Embracing Natural Curls: The Rise of the Natural Hair Market

Over 60% of the population has curly hair, but not everyone loves their curly locks. Cultural norms in the U.S. tend to equate attractiveness and professionalism with straightened hair, while natural coils are often stigmatized as too ethnic and unprofessional. There is a hierarchy of hair texture, with straight hair sitting at the apex. Consequently, this creates pressure for one to conform to land their dream job and live an ideal lifestyle. But the tide is turning, particularly among Black women tired of subjecting themselves to harsh chemical relaxers that have long been associated with increased risks for diseases, prompting a rise in products catering to their natural hair needs.

In general, however, consumers are becoming more aware of the chemicals used in common beauty products and asking more questions. They are reading ingredient lists and scouring product reviews to educate themselves, and many are pivoting to clean and inclusive brands due to what they learn.

Legislatively, the CROWN Act (Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair), now legal in 24 states, prohibits employers, labor unions, and employment agencies from discriminating against any employee “on the basis of hair texture or protective hairstyle associated with race.”

People feel more empowered now than ever to embrace their authentic selves, including their natural, curly hair in all its glory. As demand soars, more CPG brands should take note, research, and engage with this emerging market.

In this episode of The New Mainstream podcast, Stephanie LaFlora, Co-Founder and CEO of Crownhunt shares insight into the natural hair market and how brands targeting black and brown consumers need to show up.

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Recopilación de datos en Investigación de Mercado: Un Dilema Crucial

En los primeros años de la investigación en línea, los precios de la recopilación de datos eran elevados. Sin embargo, en los últimos años, los precios han caído en picada debido al aumento de la competencia y la aparición de mercados especializados.

Desde una perspectiva empresarial, la disminución de los precios de la recopilación de datos puede parecer una ventaja para las empresas de investigación de mercado y las grandes marcas que buscan reducir sus costos. Pero es una espada de doble filo. La aparición de nuevas tecnologías como la inteligencia artificial puede acelerar la caída de los precios de la recopilación de datos, pero aumenta la posibilidad de fraude.

Costo vs. Precio de las Herramientas de Recopilación de Datos

El costo de llevar a cabo una encuesta en línea incluye diversos factores, como recursos humanos para contratar y gestionar al personal que opera las herramientas de recopilación de datos y extrae sus conclusiones, costos fijos y, lo más importante, incentivos para los participantes. El tamaño y la complejidad de los proyectos también afectan a los precios, al igual que el método de recopilación de datos. Entonces, ¿cómo puede la industria de la investigación de mercado lidiar con la presión de reducir los costos en el entorno actual sin afectar negativamente la calidad de los datos?

Quizás sea cuestión de perspectiva. Muchos investigadores están considerando invertir en tecnologías emergentes como la inteligencia artificial debido a las eficiencias potenciales. A medida que los modelos de lenguaje aprenden a diseñar cuestionarios y programar encuestas, los investigadores pueden producir encuestas en línea sin errores más rápido y a costos más bajos, lo que podría mejorar la satisfacción del cliente. Si bien algunos empleos pueden eliminarse, la adopción de la inteligencia artificial podría abrir oportunidades para el desarrollo de habilidades dentro de la organización.

Por otro lado, es poco probable que los incentivos disminuyan aún más y son esenciales para la investigación de mercado. Si bien algunos argumentan que demasiada incentivación puede sesgar las respuestas, es importante recordar que estas personas están dedicando su valioso tiempo a completar encuestas que a menudo llevan más de 20 minutos. Es justo compensarlos por su tiempo y esfuerzo. Los incentivos bien diseñados pueden atraer a un grupo diverso y representativo de panelistas, lo que puede mejorar la calidad y confiabilidad de los datos de la encuesta.

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Data Collection Prices in Market Research: A Crucial Dilemma

In the early years of online research, data collection prices were high. However, in recent years, prices have plummeted due to increased competition and the emergence of specialized marketplaces.

From a business perspective, the decline in data collection prices may seem like an advantage for market research companies and big brands looking to reduce their costs. But it is a double-edged sword. The emergence of new technologies like artificial intelligence may accelerate the decline in data collection prices but increases the possibility of fraud.

Cost vs. Price of Data Collection Tools

The cost of conducting an online survey includes various factors, such as human resources to hire and manage the staff to operate the data collection tools and mine its insights, fixed costs, and most importantly, incentives for participants. The size and complexity of projects also impact pricing, as does the data collection method. So, how can the market research industry deal with the pressure to reduce costs in the current environment without negatively impacting data quality?

Perhaps it’s a matter of perspective. Many researchers are considering investing in emerging technologies like artificial intelligence because of the potential efficiencies. As language models learn how to design questionnaires and program surveys, researchers can produce error-free online surveys faster at lower costs, which could improve client satisfaction. While some jobs may be eliminated, adopting AI could open up opportunities for upskilling within the organization.

