Image Arturo Olmos for Fast Company
Monday, April 24th, 2017 may forever be tattooed on the brains of the crew at Sundial Brands as this was the day that women of color took to social media in response to what has been dubbed a “whitewashed” ad. The SheaMoisture fallout was real as many vowed to never again purchase another SheaMoisture product.
Sure, the company quickly responded by removing the ad and submitting a public apology but would that be enough? Needless to say, many were still not havin’ it, feeling their apology was insincere and/or too little too late. How does a company recover from such a hit?
Well, in an interview with Fast Company, Sundial Brands co-founder CEO Richelieu Dennis responds to the social media backlash that rocked their world on Monday. He shares what they’ve learned from this experience and how they can make efforts to do better:
It just shows the level of love and passion people have for the brand, and how much they want to make sure it continues to stand for them, even as it starts to broaden its audience, they want to make sure they’re not left behind… And that’s clear to us. We need to make sure we spend the time engaging with that community, encouraging them, and letting them know that just because we’re growing doesn’t mean they’re less important. in fact, they become more important because they’re the ones who have always advocated for us.”
Dennis then addressed the issues of representation, citing the feelings of those who felt the most hurt by the lack of it in this particular ad:
To equate their struggles with hair to those of other women, is in their minds trivializing their struggles, and we can’t forget that… The people who are unhappy here aren’t necessarily saying they don’t like white women. What they are saying is, for decades they’ve been underserved and white women have plenty of products on the shelves and advertising aimed at them, and that we should keep our focus on our audience, and not lose that focus just because we’re broadening our audience.”
*Wayment… did he read my post?? LOL!
The thing is, it wasn’t clear to many, especially at first, that the video was one of a series of videos which included various women. Seeing it on its own, I can totally understand why it’d be picked apart by WOC and not received well. Many either forgot about this video released last month (below) or were like me and had never seen it before the firestorm. It definitely wasn’t clear that this was a series and I think this is part of the reason why things got heated.
Here’s how Dennis says they could’ve done better:
What we should’ve done is maybe a mini-documentary to tell the whole story, then take snippets from that for social posts. We could’ve said, let’s do many more hair textures instead of just two or three. There are definitely lessons here and we’re not perfect, we’re not always going to get it right. But what we are always going to do is learn from it.”
In keeping up with the story as best as possible, I’ve noticed that SheaMoisture is actually responding to comments, reassuring consumers and fans they they have learned from this and will strive to do better going forward. Dennis is definitely optimistic:
I think this is the beginning of a wonderful opportunity for us to engage with women around these issues, and we’ll take some punches for it, but in the end I think it’s well worth it to have the conversation,” says Richelieu. “No one paid attention to these issues until a brand like ours comes along, and rightfully so it should be a platform for them to get their message out and they’re doing that. It just hurts today.”
For the record, I, for one, am not against the brand expanding their market. But they cannot lose sight of who their core consumers are in the process. Will it be easy? Not at all. But that’s why these conversations have to happen. This was a huge hit (not the good kind) for SheaMoisture and I think it’ll definitely be a long road to recovery for the brand. Lots of damage control to be done. But I’m
confident hopeful that they can turn this around. What about you?
As the SheaMoisture fallout reached its climax, the story reached some major new outlets. Here’s a look at what happened as Dennis sat down for a panel discussion with Roland Martin of NewsOne to explain exactly why and how all of this happened.
Spoiler alert: He says no one viewed the video snippet that caused the uproar before it hit social media. Thoughts?
Roland Martin of NewsOne uncovers the truth about controversial Facebook ad with CEO of SheaMoisture Richelieu Dennis, and leads panel discussion on the campaign launch video that included Black women.
Posted by SheaMoisture on Wednesday, April 26, 2017