Hairnymph is inviting us all to “make a lasting impression” with their weaves and wigs. So many people including myself are saying “no thanks” and here is why. Are we ready to tear down every single norm and value we have ever held dear as a society, to make room for something else? Something different? Something all the way to the left of what we know to be sanity? Are we ready to throw caution to the wind, dismantle social constructs and orders, develop a gender-less society where any and everything goes? Will Nigerians ever be ready for this? Will I ever be ready? In a nation where there is still gender hierarchy and patriarchy reigns supreme, I would suggest that should be the least of our concerns but I digress. Let me stick with the point. But before I progress, a disclaimer.
Today’s disclaimer is that this isn’t personal. I repeat. This is NOT a personal attack. I have nothing against Bob Risky. Too many people in comment sections have made this about his sexuality and turned it into an attack on his person perhaps due to ignorance or lack of understanding. For me this is about his gender and societal norms and values. (Though I hate to say that because I honestly believe that sometimes it is necessary to think outside of the box and break the rules. However in this case I am not sure whether that applies.) It is difficult to look beyond the fact that no matter how much hair and make-up you put on him, he is still a man. A man who this hair company has used to present women with beauty standards that they must aspire to because that is what advertising really is; promoting your products or services in a way that will entice buyers. So my approach here is from a purely business perspective, using my eyes as a potential customer, based in Nigeria, and with that, I need to ask who came up with this marketing strategy please?
The whole point of advertising is to position your brand with people or celebrities whom your target market can identify with. People who your target market can see as role models. People whose lifestyles your target market would love to emulate. No woman in Nigeria is trying to look like or be like Bob Risky. Not one. Outside of skin lightening, which in itself is a phenomenon that requires a separate post, he is not any type of model. Not a supermodel. Not a role model. So on what basis do you make him a brand ambassador and the face of a beauty product targeting women? A product that is supposed to make women feel glamorous. Nigerians generally are not very tolerant and are still trying to understand who Bob Risky is so how does this make business sense? I am actually insulted and I feel ridiculed. It seems like a joke. You mean to tell me there was no woman in Nigeria that could take on that role? A move like this illustrates that the business doesn’t know its target audience. Furthermore, it doesn’t care. Even after the backlash, they have stuck to their guns and no statement has been made. Which means that they do not believe that they have any damage to control. But they have replied to every single potential customer that has asked How can I buy or How much. I guess they can do without the rest of us.
If this was toothpastenymph or any other product that doesn’t necessarily target a specific gender as their main market audience, people might still talk but I doubt I personally would care. Or if Hairnymph declared that part of their Corporate Social Responsibility is to help the LGBT (now LGBTQIA) community in Nigeria and bring awareness to their plight and then went on to build a powerful brand story / campaign around that, choosing Bob Risky as an ambassador would make a lot of sense and I would actually applaud it. Similar to when MAC Cosmetics launched an A.I.D.S campaign that featured Elton John. But as things are, I do not get it. As a woman, when I wear hair extensions I want it to look and feel beautiful and as natural as possible. Hair is often referred to as a woman’s crowning glory. It is our pride and joy whether it is growing from our scalp or it comes with a receipt. What this campaign communicates to me beyond the hair is fake and unnatural. I don’t see beauty. At least not the type that I can identify with or aspire to. I don’t see glamour. I definitely do not feel pride and joy.
One picture of Bob Risky in Hairnymph is accompanied by a caption that reads; Slay with confidence, slay with Hairnymph. Another one reads; Brand yourself as independent and fun loving with our awesome weaves. I guess that is what Bob Risky represents for the brand – confident, independent and fun loving. Maybe even fearless? But if that is the message they were looking to sell, couldn’t they reach out to one of the fun loving, fierce and fearless WOMEN, independently and confidently making strides on Social Media like @Wofaidada or @Maraji and develop a brand story around that? They seriously missed a great opportunity for a meaningful campaign on independence by way of confidence and female/self-empowerment there.
There is this misconception about so called social media influencers. Anybody with a huge following can now claim to be a social media influencer and companies especially small ones without the know-how or budget to employ experienced and knowledgeable branding and marketing strategists, will employ the services of anyone with a huge following. No thought of conducting any market research to study who they are aiming to reach and whether the person is a suitable fit. I see it all the time. Take for example the luxury hotel chain who will employ the services of some “social media influencer”, launch giveaways etc. Meanwhile the target demographic of this “influencer” consists of people who will happily collect the freebies but are too young or mainly belong to the struggling middle class and cannot afford even a bottle of water at said hotel.
Back to Hairnymph. It has been suggested that Bob Risky is a “social media influencer” and that is why he was selected. Real influencers do not just amass a following and influence you to watch them. They do not just entertain you. They spark change and influence action. In the case of a business, the action required is for people to buy into the business. Views and readership only make money for blogs and content based websites. Not for products. Products need to shift from the stock room into a customer’s hands for the business to make money. There has to be a sales transaction so why alienate your market? The fact that you as a business owner might be a fan of someone, is not enough for you to make them the face of your business.
I wish Hairnymph the best of luck and this is not to slight Osheybaddest but this was an epic fail in my opinion. The majority of the comments so far say it all. I know that MAC Cosmetics also collaborated with Caitlyn Jenner. BUT. That is in a totally different demographic with many people who actually identify and sympathise with Caitlyn. Also Caitlyn actually identifies as a woman now and is in the process of transitioning. Bob is still well “Bob” the confused man with a wig, fake lashes, make-up and heels. That is how most people see him sadly in a country that will never be as receptive to him as America was to Caitlyn. PS even in America there was an uproar when she was awarded Glamour Woman of the Year as illustrated in this “fauxtire” article from Huzlers.com.
One person in the comments defended Hairnymph by saying that they as a company understand “how to use negative publicity to drive sales”. How? Bob Risky‘s instagram following currently stands at over 260,000 people. Hairnymph first posted on the 10th of April 2017. They announced Bob Risky as brand ambassador a week ago and maintain a following of just over 2500 as at today. I sincerely hope that the Osheybaddest Crew are rushing to the website to buy instead because at the end of the day, much more than amassing a huge instagram following, that is what matters.
I guess someone on the team thought everyone is selling hair now, how do we stand out? How do we do something different? And this is the idea they came up with. All small businesses and start-ups need to understand that drawing attention to yourself also known as brand awareness is only the first step. Next step; how do you convert that attention to a customer instead of driving them away. There are many like me who had never heard about this brand before Bob Risky. Now that we have come, we have seen, we have been made very much aware of this brand, and we will hiss, jump and pass. Not because we dislike Bob Risky. But because he doesn’t represent the ideal of beauty that we aspire to or even understand. I wish them all the best of luck and look forward to seeing a progress report in a few months time. Hoping they can prove me wrong so I can stuff my face with some humble pie.
Welcome to SagaCity. A social commentary column by @wurathepenwarrior, for 9ja
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