Incentives, on the other hand, are not likely to reduce further and are essential to market research. While some argue that too much incentivization can bias responses, it is important to remember that these individuals are dedicating their valuable time to complete surveys that often take more than 20 minutes. It is only fair to compensate them for their time and effort. Well-designed incentives can attract a diverse and representative group of panelists, which can improve the quality and reliability of survey data.


Researchers should keep an open mind to the changes in the market research industry and play an active role in shaping its future. Just as the Model T revolutionized manufacturing, AI will play a pivotal role in transforming our work environments. Innovation frequently drives down the costs of goods and services while compelling us to explore new avenues for profitability and value creation. However, AI cannot replace human experience, and incentivizing participants remains a necessary investment that the industry cannot afford to forgo in the pursuit of cost savings. Ultimately, the decline in data collection prices will remain a concern for the market research industry, but it is also an opportunity to develop new and innovative ways to conduct research.

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SBA 8(a) Program Now Requires Individual Social Disadvantage Narrative

The Small Business Administration (SBA) recently made significant changes to the requirements for establishing socially disadvantaged status in the 8(a) Business Development Program. The SBA 8(a) program, which has been in operation since 1978, provides participating small businesses with training, technical assistance, and contracting opportunities through set-aside and sole-source awards. The recent changes to the program were prompted by a July 2023 court ruling that found that the SBA's previous practice of presuming social disadvantage for certain racial and ethnic groups was unconstitutional.

The case that prompted the change stems from a lawsuit filed by Ultima, a small business government contractor based in Tennessee owned by a non-Hispanic White woman ineligible for 8(a) contracts. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee ruled in her favor and overturned the SBA’s use of presumed racial and ethnic disadvantage to qualify applicants. The opinion relies partly on the Supreme Court's recent ruling striking down affirmative action in college admissions.

The new requirements mandate all 8(a) participants whose eligibility would have relied upon the presumption of social disadvantage due to their belonging to historically marginalized groups to submit a narrative about their personal social disadvantages. The narrative should explain how the individual has experienced significant obstacles to success in business, education, or employment due to their race, ethnicity, gender, or other factors.

Impact of Changes to the SBA 8(a) Program

The changes to the 8(a) program's social disadvantage requirements are a significant development for small businesses seeking to participate and, for some, a barrier. It will be interesting to see how this change affects interest in the program and federal contracting, which is already perceived as challenging by small businesses.

New 8(a) applications have been temporarily suspended while the SBA reviews the new requirements. Businesses in the program are urged to prepare a social disadvantage narrative to remain eligible for future awards.

Here are some of the elements required for the social disadvantage narrative:

  • Must be completed by each principal of the business
  • Should be specific and provide concrete examples of how the individual has experienced social disadvantage
  • Incidents cited must have had a negative effect on the individual’s business, employment or educational prospects
  • Incidents of bias must have occurred in the United States

What’s Next?

In our increasingly multicultural society, we must ensure that socially and economically disadvantaged businesses have a fair shot at winning federal procurement contracts and that the process to do so remains accessible to all. This is essential to leveling the playing field and creating a more equitable economy.

The SBA has been a crucial partner to small businesses in their efforts to compete and grow. That commitment was reiterated recently by SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman who said, “…the SBA and Biden-Harris Administration remain committed to supporting this crucial program and the small business owners who have helped drive America’s strong economic growth.”

We hope the SBA reopens the registration process soon so that the program's benefits continue to be extended to those who have faced significant obstacles due to their race, ethnicity, gender, or other factors.

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How Market Research Can Help Brands Connect with Black Consumers

Mainstream media often focuses on the economic and racial disparities that plague Black communities, and brands misunderstand and misrepresent Black Americans in advertising. Despite this, Black Americans are a resilient consumer group with $1.6 trillion in purchasing power and undeniable influence on American culture.

But reducing Black Americans to their economic potential is a disservice to their value as people. Because they speak English and have acculturated in many ways to various circumstances, often to access better opportunities or for safety, there is a tendency to roll them into the mainstream instead of seeing them as a unique demographic with their own set of values, experiences and behaviors. And even within the Black population, it’s important to note that Black consumers in the U.S. are not a monolith. Like Hispanics and Asians, Black Americans are diverse — from skin tones to language, culture rules to mores. One in 10 Black consumers living in the U.S. is foreign-born, bringing with them the cultural nuances of their countries of origin.

The diversity of Black American sub-cultures makes it essential for marketers to close the gap of misunderstanding about the Black consumer collective through market research and insights.

