I’ve noticed a lot more curly, coily and kinky naturals in commercials and print advertisements lately. As a graphic designer, I’m always looking at how things are marketed. While I’m excited to see so much representation in main stream media, it brings up a couple questions for me:
1. If marketers and big name brands feel that natural hair is acceptable enough to use natural haired models (the whole curl spectrum) in their ads, why are there still misconceptions that it’s dirty, unkempt, not professional, etc? If Loews, Chase, Mirena and other big name multi-million dollar companies think it’s good enough to represent their brand, why isn’t it good enough to represent an individual?
2. In marketing and graphic design we try to use imagery that will appeal to the demographic that we are trying to reach. As a graphic designer, I have to make someone do some sort of action (buy, call, sell, use a product or service) using only their eyes. By using natural haired models, marketers are obviously trying to reach a certain demographic. I often wonder who that demographic is. If the majority of African American women have relaxed hair and many African American men do not neccessarily care for natural hair, then why use a natural haired model if that is the target demographic? It makes me wonder if to marketers, natural hair is perceived as being “blacker,” especially when that model appears with other models of different nationalities. Almost like saying “hey you, black person, buy this product. She’s not a token because she has kinky hair, so that makes her black and therefore relatable.” Maybe African Americans specifically are not the target, especially in ads that do not feature any other nationalities and are not products or services specific to African Americans. I wonder if a natural haired model in those cases appeals to mass audiences because her hair is NOT the typical straight hair usually seen on African American women. This would make her non-specific to any particular race and makes her more of an everyman.
Maybe I am thinking to hard about this, but it always interests me to know why marketers and brands choose to market the way that they do. I’ve found that many times the marketing strategies of some companies really are that deep and intricate and other times not so much.