Shea Moisture ruffled some curls, coils and tresses this past week with their questionable advertisement depicting three white women raving about a brand predominantly purchased by black women.
The ad went viral Monday afternoon, catapulting to the top trend on Twitter with over 33,000 tweets as reported by the Advertising Age. By the end of the afternoon, the hair care heavyweight shamefully pulled the ad. However, the message received by women of color has had a more lasting impression.
The black owned brand was founded in Harlem by two Liberians Nyema Tubman and Richelieu Dennis, whose mission was to build a skin and hair care brand that embodied the ingredients based from their African heritage. Starting from humble beginnings, the brand has soared in recent years, becoming a cult favorite in the African American community.
The video boasts the slogan “Break Free from Hair Hate” showcased two redheads and one blonde who said she “didn’t know what to do” with her hair while the redhead explained feeling so insecure about dyeing her hair blonde for “seven years of her life.”
The issues voiced by the white women seemed irrelevant to the brand’s purpose. The ad’s attempt at representation of women of color was including a racially ambiguous woman with voluminous curls, an archetype found in many mainstream ads today that hardly represents the extent of the brand’s consumer demographic.
The slogan used in the ad coupled with the actresses portrayed is misleading because how can someone with hair that is the mainstream beauty standard break free from hate they’ve never experienced on a global scale?
According to InfoScout, dollars spent on Shea Moisture products by African Americans is over 80 percent while dollars spent among whites is under 10 percent. Given the overwhelming statistics of who the top consumer is, the marketing and promotion of this brand should align with the consumer demographics. Considering this, the offense black women have taken to this ad is completely justified.
Being that the demographic of customers are predominantly women of color, by airing an ad that features mostly white women contributes to the erasure of black women the brand is responsible for. Furthermore, the main issue with the ad is the overall lack of visibility of women of color represented in the video. It isn’t problematic that Shea Moisture want to extend their consumer base to women of all ethnicities, however it’s problematic to exclude the main demographic that buys the brand from an ad campaign.
After receiving viral backlash for the ad, Shea Moisture issued a public statement on Facebook, apologizing for their mistake: “Wow, okay – so guys, listen, we really f-ed this one up. Please know that our intention was not – and would never be – to disrespect our community, and as such, we are pulling this piece immediately because it does not represent what we intended to communicate.”
After putting their consumer’s brand loyalty in jeopardy, the company should take the backlash received and create content representative of its large African American consumer base.
Shea Moisture’s attempt at being inclusive and diverse was received by black women as exclusive and misrepresentative. Their message intended to be harmless ended up being misconstrued and ultimately offensive to many women of color.
Going forward the brand should be more tactful and considerate of their predominant consumer base when creating national ad campaigns.