Understanding the needs of the multicultural marketplace, personal care company Sundial Brands, the maker of SheaMoisture, is working to take a new general market positioning at retail. Richelieu Dennis, founder and CEO of Sundial Brands, talked with Drug Store News about the brand’s heritage and how it is catering to the needs of its customers.
DSN: What is the story behind the creation of SheaMoisture brand?
Richelieu Dennis: SheaMoisture is and always will be a family brand. Its humble beginning began when Sofi Tucker was widowed with four children at 19 years old. To support her family, she sold her handmade shea butter soaps and other natural products all over the countryside in Sierra Leone. As Sofi’s grandson, I grew up watching her make her creations. Sofi shared her recipes with me and taught me how to make her natural remedies. I created the SheaMoisture brand, and made it my mission to keep four generations of family skin and hair care recipes alive and share them with families around the world. SheaMoisture became Sofi’s legacy. The brand originally was sold at street fairs and to street vendors. SheaMoisture’s popularity grew through word-of-mouth, caught the attention of mass market retailers, and is now carried at Target, Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid, among others. The brand’s products have garnered more than 25 beauty awards from top publications.
DSN: What makes the brand unique and what has been key to the brand’s success?
Dennis: Our focus goes beyond beauty — to the health and wellness of our consumers, which is of great importance to us, including educating them about the benefits of the unique, natural and certified-organic ingredients we use. … Our marketing efforts have been focused on building brand loyalty through this direct customer connection. We actively engage our audience through both social media channels and grassroots marketing, and rely on the word-of-mouth recommendations of community influencers to spread the gospel about the excellence of products through consumer reviews. While we also do traditional marketing and industry seeding, we’ve found that our consumers are heavily influenced by the thriving online community of like-minded consumers and a grassroots approach with events and shows.
DSN: I understand that Sundial is taking a new general market positioning with the SheaMoisture brand. Can you elaborate?
Dennis: According to the Census Bureau, in the year ended July 31, 2011, African-Americans, Latinos and other minorities accounted for 50.4% of all births. Demographic shifts indicate that by 2040, the non-Caucasian population will equal the Caucasian population. The profile of a typical shopper will evolve in age, family size, family income and, most importantly, the nature of their unmet needs. At SheaMoisture, we refer to this emerging category as the ‘New General Market.’ Marketing to this emerging majority requires a culturally astute approach that demonstrates an understanding of each group’s unique needs, particularly in the personal care segment. Historically, multiethnic consumers have shopped local beauty supply stores, while being relegated to the ‘ethnic’ set in both drug and mass retailers for their personal care needs. However, the ‘ethnic’ set is just a small part of the spend; today the buying power and influence of the emerging multicultural and ‘ethnic’ consumer is undeniable. We take a problem/solution approach to hair and skin care; ethnicity doesn’t play into our product development, but hair and skin care needs do. Ethnic consumers are starting to see themselves and their needs represented in all channels. At SheaMoisture, we’ve embraced this new category through these key steps: understanding consumer wants, needs and drivers; listening to customer demands; and responding via one-on-one engagement.
DSN: What is important for retailers to understand about this new approach?
Dennis: It’s important to understand that consumers — regardless of skin color — require products that target specific skin and hair care solutions for their special needs, but they want flexibility and versatility in their looks and styles, especially in hair care to wear their hair natural, straight, etc. … Marketing efforts should reflect encouraging women and men to embrace their unique beauty. … Retailers also should embrace the health and wellness lifestyle shift by the New General Market consumer. African, Latino and Asian have been underserved traditionally in the mass market in terms of availability of products with natural ingredients. It’s interesting to note that Americans of color actually skew more green-minded than whites, according to Packaged Facts. These consumers are looking for products that speak to their quest for ‘green,’ therapeutic and healthy personal care products. Supporting natural product offerings with education and social engagement helps consumers understand the origin and benefits of ingredients that cater to their specific skin and hair care needs.
DSN: In what ways can Sundial help retailers effectively implement this new general market approach and be successful?
Dennis: SheaMoisture is uniquely positioned to partner with retailers on this New General Market. With a heritage built on serving and satisfying the unmet needs of consumers, SheaMoisture not only brings a loyal group of followers, but also it understands and identifies with the transcending consumer influences at play. …
DSN: What new products recently launched?
Dennis: We’ve recently launched our SheaMoisture Ammonia-free Hair Color System ‘The Art of Color,’ with 12 vibrant permanent colors and natural and certified organic ingredients. Encouraging self-expression through hair color and creatively connecting personal style with contemporary art, each color hue box features an original watercolor painting by artist Michael Jamal.
We also launched Kids’ Hair Care for curly, thick hair, including Mango & Carrots Kids Extra-Nourishing Shampoo, Mango & Carrots Kids Extra-Nourishing Conditioner, Coconut & Hibiscus Extra-Moisturizing Detangler, and Coconut & Hibiscus Kids Curling Butter Cream.
To expand on our successful Men’s Shave and Groom Collection, we launched Men’s Groom Hair Care, including Three Butters Utility Shampoo, Utility Scalp Conditioner, Styling Smoothie, Utility Gel Mousse and Styling Pomade.
We expanded our women’s hair care collection with Coconut & Hibiscus Co-Wash Cleansing Conditioner, Curl & Shine Conditioner and Curl & Shine Frizz-Free Mousse, as well as Raw Shea Transitioning Milk, Damage Repair Hair & Scalp Serum and Moisture Retention Detangler.
Lastly, we’ve launched Facial Skin Care this year, including Coconut & Hibiscus Spot Corrector Moisturizer with Songyi Mushroom, Coconut & Hibiscus Spot Correcting Serum with Songyi Mushroom, Raw Shea Butter Anti-Aging Moisturizer, African Black Soap Problem Skin Toner with Tamarind & Tea Tree Oil and African Black Soap Problem Skin Moisturizer with Tamarind & Tea Tree Oil.