Leading natural beauty brand continues to knock down the walls that divide, moving forward on a path to inclusive beauty where Everybody Gets Love!
On the heels of success from part one of its highly-acclaimed #BreakTheWalls national awareness platform and call-to-action, SheaMoisture, manufactured by Sundial Brands, announced the next phase of its transformative effort to highlight the divisive constructs of beauty. This time, the brand is launching a direct challenge to the beauty industry’s concept of standardized ideals by posing the short, yet powerful, question – “What’s Normal?”
This phase includes a complete suite of assets designed to collectively support the effort across all media platforms and on-the-ground activations. The elements include a 60-second short film; a 30-second spot; a first-to-market custom hair recognition tool (amillionwaystoshea.com); digital and social assets; and behind-the-scenes and interview footage that capture perspectives on what is considered normal in beauty, especially regarding hair type, texture and style, from cast members, prominent beauty vloggers including Naptural85 and StyledByAle, and everyday women who have made headlines for defending their hair in the workplace, including Sgt. Jasmine Jacobs, who petitioned the U.S. military to change its policy banning natural hairstyles, and meteorologist Rhonda Lee, who was fired from the ABC affiliate in Shreveport, LA for responding to a comment about her natural hair. In the coming weeks, the Perception Institute will separately release a first-of-its-kind national study measuring implicit bias linked to differences in hair texture.
“With SheaMoisture’s launch of #BreakTheWalls earlier this year, we furthered our 25-year mission to spark meaningful conversation and action towards true inclusion and a more empathetic mindset in the beauty industry and our society, which includes bringing down both literal and metaphoric walls,” said Richelieu Dennis, founder and CEO of Sundial Brands. “With our first iteration, we showed the physical walls coming down. With ‘What’s Normal?’ we are confronting the mental walls that encourage us to force-fit ourselves and others into falsely constructed beauty and ‘good hair’ ideals. By questioning the very concept of a normal standard, especially as it applies to beauty and to hair type or texture, we can begin to see how arbitrary, narrow and potentially destructive it is and course-correct ourselves on a path to where everybody gets love. Our forward track must focus on including everyone, embracing everyone, and celebrating the beauty – and normalcy – of everyone’s differences.”
This acknowledgement and recognition of different need states, hair types and cultures have been at the core of SheaMoisture’s strategy since the beginning. Over the course of almost three decades in the United States, the brand has continued to develop new formulations and introduce more culturally relevant ingredients to the industry based on listening to the needs of its community and co-creation with its retail partners. SheaMoisture now offers upwards of 500 products made with natural, certified organic and fair trade ingredients to meet individual need states across body, face, shave, cosmetics, men, baby, and hair. For hair alone, the brand has a unique offering of more than 150 different products for a range of hair types, textures, conditions and styles.
As part of the brand’s ongoing commitment to addressing women’s lifestyle needs wherever they are, SheaMoisture invested in the technology to build the first hair recognition tool of its kind on the market – “Good Hair Day” (www.amillionwaystoshea.com). The “Good Hair Day” tool provides each SheaMoisture community member and visitor the benefit of anytime, “at-a-click” personalized recommendations to easily match their hair need with a specific product and quickly navigate the vast hair offerings to find their “way to Shea.” Specifically, the tool delivers individual product recommendations to each user based on their hair type, style, condition and goals. Once a user uploads a photograph or selfie on the site, it uses an innovative hair recognition technology that automatically identifies the user’s hair type and/or style. Through a brief 3-step process, the tool then matches the user with a custom hair care regimen tailored to her specific hair needs around maintenance (cleansing/conditioning); treatment (restoring/renewing); and styling (shaping/ finishing).
“We are constantly iterating on our approach to what are considered “industry” standards and what we hold as “our” standards – testing, learning and growing as we work to serve her better,” said Dennis. “Even when we’ve conducted limited-run label tests using “normal” on our packaging, the results have shown an overwhelming preference for need state vs. normal because of its exclusionary nature. We have always focused on how to innovate and serve women according to their individual needs and where they are at any stage of their lives. This is why the women who use SheaMoisture have such a special relationship with the brand. She knows we are listening to determine what she wants, what she’s missing, and what her hair and skin challenges are. She knows the products actually work for her because they were formulated for her needs – not an ill-defined normal.”
In addition, Perception Institute, a consortium of social psychologists and strategists who use research on how our brains respond to differences in race, ethnicity, and gender to understand and disrupt harms linked to those identities, has conducted a first-of-its kind hair study measuring the implicit biases linked to hair. Implicit bias, the automatic association of stereotypes or attitudes towards particular groups, is measured by taking an implicit association test, or IAT (implicit.harvard.edu). Hundreds of studies over the last two decades have confirmed that many people have implicit biases linked to race and gender which are rooted in pervasive societal stereotypes. Implicit bias affects how we perceive and treat others, sometimes in ways that have serious consequences.
However, to date, no one has examined implicit biases linked to hairstyles worn by black women. Leveraging insights from and images (stimuli) provided by SheaMoisture’s hair and beauty experts, Perception Institute, led by Executive Director Alexis McGill Johnson, created the first-ever “Hair IAT” to measure whether implicit bias against black women’s natural hair exists, as well as an extensive explicit survey to assess how the public feels about the beauty and professionalism of black women’s hair styles. Findings from the study, which is based on a 4000-person national sample, will be released in the coming weeks.
“Perception Institute’s study will be one of the most meaningful and extensive pieces of independent research to hit the beauty industry to-date,” said Dennis. “With increasing headlines around the world highlighting natural hair restrictions and intolerance in the workplace, schools and society at large, it is critical that as a society we understand hair bias and the role it plays in how we view others, the value we place on them and our expectations of them to fit into a singular view of ‘normal.’ My hope is that the insights gleaned from this seminal study will be a turning point in the beauty industry’s evolution from making people feel good about themselves to also transforming how they see – and thus treat – themselves and others.”
“What’s Normal?” continues to reinforce SheaMoisture’s focus on what it has coined as the New General Market, which is defined by inclusion and commonalities via need states. The New General Market approach ensures that all consumers, especially those who have been traditionally underserved, have an enhanced experience of accessibility, choice and inclusion according to their needs, not traditional segmentation. SheaMoisture has partnered with retailers, as well as other CPG and consumer companies, to lead the introduction of this problem-solution approach to the industry and impact the way they engage with their customers in a more meaningful way.
“One of the most exciting and humbling aspects for us during the creation of ‘What’s Normal?’ was the continued chorus of courageous, confident, defiant and self-accepting women who shared their stories, their insecurities and their triumphs with us,” said Dennis. “They were so deeply poignant that we were compelled to again develop the script for the film using a compilation of soundbites taken from our cast members’ interviews. So, we are still telling her story through her eyes and with her voice – and nothing is more powerful.”