Shea Moisture's Tone-Deaf Ad Causes A Social Media Backlash

Shea Moisture's ad campaign gone wrong

Shea Moisture, Shea Moisture where did you go wrong? Before Monday, April 24th you were the darling of the natural hair community. We were a little irritated and concerned when you took on a white investor in 2015, but you assured us that we had nothing to worry about, that it was business as usual, and that our beloved products would not change so, we stayed loyal. The products were affordable, they could easily be found on the ground, and we felt you understood the naturalista struggle because your products were created for Us by Us. 

The creator and CEO, Richelieu Dennis, tells the story of growing up in his native Sierra Leone and watching his grandmother create products in her kitchen. By helping his grandmother, Richard learned her recipes and after the civil war in his country forced his family to move to the US they started selling their grandmother's products on the streets of New York, and Shea Moisture was born.

Well, somewhere along the way the message got lost as Shea Moisture decided to diversify and expand their product line to appeal to a broader audience. While there's nothing wrong with inclusion and taking your brand to the next level there is a problem when it appears that you've abandoned your core market by changing your marketing, and some have said by watering down your formulas, then you've officially jumped the shark aka screwed up. You now risk alienating your core market.

Hair hate ad from Shea Moisture
Models from the Shea Moisture campaign

That is what it appears Shea Moisture has done with their new campaign. The campaign that pushes White women to the forefront and Black women to the background. The commercial they recently released features two White women, one blond and one redhead, and one curly haired mixed girl as they speak about how they came to love their hair. What's missing from the commercial is anyone who looks like the consumer Shea Moisture initially appealed to, the consumer that assisted Shea Moisture in becoming the success they are. They appear to have forgotten who helped them get into Target, Ulta, and Sally's. Without Us, Shea Moisture would not have a seat at the table.

Unfortunately, this story is all too familiar because most companies are only truly loyal to the Almighty Dollar so the minute they have an opportunity to make more money they would as soon sell their souls to the Devil himself. Remember when Fox, UPN, and the WB first debuted their programming, they featured a ton of shows that appealed to the Black audience, but once they got their footing there went the programming. When's the last time you've seen any Black shows on Fox???

Once the commercial made its way around social media, the backlash and calls for a boycott were swift. Shea Moisture's Facebook rating went from a 5 to a 3 within a day due to all the negative ratings. It was such a PR nightmare that Shea Moisture was forced to issue an apology acknowledging their mistake and stating that they would do better in the future. 

While I can accept their apology, I honestly don't think much will change in the direction of the company by the looks of their LinkedIn page and by viewing who the brand's higher ups are. No one that looks like me is sitting there, not one. There's not even one Black person at VaynerMedia, the company behind the marketing campaign. So how can I expect people who don't look like me to understand my struggle and to market to me? It's the same tone-deaf marketing that created a media firestorm for Pepsi with their ridiculous Kendall Jenner ad.

The woman that work for Shea Moisture
Shea Moisture's marketing team

The takeaways from this debacle are that the Devil is busy, we're only 4 months into 2017, and every other week there's something new to be outraged about it, which is beyond exhausting. My next lesson is that it doesn't pay to be more loyal to a company than they are to me. I have plenty of choices of where to spend my money, so I will choose wisely (a list of other Black owned hair care companies). Finally, there are far more important things to be concerned about than Shea Moisture and their shenanigans. Therefore, I hope this blows over soon.

What's done is done and only time will tell if Shea Moisture will recover from this giant misstep.

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