The Beauty Brand Shea moisture has found itself in the midst of a pure shea mess as its latest ad campaign angers and alienates its core clientele. But Is this fall from grace even justified?
Many Black and Brown women with underrepresented hair textures were appalled and outraged by Shea Moisture’s recent grab at expanding its business and diversifying its client base. Their latest installment in the “1 Million Ways to Shea” ad series discussed “hair hate” but featured women who had hair and features that many label as “Classically Beautiful.” Outrage ensued after the ad was shared on social media. Much of the outrage did not stem from Shea Moisture’s desire to expand their reach or diversify their clientele. The outrage was steeped in Black and Brown women feeling that they were strewn aside as Shea Moisture pursued new clients. To many customers, it seems that She Moisture “got on” and left them for a white girl.
Before you cast the Shea critics to the annals of Angry Black Womandom , understand that the company set themselves up for failure. Finding hair products for *highly textured hair was once a thing of struggle. Many Black/Brown women and girls can relate to combing through aisles and aisles of products that are not intended for them or marketed to them. Major retailers have historically catered to white women with loose or straight hair textures. Shea moisture saw a need, filled it and, positioned themselves as saviors in the Black Beauty Market.
Shea Moisture donned a cape and emerged onto the natural hair movement scene as a burgeoning Black owned Beauty brand that was pushing to make sure that Black and Brown women were given the products that they not only yearned for but deserved. Shea moisture mastered influencer marketing. Getting “real” people to use and endorse their products. They created a strong online presence and made their Black/Brown woman target demographic love them. Smart marketing and a clearly defined purpose catapulted Shea Moisture into beauty brand success. Today, the products are found everywhere from the hood beauty supply to major retailers. The brand has been consistent in its efforts to create products that tackle hair issues experienced by underrepresented textures.
Black and Brown women have been the core supporters of the brand. It is only natural that these women have a sense of advocacy and enthusiasm for the brand. I personally have zero problems with a company seeking to expand its business. I also have zero problems with the critiques that have been hurled at the company since their tone deaf Ad dropped about a week ago. I currently have a stockpile of shea moisture products under my bathroom cabinets. I spend close to $200 dollars every 4-6 months to purchase the product lines that my hair needs. I have been doing this religiously for 5-6 years. I know so many Black women with a similar Shea Moisture habit and we all know that Shea Moisture is not cheap.
Shea moisture failed. The failure has been about 3-4 years in the making. Being a Black owned company “that cares” got Shea moisture to where it is in the first place. There are many people who not only loved the product that Shea offered but also loved the fact that they were supporting a Black owned company. The company started to lose customers when it allowed Bain Capital to become a minority investor in its company. One of Bain capital’s founding members and majority shareholders is Mitt Romney ( do I even need to elaborate on the relevance of this fact?). Over the last 2 years, some of the same influencers who sung Shea Moisture’s praises began to distance themselves from the brand due to some of their business choices.
We don’t just support Black Owned businesses because the owners are Black. The idea is to support companies that will circulate dollars and opportunities throughout the Black Community. Shea Moisture has done a great job with that but the community that it serves reserves the right to hold the brand accountable. Brand Loyalty and Brand advocacy are not guaranteed. Those coveted achievements are earned and have to be sustained. The “1 Million Ways to Shea” campaign is not new, it debuted in September. The company did a better job of making sure that they courted a new set of customers without alienating and abandoning their core customer base. Richelieu Dennis, 1/3rd of the company’s founders, has made media appearances in order to explain why the ad was aired and what the company was trying to achieve. The only true response needed is an apology and a true acknowledgment that his ad team and Vayner Media simply got it wrong. Shea Moisture will bounce back from this fall from grace. They will also lose some customers who now only view them as a typical money hungry corporation that does not care about the community that catapulted them to success.
But hey, that’s just a by-product of expansion, right?