Shea Moisture: Epic Social Media Nightmare? How To Avoid It

Many brands are embracing social media and getting massive success from it. Sadly, this is not the case for all. Social media nightmare is a phenomenon that every brand wants to avoid. Its implications are deep rooted primarily to the reputation of an establishment and also its financial stability.

Recently we have seen brands like Pepsi, United Airlines and now Shea Moisture experiencing this.

I want us to focus on Shea Moisture because it is a topic that particularly touched me. There is a lot of debate on the net about it. I understand that many people are not aware of the root causes of it all.

They cannot figure out why some customers of Shea Moisture are angry about this Ad. An ad produced by Vaynermedia that portrays Caucasian and biracial women talking about their hair struggles and the goodness of Shea Moisture. It stated;

“ Break free from hair hate. See how these women have finally learned to embrace hair Love.”

Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning..Bill Gates

Due to the backlash from the public ( both black and white women) who understand the deep roots of Shea Moisture, here is the apology from their PR.

““Wow, okay — so guys, listen, we really f-ed this one up. Please know that our intention was not — and would never be — to disrespect our community, and as such, we are pulling this piece immediately because it does not represent what we intended to communicate.

You guys know that we have always stood for inclusion in beauty and have always fought for our community and given them credit for not just building our business but for shifting the beauty landscape. So, the feedback we are seeing here brings to light a very important point.

While this campaign included several different videos showing different ethnicities and hair types to demonstrate the breadth and depth of each individual’s hair journey, we must absolutely ensure moving forward that our community is well-represented in each one so that the women who have led this movement never feel that their hair journey is minimized in any way.

We are keenly aware of the journey that WOC face — and our work will continue to serve as the inspiration for work like the Perception Institute’s Good Hair Study/Implicit Association Test that suggests that a majority of people, regardless of race and gender, hold some bias towards women of color based on their textured or natural hair. So, you’re right. We are different — and we should know better.

Thank you all, as always, for the honest and candid feedback. We hear you. We’re listening. We appreciate you. We count on you. And we’re always here for you. Thank you, #SheaFam, for being there for us, even when we make mistakes. Here’s to growing and building together…”

The Root of The Problem


You need background information for the full picture. Their demographic is primarily African American women, and they are trying to expand. Their brand has become successful because of free social media promotion and support from a majority of their African-American customer base.

The Ad talks about “hair hate” and showed an influencer with straight blonde hair. The ordinary African American women(especially those with kinky 4c hair) deal with prejudices at interviews and schools with their hair. When you consider their theme of the ads, it was not well thought out.


If they had included one more African American lady in the ad with kinky hair, it would not have been a social media nightmare. Here are some excerpts from discussions on the net.

2. Poor Copy

When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion. Dale Carnegie

Shea Moisture’s social media nightmare is worth dissecting. A classic example of a beloved brand that has alienated itself from its loyal base. Don’t think the individual(s) responsible can just blame the customers for this failed campaign.


They should have segmented their Ads. If they did one Ad featuring African American woman with curly hair and then another Ad featuring women of other ethnicities with curly hair speaking directly to them and their concerns it might not have led to this social media nightmare.

Classic Example

Ever see an Ad for an SUV? They will have two Ads Sets.

One focusing on soccer mom piling the kids in the car with all their equipment.

Another Ad geared towards a bunch of guys headed off for the guys weekend with tents, kayaks and all their gear.

Do You Get The Point?

Same Car. Different Messages. Different Customer Avatar. Win win for everyone.

3. Ignoring customer complaints

Expansion does not have to mean alienating your clients and major customer base.

The problem that some brands have is that it seems that they forget their base when expanding into new markets. Shea Moisture was created initially to help solve the problems with curly hair types.

There is a distinct difference between average Black and non-Black hair.

Quick scenario:

Many Caucasians wash their hair so that it does not get oily.
Black people, on the other hand, cannot wash their hair everyday else it gets too dry and brittle.

There is a huge and ever-expanding market for beauty products for Caucasians and tiny fraction for the Black Women. This is where Shea Moisture comes in.

This company which began in Liberia in 1991 is one of the few who found the trick to Black hair. Their only top brand that they counted on is now changing the texture of their products.

Richelieu Dennis, founder, and CEO of the company, along with Nyema Tubman and Mary Dennis, created Shea Moisture. This product line was created to honor Dennis’s grandmother, who sold shea butter products in Sierra Leone starting in 1912. Since then, Shea Moisture has grown from selling not only hair care products but also soaps — its initial product — and lotions.


In my view, they should have separate customer avatars. Using these avatars, they could create separate product lines with different ingredients to suit the designated markets. Here are some of their complaints about this.

I am sure you would not be surprised to see the impact this social media nightmare has on this brand. I would be challenging to be in their PR team or as their social media manager.! Situations like this call for a solid social media marketing plan in place to deal with the reputation of the brand. They quickly moved from a multiple 5+ brands on Facebook to 2+ in less than 24 hours (and still plummeting)

Now over to you. What are your thoughts and suggestions to this ongoing crises? If you were part of this team, what would you have done to save them from this social media nightmare?

Originally published at on April 26, 2017.

Apolline Adiju

Apolline is a Certified Digital Marketer / Social Media Manager based in Stockholm, Sweden. She specializes in the Inbound Marketing methodology, acquiring and nurturing new customers using the most cost effective but efficient marketing funnels that convert. She works and assists business owners & companies (as a consultant) both in Sweden and the world (remote). She helps them build and establish strong social media / digital marketing strategies to increase their online marketing efforts & grow their business.

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