Oh, Shea Moisture, what a tangled web you’ve weaved.  If you haven’t heard by now, a new ad by Shea Moisture went viral yesterday, and boy do people have a lot to say about it.  If you haven’t seen the ad, click the video below.

I have been a champion of Shea Moisture products and this controversy stirred something up in me.  The brand is my staple brand, and my hair absolutely loves their products.

As a beauty business owner, keeping our audience in mind at all times is paramount.  Using imagery is probably the most obvious way to target your base in the beauty industry.    You shouldn’t ever build a brand with a certain audience and then appear to drop them (I don’t think that is their intent) once you grow, especially when the bulk of your business is still from that original base.

That was Shea Moisture’s HUGE misstep.

Now, I can’t begrudge any company that wants to branch out, because when you come up with a great product, you want everyone to love it.  That is me speaking as a business owner.

My business was born from my own natural hair journey, but when I came up with our first products, I hoped it was something naturals would embrace, as would women with all different hair textures.  From a business perspective, I get wanting to grow.   It’s what we all want for our businesses.

Where did Shea Moisture go wrong?

They stepped deep in it when they put out an ad that a lot of their core customer base thinks alienates them.  Let’s be all the way real, no one believes white women, with straight hair have ever struggled finding one of the thousand hair products made for them.

Hearing women who have an industry built around them talk about their hair struggles, compared to black women who have a section in a store, at best, was ABSURD.

I’ll say it again, that was ABSURD!!!!

I waited for someone with my hair texture, the hair texture they built their brand on, to have her say.  She never came.  That is where the disconnect was.

Inclusion is never an issue I have issues with.  The problem occurs when the quest for inclusion excludes the people your brand was originally made for.  Even more so, find stories unique to your new audience.

In Shea Moisture’s case, piggybacking off the stories of women from their core base, who have completely different experiences than their new target is lazy, and can be offensive, as they quickly found out.

When jobs are denied, when the armed services say your hair is not okay while defending your country, when kids are suspended from school because their natural hair doesn’t comply, and when your hair has been called ugly for decades and decades, then perhaps struggles can be compared.  Until then, let’s get a grip!!

Shea Moisture has since gone on to apologize for their huge misstep.  They clearly learned from the Pepsi and United Airlines debacles of the year, and smartly got in front of this story.  Was it the perfect response?  No!  It rarely is.  It’s up to each of us, as consumers, to decide which lines companies can’t come back from.

Click to see Shea Moisture’s apology

At its best, this is a brand that helped make black women, whose natural hair has been historically criticized, feel beautiful.  We felt understood, we felt part of a conversation we’d rarely been a part of.  I’d hate to see their relationship with their core audience completely lost.  As a fan, I have my fingers crossed they can find their way back.

As a business owner, it’s a perfect lesson in respecting the audience you serve!

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