Maxine’s Hot Take

For a marketing campaign to really stand out to me, it must be creative, culturally relevant and, most importantly, authentic. That’s why when I saw Dove and LinkedIn’s joint #BlackHairIsProfessional campaign hitting all three criteria, it quickly became one of my favourite marketing campaigns from the past year. 

Creativity: 

The LinkedIn campaign features side by side pictures of Black women with two different hairstyles: one that’s widely perceived as professional and one that’s not. I love how the visuals in this campaign are super simple but really land the message of the ad. 

By placing the subjects face to face with the viewer, as if they’re looking you in the eye, the ad makes the viewer feel like an interviewer with the responsibility of evaluating the competence and professionalism of the Black women in the visuals. Alongside the thought-provoking copy and stats on the ad’s right side, this sparks an opportunity for the viewer to identify and evaluate their unconscious bias around Black women’s hairstyles and how it may alter their perception of Black women in the workplace.

Authenticity: 

The true authenticity of this campaign lies with the fact that Dove isn’t paying lip service; their fight against discrimination goes much further than this set of adverts. Dove’s wider mission to end race-based hair discrimination also includes their co-founding of the CROWN Coalition movement, a co-commissioned study with LinkedIn and through providing free LinkedIn Learning courses on unconscious bias. 

The CROWN Coalition was founded to advance anti-hair discrimination legislation called The CROWN Act (standing for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair), a US law that prohibits racial discrimination based on natural textures and protective hairstyles including braids, locs, twists, and bantu knots. Explore Dove’s movement to end workplace bias here and add your signature to the CROWN Act petition here – non-US citizens can use the zip code 00000. 

For insights into Dove and LinkedIn’s CROWN 2023 Workplace study race-based hair discrimination and unconscious bias towards Black women’s hair in the workplace, click here. Finally, the LinkedIn learning courses spanning from inclusive hiring to leadership, free for any LinkedIn user, can be found here.

Cultural Relevance:

Black Hair is Professional campaign photo

Embracing your “authentic” or “whole” self at work has emerged as a key trend of corporate culture as of recently, praised by influential magazines and institutions like Harvard Business Review, Forbes and CIPD for fostering successful workplace cultures. However, for Black women, navigating this concept is much more complex. Our appearance, particularly our hair, is scrutinised in the workplace, and even policed in the US, contributing to us often feeling ‘othered’, and as a result, we often can’t show up authentically “us” in professional spaces. 

While Dove’s commitment to changing beauty standards shines through in this campaign and through their broader mission, the true impact resonates on a personal level, especially for individuals with lived experiences of the issues spoken about. For example, seeing this campaign I saw myself in this campaign and felt heard, understood and cared for. 

As a young professional of Black Caribbean and White British heritage, this campaign really resonated with me and my personal journey with my hair in the workplace. Transitioning into the corporate world brought me anxiety about my hair, especially around the uncertainty about what constitutes a “professional” hairstyle for someone that looks like me, without having to straighten it, relax it or wearing high-cost hairstyles like wigs or sew-ins. Additionally, I had many concerns about potential microaggressions, being perceived differently to my peers and unwarranted touching of my hair that I’d experienced in my prior workplaces and during my education. 

It’s both infuriating and upsetting to think that wearing my hair in its natural state or in styles rooted in my culture, may lead to me being perceived as less professional and less “job ready” than if I were to excessively manipulate and damage it into fitting what’s (still) widely perceived as professional. I’m professional regardless of my hairstyle and what’s on my head is not indicative of what goes on inside my head.

This campaign definitely helped me to feel more at ease at wearing my natural hair out and less pressured to excessively manipulate my hair in the workplace. I’ve felt comfortable experimenting with different hairstyles, and even colours, and I’m excited to continue with this in my future career. Living with an intersectional identity, it sometimes feels like you’re being attacked from all sides so the reassurance that an influential company like Dove is advocating for individuals like me is empowering. From many articles and LinkedIn posts under the #BlackHairIsProfessional, I’ve seen that many Black women resonate with this campaign similarly to myself, as well as posts from allies pledging to join the fight against workplace bias and discrimination, demonstrating the success of the campaign. 

In conclusion, Dove’s #BlackHairIsProfessional exemplifies how purpose-driven campaigns can transcend brands beyond product-focused marketing and create valuable opportunities to foster consumer affinity and develop meaningful B2C relationships. 

My personal admiration for this campaign is that it extends beyond “just” hairstyles. It reflects the wider burden placed on people of colour in the workplace where we’re pressured to suppress our culture and natural selves as a means to navigate professional spaces and protect ourselves from microaggressions.

This campaign opens up a wider conversation about the complex cultural dynamics that many, like myself, navigate in the workplace. It has effectively brought awareness to an issue that is often overlooked or unseen to those without lived experience of this form of discrimination. I foresee this campaign as a catalyst for future discussions on the challenges of being Black in the corporate world, from unconscious bias to codeswitching and other systemic inequities. Although, these conversations will be uncomfortable and addressing institutionalised racism takes considerable time, effort and resources, I’m looking forward to more brands and individuals advocating and fighting for a more inclusive workplace and beyond. 

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