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Picture this: a popular social media influencer posts a video raving about your product, mobilizing millions of their followers to begin purchasing it.
Sounds like a dream, right? Well for hair care company Mielle Organics, going viral on social media led to the perfect storm of controversy and discourse.
Mielle Organics is a popular Black-owned hair care brand that was founded in 2014 and initially made popular by the natural hair community. One Mielle product in particular, the Rosemary Mint Scalp & Hair Strengthening Oil, has increased in popularity due to TikTok.
In late 2022, popular creator Alix Earle shared the oil as one of her “Top 2022 Amazon Favorites” and TikTok users began expressing concern over their ability to find the product, the oil becoming more expensive at their local stores, and possible reformulation in thousands of comments and stitches.
Monique Rodriguez, the founder of Mielle Organics, responded to the concerns by putting out a statement ensuring customers that the company wasn’t planning to make any changes to the product.
January 3, 2023
It’s worth noting that while Earle was not the first non-Black creator to post about the oil, she has a large audience that is eager to buy what she recommends.
All of these events prompted a wider discussion about the accessibility of ethnic hair care products and who benefits most when these products go viral.
@prettycritical i think having white customers is good for black-owned businesses — just as long as they don't forget about their black customers #mielleorganics #mielleorganicsrosemarymint #rosemaryoilforhairgrowth #blackhair #blackhaircare #alixearle @MielleOrganics ♬ original sound - prettycritical
Who benefits when brands get acquired?
On January 11, it was announced Mielle Organics would be joining Proctor & Gamble with the intention to expand its product line and increase community investments. Though the acquisition should be cause for celebration, the news, and the timing of it, brought up mixed feelings for customers who have had their trust broken from similar deals in the past.
After the acquisition of Carol’s Daughter by L’Oréal USA in 2014 and Sundial Brands (Shea Moisture) by Unilever in 2017, buyers had concerns over the effectiveness of the products and felt these brands were no longer aiming to serve the initial customer base that made them popular in the first place.
These events left many customers feeling left behind when their favorite brands get acquired, causing distrust and skepticism.
The acquisition being announced while the initial discourse from TikTok was still underway led some social media users to believe the entire controversy was orchestrated by the brand (though this hasn't been confirmed).
This whole thing just feels nasty now #mielleorganics #pgbeauty #rosemarymintoil♬ original sound - Simone Umba
While we don’t know the full details of what's gone on behind the scenes, the Mielle Organics discourse highlights the growing pains companies can experience when going viral on social media, and the importance of staying connected to a brand’s current customer base while working to expand.
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