In Brands, Marketing

On Monday, SheaMoisture released an advertisement that intended to convey the message “Break free from hair hate.” But to its loyal customers, it more than missed the mark. Shea’s core fans are women of color, and in this advertisement, the brand attempted to compare the incomparable: white women choosing to embrace their straight red hair, to a woman of color embracing her natural black texture, curls and all. By placing the emphasis on the three white women’s hair confidence issues, instead of on the black woman’s, Shea succeeded in only alienating their core constituency. 

This caused an outrage with Shea’s core customer. The company was founded by Liberians and inspired by women from Sierra Leone, and was built to support and empower women of color. With this ad, Shea appeared to have forgotten these roots. Shea has made it their mission to address skin and hair issues traditionally ignored by mass market companies because they know black women have been underrepresented in the beauty world for decades. According to TIME  magazine, studies conducted in the US have found that black women who wear their natural texture, or who wear their hair in traditional African-American styles, are viewed as less competent than their peers who straighten their hair or wear weaves. The consequences for women of color who opt to embrace their natural texture have been more severe than white women who choose to “embrace” their red hair. Thus, Shea’s ad fell flat.

And so the tangible disappointment and anger from its core fans ultimately led to SheaMoisture quickly pulling the ad and issuing an extensive apology to its base. But to many, the apology felt half-hearted, and the products that they once felt empowered them, now sting of betrayal.

Read more at ADWEEK.

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