Brands still have a lot to learn about engaging on social media.
Its been about 24 hours since Shea Moisture, owned by Sundial Brands, got dragged through Twitter and Facebook for their poorly executed ad promoting the use of their hair care products on mainstream glossy and eurocentric hair types.
My interest is to take a closer look at their strategy to clean up the mistake since yesterday. It already appears they have gone to media outlets more so than the online customer base for setting the record straight. (FastCo, WashingtonPost, Huffpost) While they did release a detailed apology and pull the ad on Monday, the initial slap in the face continues to reverberate across the Internet, hitting Tumblr, Youtube and Instagram in waves of reaction and counter reaction from white women who use these products.
How does a company survive this sort of crisis when their products are specifically promoted online by both paid and unpaid supporters passionate about the brand and would never have grown this much in the past 10 years if not for the online natural hair community recommending the product line to all of their friends and followers?
Authenticity is critical to surviving the social media universe. If brands ever come across as superficial, insincere or manipulating, followers will pick up on it and drop them. Now, authenticity doesn’t always equal Truth. Sometimes a community will circle around an attitude or ideal, even if the content posted lacks any true data or fact.
Shea Moisture found itself caught up in ethnic erasure towards going mainstream when their actual follower base is a dedicated niche focused on validating the act of wearing natural African hair as a finished and complete hairstyle. Black women’s hair remains as political as ever, with thousands of us struggling to prove to our employers, families and partners that the hair growing naturally out of our head can stand on its own without the hyper use of chemicals or dyes to force it into European beauty standards.
So what now?
If Shea Moisture wants to survive this, they need to put up or shut up. Acknowledge and promote the unpaid bloggers, YouTubers and Instagram naturalistas who have supported them over the years and authentically show that Black women are a customer base they truly appreciate and will continue to support as they grow and expand to other markets. (Less talking more images, vids, podcasts, roundtables)
They need to connect 2 messages, that 1# They support and always will support healthy African hair care and 2# This is a global movement for healthy hair care for all women to be accepted for their non-traditional hair.
This sort of messaging transition has to take place in steps, and it won’t help to use the same blond models out of a John Frieda commercial to support a multi-ethnic community. The core base will not accept further erasure when they already feel that consistently from most beauty brands (from make up to lingerie, most companies don’t sell nude colors inclusive to Black consumers).
This is a chance for them to prove they want to globally validate coily, curly hair and the voices of WOC who rock it as beautiful and legitimate. But will they stand by Black women in more than just words? Let’s see how the drama shakes out in the coming weeks – can they turn this around?
*P.S. Just in case here’s a list of 20 Black owned hair care lines you can choose to support*
*P.P.S. Can I just say AS I AM is Really expensive? I want to try it but..damn! $$$*