Shea Moisture is a manufacturer of hair products that have traditionally been marketed to women of color, who tend to have more naturally curly hair. However, with its latest marketing campaign, it seems that Shea Moisture is trying to break out of that typecast and market to a broader customer base. The company’s latest ad features women of color, but also two white women, who receive a majority of the screen time. The messaging behind this campaign is that Shea products are for everyone, regardless of race.
The ad campaign received backlash from many women of color. One writer went so far as to say that this video served as “blatant erasure of African American women who made the brand what it is,” and a writer at BET commented that “Yes, we know good hair is for everyone, but that is why companies that cater specifically to Black women need to exist — because so many of the products out there do not.”
Unfortunately, the backlash surrounding this ad campaign is nothing new. Many seemingly benign marketing campaigns have been ripped apart
by a small but loud segment of the population that feel that they are marginalizing a race, gender, or other identity segment of the population. People are easily offended by media today, and many are looking for anything that they can make an issue out of. Marketers thus need to be extremely careful when moving forward with their advertising strategies. All pieces of media are going to be scrutinized harder than ever and examined from all angles, with viewers looking for any possible way that material could possibly be perceived as offensive.
It is an unfortunate fact of life that this is the current climate in the world, but it is an arena that marketers need to be prepared to play in. Marketers need to consider every possible angle that their media can be viewed from, and make sure not to trigger any offense. Examples like Shea Moisture should serve as a warning to marketers going forward.
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