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Know your target audience

Anitria Wilson

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SheaMoisture is a natural haircare brand built to target ethnic hair textures. But after the release of their new online commercial, their message missed their target audience by a mile.

The controversial online commercial shows a black woman discussing how much she hates her hair. The commercial then moves to two Caucasian women talking about how they hate their hair and how SheaMoisture is their go-to product to make their hair lovable.

This is a product whose foundation was built predominantly to help ethnic hair, but they completely ignored their primary targets while aiming to become more appealing to more ethnicities. According to the company, the designed purpose for the ad was, “Break free from hair hate, with a million ways to love your hair instead.” Yet devoted consumers found the ad to be offensive.

The commercial, which focused on women disliking their hair, mostly features Caucasian models, excluding African-American models who represent the initial product purpose explains why so many consumers were offended. The company has since released an apology and announced that they will be pulling the ad.

“We really (expletive) this one up,” SheaMoisture said in a Facebook post. “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.”

After watching the online commercial, I was offended as a consumer of this brand and offended that the company didn’t find their ad communication a problem prior to releasing it. This video went through several editors before releasing, and I find it odd that not one person saw this commercial to be controversial or that the message can be misinterpreted.

Many loyal consumers used their social media accounts to express their concerns for the commercial and to announce their refusal to continue purchasing SheaMoisture products. To regain some of their loyal consumers, they placed all their products 50 percent off lasting only through the weekend.

Consumers are concerned with feeling left out of the target audience, not about the cost. So therefore, dropping the price for a couple days is not enough to gain their consumers’ forgiveness.

As an advertising student, I learned that you do not forget your target audience in your ads, and I feel as if SheaMoisture chose to ignore this common rule and to throw their primary consumers to the back of the ad to reach potential buyers. SheaMoisture’s CEO Richelieu Dennis wants his consumers to feel understood.

“Our job is to make sure that they understand that we’re still here for them,” Dennis said, noting that black women tend to have the “least number of products in the marketplace for them.”

SheaMoisture is aware of their mistake and is trying to make the necessary corrections to gain back their initial consumers.

“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,” the company added. “So, the feedback we are seeing here brings to light a very important point.”

I think SheaMoisture’s mistake can be a lesson to all brands trying to expand their consumer base. Never forget about your initial consumers when expanding your brand.

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Know your target audience