercial. The brand ended up apologizing, but it seemed like a lot of damage has been done. Many (likely former) customers vowed to take their money elsewhere since they now felt alienated from the brand.
In the wake of many brand blunders in 2017, (Pepsi anyone?) we had a few takeaways on how to avoid these types of fiascos:
1. Don’t Try to Gain a New Audience at the Expense of Your Old One
SheaMoisture is growing — they are adding many new products to their roster and also want to appeal to a larger audience. That is all well and good. Just like many mainstream brands want to appeal to a more ethnically diverse audience, SheaMoisture wants to appeal to more white consumers. The huge misstep the company made was by completely removing the image of the consumer most closely associated with their brand. It comes off as ungrateful and callous towards the people who helped the brand become who they are today.
2. Not All Hair Struggles Are Equal
In theory, all women struggle with their hair from time to time, but for black women the perception and criticism of their hair runs far deeper than just having a bad hair day. Black women have experienced actual discrimination for wearing their hair naturally — being told their hair is unprofessional, certain styles not being permitted in the army and small school girls being told to go home because their hair was “untidy.” Overlooking your customer and then creating an entire ad about hair struggles that seem trivial in comparison to these acts of prejudice will just further infuriate your audience.
3. Make Sure Your Message Is Genuine
No one is saying that white hair can’t be unruly, coarse or difficult to manage. Surely, there are white women that use and love SheaMoisture. What’s strange in the ad is that there is no explanation as to how SheaMoisture would help these two particular women. One of them complains that her hair is red and that she used to die it platinum blonde. How does SheaMoisture provide a solution to her “problem”? It seems like a real stretch and further underlines the tone-deafness of the commercial.
4. Run Things By Your Core Audience First
This whole problem could have been easily avoided if someone had done a small focus group with this ad before launch. Yes, it’s an extra layer of work to have outsiders review an ad, a campaign, or a post before it goes live but it can save you a lot of embarrassment and negative media coverage. Social media scrutiny is ruthless and it’s hard to bounce back from bad press.
Here’s the SheaMoisture ad for reference: