3 Things Shea Moisture Can Do To Improve Their Brand

In late April, SheaMoisture released a commercial featuring a woman who appears to be bi-racial (and of African descent) and three Caucasian women who were complaining about their hair. The bi-racial woman was light-skinned with long hair which had a loose curl pattern, and the Caucasian women had the long flowing hair that is typically featured in the mainstream media in television and on magazine covers.


The commercial received much criticism on social media which eventually resulted in the company’s removal of the ad from rotation in SheaMoisture’s media mix. And the company’s founder and CEO Richelieu Dennis published the following statement on Instagram:

The CEO also embarked on several damage control public appearances (including an interview with The Breakfast Club on April 28th), to socialize his apology, and the company’s original plans and intentions for the circulation of the ad, but everyone in the #SheaFam is not convinced of the CEOs assertions. Since the controversial commercial was released, some members of the #SheaFam have denounced the brand entirely, while some demand greater accountability, and appreciation of black women by the company, and others are calling for a complete boycott of SheaMoisture. From Twitter, to YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, dozens of videos, articles, memes, and other posts are expressing the concerns and discontent of many former, and dedicated, SheaMoisture consumers.

To many WOC, this was a slap in the face by a company which they celebrate because the company has helped them to celebrate their own natural beauty in a world which seems to accept black culture more than black people--- including black women’s natural hair. (If you want to read what people are saying about the SheaMoisture incident, then search #SheaMoistureAd on Twitter.)

Others express that they’ve noticed the changes in the formulas around the time when SheaMoisture began to create advertisements focusing on “multicultural” and “diverse” concerns instead of straightforwardly addressing the needs of black women as it almost exclusively did. To this concern, Richelieu Dennis said that the rumors about the formula changes are false in his April 2017 interview with The Breakfast Club.

What does SheaMoisture plan to do now?

SheaMoisture’s founder and CEO says that while he does not know how the ad was released, he will ensure that the company is more careful about what they release keeping in mind that their core consumer is black women. Moreover, he explains that the company is trying to reach other markets, and asserts that the company cannot grow if it cannot create messaging that does not appeal to other demographics (The Breakfast Club Interview, April 28th, 2017).

Some Ideas for SheaMoisture

Do you remember when Pantene began advertising hair care and styling products to black women? When the company did this, they created an entire product line and accompanying marketing materials (including commercials) in order to effectively sell their products to black women. Other companies, like Dove, have done the same thing. Perhaps SheaMoisture could consider this idea if the company ever thinks about changing their formula. Instead of changing the original formulas which have helped black women (its core support base) to care for their hair, and perhaps SheaMoisture could create other product lines and marketing specifically targeted at women of other demographics.

Another idea would be for SheaMoisture (and all the Sundial Brands companies) to always feature black women who are light-skinned, brown-skinned, and dark-skinned in their media because black skin is represented by a range of colors and physical features. One skin tone, hair texture, or type of features, cannot truly represent the beauty of the diversity of the people of the African diaspora.

A final suggestion is for SheaMoisture to consider using words and phrases other than “multicultural”, “diversity” and “people of color” when referring to black women in their branding and messaging because these words do not represent blackness, or people of African descent--- the same heritage which Mr. Dennis shares with the black women who support his company. I think that a company’s branding should be clear in the usage of these words, and that if the target audience is indeed black people, then specific branding messages should be applied. Moreover, if the target audience is a racially diverse group of people, then words and phrases like “multicultural”, “diversity”, and “people of color” would likely be appropriate depending upon the linguistic usage. Sometimes, I it seems that SheaMoisture, and other companies, use these words and terms when discussing their customer base when they know that their customer base is almost completely black people--- this is a little disheartening.

My take on the whole matter

I first learned about SheaMoisture after my younger sister started using the products. One day, I needed some hand soap, and I used one of my sister’s African Black Soap bars which she had purchased from Target. I really liked how the product cleaned my skin, and I loved how it made my skin feel. On another occasion, I needed some body wash, so I used some of her SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Body Wash, and became a dedicated SheaMoisture convert! Soon, I was experimenting with SheaMoisture’s Coconut & Hibiscus line for the hair, and body, and the Raw Shea Butter line for hair and body. I used these two complete product lines religiously!

When I saw the controversial commercial a few weeks ago, I was confused. I really didn’t understand what was going on. Given the selection of women in the commercial, I had assumed that the company was trying to appeal to women of other ethnicities, but I was disappointed when I did not see any women who looked like me being featured in the commercial when it is women who look like me who are the longtime core support and core consumer of the company’s brand and products.

After researching the matter, and hearing Richelieu Dennis’ response to it, I don’t believe that he is trying to insult black women, and it seems that a video that was ‘mistakenly’ published through a respected company like SheaMoisture/Sundial Brands is a gross oversight. I don’t believe that it was published by mistake. I think that the company simply didn’t expect to get the backlash it has since publishing the commercial. In his interview with The Breakfast Club, Mr. Dennis reported that the commercial was a part of a series of campaign commercials for the brand. Therefore, I don’t believe that any of this was a mistake. But, PR crises, like this one, are a great way for a company to continue to learn and grow. However, I intend to continue to support my favorite beauty company--- SheaMoisture. There are other black beauty companies whose products I use, including Alafia--- the shea butter-based product line I was using almost exclusively before I learned about the SheaMoisture brand, and Sundial Brands. So, while I don’t exclusively use SheaMoisture, these days, you’ll rarely find me not using some item from SheaMoisture whether it’s for hair, lips, face, etc.

So, what do you say?

Do you use SheaMoisture products? What is your take on the products? How do you feel about this SheaMoisture incident? How do you feel about the way the company is handling it? What are your thoughts about all the backlash? Do you think that black people should stop supporting SheaMoisture, or do you think they should continue to support the brand? Share your thoughts, and ideas, in the comments section.