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How Tangle Teezer rewrote the story on representation with Hairy Tales


By Awards Analyst | writer

October 1, 2021 | 7 min read

Don’t Cry Wolf won the Consumer Products or Services category at The Drum Awards for PR 2021 with its ‘Hairy Tales’ campaign for Tangle Teezer. Here, the team behind the winning entry reveal the behind-the-scenes secrets of this successful project...

Hairy Tales 1

Tangle Teezer wanted a campaign that would celebrate Black and afro hair and improve representation.

The challenge

For many years, hair and makeup products have tended to exclude BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) - especially Black women. There are a number of reasons to feel hopeful that progress is being made, but when legislation is needed to prohibit race-based hair discrimination - as in the US with the Crown Act - there is clearly more work to do.

Tangle Teezer briefed Don’t Cry Wolf to create an activism campaign that would celebrate Black and afro hair, engage the natural hair community and improve representation. The objectives were threefold:

  • Raise awareness of the Tangle Teezer’s unique brush ‘teeth’ which cater for all hair types in the UK and US.

  • Give Tangle Teezer an authentic reason to engage with the natural hair community.

  • Increase representation of Black and afro hair in a way that targets women of all ages.

The strategy

We first needed to understand two things: how Black women really ‘feel’ about their hair and how exactly we could make Tangle Teezer relevant to that discussion.

Our research uncovered a campaign-defining insight: the number one Google long form search query on ‘afro hair’ is in relation to self struggle. Black women feel like they have to ‘manage’ or ‘tame’ their hair and experiences of discrimation and negative stereotypes are all too common.

Analysis of Tangle Teezer’s audience on social media showed that, in comparison to its competitors, Tangle Teezer fans major heavily on books and literature: it’s the fifth most talked about topic.

Armed with these two core insights we set off to find a way of improving representation and celebrating natural hair, through the medium of books.

The majority of Tangle Teezer’s customers are women aged between 18-40, but we know that negative experiences surrounding hair start at an early age for the Black community. Therefore, for this campaign to have an impact we needed content that could target the whole family. And that meant: storytime.

Hairy Tales 2

The campaign

Our research revealed that nearly half (46%) of the Black children in the UK and a third in the US don’t see anyone who looks like them in the books they read. This isn’t surprising when you consider the facts: just 5% of the children’s books (12% in the US) published in 2019 featured ethnic minority protagonists, and only 2% feature Black heroes.

Enter #Hairytales: the book series that brings Black characters to storytime with a hairy twist on classic fairy tales. We worked directly with Black creators to bring three fairy tale heroes to life. The campaign included three key content elements:

The books: We collaborated with Kelly-Jade Nicholls, founder of Black children’s books subscription box, Woke Babies, and award-winning children’s author and former Playdays presenter, Trish Cooke. Woke Babies included the books in their subscription boxes. All proceeds from books sold on went to Pretty Brown Girl, a charity that empowers young Black and brown girls in the US.

The film: One book, ‘Zel let out your hair’ was turned into a moving animation by Don’t Cry Wolf’s production team - with up and coming Hollywood actor Lexi Underwood (from Little Fires Everywhere) providing the voice over. Lexi had her own personal story about the struggles of growing up with a lack of representation in TV and film, which provided another opportunity to speak to press and her existing fans.

Influencers: Alongside Lexi, we collaborated with almost 30 influencers across the UK and US to help tell their personal stories about growing up without seeing themselves reflected in media and literature. Content was created by the likes of the Kabs family, Leigh-Anne Pinnock (Little Mix) and Milan Marie and people loved it!

#HairyTales launched on 18th February, during US Black History Month. The theme this year was: ‘The Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity’ - the perfect news hook for our story. Meanwhile in the UK, World Book Day on 4th March gave us an additional hook for press and social media.

That’s where our influencers came in. In total, we recruited 24 US and UK-based Black and mixed race influencers to support the launch, including Leigh-Anne Pinnock from Little Mix, Jessica Plummer, Perri-Shakes Drayton and The Kabs Family. Our brave, bold influencers shared their personal experiences of hair discrimination and underrepresentation, and stressed how important it is that brands like Tangle Teezer step up and tackle important issues.

All US profits from the books went straight to Tangle Teezer’s charity partner - Pretty Brown Girl. And in the UK, Woke Babies and Tangle Teezer sent copies of the books to 61 schools in London to help boost the racial diversity of the books available to primary school children.

The results

The campaign hit our objectives and outperformed all expectations, generating over one million impressions from the influencer content and a staggering engagement rate of 12.5%. Highlights included:

  • Celebrities like Tunde Oyeneyin and Reese Witherspoon voluntarily posted after being gifted the Hairytales book set showing how much the content resonated.

  • The animation was watched 250,000+ times.

  • Over 300 pieces of quality press coverage with 60 backlinks and a reach of 255 million, including primetime broadcast appearances on ABC’s Good Morning America (the US’s biggest morning show) and BBC news. The GMA appearance drove so much traffic while it was on air (60,000+ visitors) that it broke the Woke Babies site for several minutes.

  • $20,000 was donated to Pretty Brown Girl from sales of the books and limited edition brushes.

The Hairytales now have the potential to reach millions of families. Woke Babies broke into the US market, securing a distribution deal with Nordstrom - one of the US’s top department stores. In the UK the books were so popular that they’re now available in Waterstones. All future proceeds will go to the author and Woke Babies.

This wasn’t just an activism campaign or comms project, it drove genuine organisational impact. As a direct result of this campaign Tangle Teezer:

  • Signed up to the Halo Code: a pledge to tackle hair discrimination in the workplace.

  • Published its first corporate diversity pledge - in which it acknowledged its role in an industry that has reinforced negative stereotypes and called for real and lasting change.

  • Made a commitment to ensure that 60% of all influencer partnerships are with people of colour.

  • Carried out an employee diversity survey which will be used as the basis for future recruitment and workplace policies.

This project was a winner at The Drum Awards for PR 2021. To find out which Drum Awards are currently open for entry, click here.

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