Billingslea Media


The latest news and industry trends

Posts in damage control
The Shea story: Branding Mistakes from the pros
black girl with purple boots.jpeg

In the digital world, brand ambassadors can either make or break you, Having every day consumers share the benefits of your products and services can be one of the most low cost ways of advertising. But what happens when you do something to disappoint that customer base? How in the world do you rebuild a brand that is trusted by the people who will put money behind your brand and endorse you at all times? Shea Moisture is just one brand that is feeling a huge negative effect from a campaign that angered their core base. Now we are looking at what they could have done differently to avoid the backlash. 

Shea Moisture is known is for creating products primarily for African American women. The company prides itself on using all nature products and endorsing a mission to give reverence to its African ancestors It's latest ad did not seem to reflect that mission. The company, who has recently been acquired by a larger company, is expanding its customer base. They have created new products that can be used by women of all different hair types. The newest ad expressed the perils of women who have experiences "hair hate". Shea Moisture presented an ad that showed them as the solution to these women's problems. The only problem was that they left out one important hair type in the ad: that of the African American woman. 


The internet was immediately in an uproar as Shea Moisture began trending on social media. The response from women in the African American community was so swift that Shea Moisture immediately issued an apology. 

"Wow - we really f-ed this one up! Please know that our intent was not, & would never be, to disrespect our community" 


But for some, the apology made it worse. It seemed empty and meaningless, and was only met with more criticism. While most people can understand a company wanting to expand, and ultimately increase its profits, loyal customers want to continue to feel an attachment to the brand they grown to love for long. Dove, another beauty centered company seems to be able to hit the mark every single time with its rebranding initiatives. When Dove decided a couple of years back that they wanted more influence in the African American market, they went straight to the source for assistance in how to deliver a campaign that this new audience could identify with. They asked for input from women in the African American community and used the results to expand its market. Dove got it right. and continues to get it right repeatedly. There is a craft to changing things up within your brand. Here are a couple of suggestions on how Shea Moisture could have done things differently: 

Expanding the Product Line

A great company is expected to grow over time. It's perfectly natural to see companies expand their offerings as they grow. But it's important to be cautious about doing so. You have to access the details of your expected results. Are your results to sell more products, or to create more loyal customers? If your company is focused on creating loyal customers, then its important to think about the long term effects at all times. Your customers should serve as silent partners or board members to whom you look to for guidance on how to operate effectively. The last thing you want to do is exclude them from your expansion. 

Alternative Ads

A world where one company offers products that are inclusive of a variety of different groups is an amazing setup. However, when trying to stress inclusiveness its important to remember to include all groups involved. Once again, we can refer to some of the campaigns previously launched by Dove where they focused on showing a variety of women with different skin and hair types, and even different shapes. It helped to build a sense of community. Instead of adding on to the customer base and merging two markets together, Shea Moisture divided them. As women continue to fight for equality in the US, one of the last things they need is more division.

No Apologies

Sometimes there are things that are better left unsaid. Shea Moisture's long, heartfelt apology was almost like a slap in the face to those who were already outraged. The apology seemed like a simple "No. We still want you to buy from us", instead of a "No. We really do understand you. We promise". Once you've mad someone feel as though they matter less to you, words just don't cut it. People want action, and they want it right away. They want a crisis communication team in place that can work on slowly developing that trust again. The trust was not built overnight, and it most certainly will not be regained over night, 


What do you think Shea Moisture could have done differently? Would you continue to support a brand that made you feel excluded? Let us know in the comments. 

YouTube video threatens Russell Simmons' brand

Multimedia heavy hitter and social activist Russell Simmons has managed to ruffle the feathers of women worldwide.  The highly successful entrepreneur is doing damage control after a very controversial YouTube video was posted by his company. The video is a parody featuring the famous abolitionist Harriet Tubman entitled 'Harriet Tubman Sex Tape'. The video features an actress who is engaging in sexual acts with her slave master while filming the deed in an effort to blackmail him into giving her her freedom papers. Although Simmons managed to see a humorous and creative parody by his staff, the internet has spoken and people are livid. 
After the video went viral, Simmons was contacted by the national headquarters of the NAACP about his poor judgement.  The video was immediately removed, but people are still very angry at his ability to poke fun at a very painful period in our nation's history. Simmons describes himself as "very liberal with very thick skin", and thus did not see the harm in the parody. Although he posted a public apology on his Global Grind website, people are still not ready to forgive. Journalists and Activists on Twitter insist that the public hold him accountable and not allow him to simply receive "a slap on the wrist" and then ride off into the sunset continuing to make millions after he has disappointed many of his very loyal fans.

Although starting out as a manager on the Hip Hop music circuit, and later on a serial entrepreneur, in recent years Simmons has positioned himself as a social activist and philanthropist speaking out against issues such as racism and poverty.  It seems extremely ironic that a person who is so committed to issues of injustice would see humor in the video posted on his YouTube channel.  Now being shunned by the public, many are questioning what this will do to the brand that he has established worldwide.  Will people be willing to forgive Simmons for his poor discretion and still take him seriously as a social activist. There is no doubt that his team will now have to do some serious damage control to repair this moment of indiscretion. But the question is, how long will it take for the public to forgive? And what actions will his team have to take to repair the damage? As a highly successful entrepreneur who runs several companies it is interesting to see how Simmons could forget the importance of brand consistency.  Simmons is affectionately known in some circuits as "Uncle Rush", so how could 'America's Uncle' support something so painful and degrading as a parody that presents a misogynistic view of women who were instrumental in black history. Simmons needs to decide if he wants to see dollars and "sense" or if he is truly committed to erasing the social ills and deep rooted pain many women (both black and white) have endured throughout our Nation's history. Looks like its time to clean house at Rush Enterprises.