In this episode of The New Mainstream podcast, Pepper Miller, president and senior analyst at Hunter-Miller Group, returns to the podcast to discuss the importance of market research in understanding underrepresented consumer segments and her new book, “Let Me Explain Black, Again.”

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How DEI Helps Companies Build Early Career Talent Pipelines and Strengthen Employer Brands

The workforce is evolving, and with it, expectations of companies to be more inclusive in their hiring and retention practices. Younger generations, particularly Gen Z, are entering the workforce with a strong sense of self-confidence and a clear idea of what they want in a work experience. They are willing to pass on a job, even if it pays well, if it does not align with their values or create a supportive work environment.

So how do companies compete for talent? Post-pandemic, many attempted to attract younger demographics by dismantling their cubicles and building open workspaces with pool tables. Then the pandemic shifted how we work. Offices were shuttered, and employees worked from home, creating the “work from anywhere” culture many companies now find contentious. Gen Z, on the other hand, has fully embraced it and seeks to align with companies that value work/life balance and offer opportunities for growth and development.

But job candidates don’t just want employers to dismantle their cubicles. They expect companies to aid in the dismantling of systemic racism and other pressing issues plaguing society, like climate change. Developing an employer brand that appeals to Gen Z requires a visible and vocal commitment in these areas. With seasoned workers aging out of the workforce, taking their institutional knowledge with them, the balance of power has shifted to young job candidates, making those commitments essential.

Gen Z is the first multicultural majority generation in U.S. history. They are tomorrow’s leaders, and the onus is on employers today to create an early career talent pipeline to replace outgoing talent.

That won’t be easy, especially for companies unwilling to evolve with culture. In the past, the employer sat in the seat of power, and now it’s the candidate, and they aren’t asking about pool tables. They want to hear about the companies’ DEI goals and progress, employee resource groups (ERGs) and the annual DEI report. Failing to make this information accessible could jeopardize the employer brand.

In this episode of The New Mainstream podcast, Henal Majethia, Diversity Recruiting Manager, University Relations at Eastman, discusses the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in building healthy early career talent pipelines and strengthening the employer brand.

Meet Menal Majethia

Menal (“hen-null”) Majethia began her career after graduating from the University of Tennessee at Amazon Fulfillment, supporting Operations, Supply Chain, and Distribution, and later launching the Operations University Recruiting initiatives for the East Coast. In this role, Henal supported US and CA hiring goals and was able to spearhead the HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) and HSI (Hispanic-Serving Institutions) recruiting presence. She was exposed to DEI during this tenure. Upon completing graduate school at Northeastern University, Henal joined Eastman, where she continues leveraging her skills in early career talent and DEI in her current role.

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Inclusive Beauty: Navigating Consumer Diversity and Shifting Preferences

The beauty industry has transformed in recent years driven by consumer demands for products that align with their cultural values and personal beliefs. While the top cosmetic brands continue to be L’Oreal and Estee Lauder, they are being challenged by younger, edgier brands like Selena Gomez’s Rare Beauty, Rihanna’s Fenty and e.l.f. Cosmetics. Consumer opinion, however, is not homogeneous. There are significant differences in preferences based on ethnicity, age, income and gender. ThinkNow uncovered some of those differences in our recent Inclusive Beauty Report based on a nationally representative online survey of 2,800 respondents.

Download the full results of the survey here.

The Rise of Conscious Consumerism

The era of conscious consumerism has brought about a major shift in the beauty industry. Increasingly, consumers seek products that align with their values, whether minimizing harm to animals, supporting sustainable practices, or promoting inclusivity. This has led to a growing demand for cosmetics and beauty products that are cruelty-free, meaning they are not tested on animals and that are considered inclusive.

Interestingly, while nearly half of cosmetic consumers want cruelty-free brands, 88% of them are still not cruelty-free. However, the fastest growing brands like e.l.f. and Rare Beauty are both cruelty-free and vegan. Legacy companies that want to compete in today’s market are being pushed to adopt these practices in their formulations and testing processes.

Cultural Insights and Multicultural Consumer Preferences

While the market as-a-whole is trending towards conscious consumerism, there are significant multicultural differences. For example, the demand for all-vegan cosmetics appears to be driven by non-Hispanic White consumers.

Additionally, since non-Hispanic Whites are, on average, ten years older than multicultural Americans, 42% of them choose brands based on how they address age-related needs vs. 30% of Hispanics who value age-related needs. Asians value products that offer solutions for different skin tones (37%) vs products that are endorsed by celebrities (15%) while Black and non-Hispanic White consumers are more likely to value brands that have a variety of price points. Understanding and addressing these specific preferences, as supported by cultural consumer insights, is crucial for building a loyal customer base.

Age and Income Drive Preferences

One might assume that younger consumers would be most interested in conscious consumerism. Gen Z however, is much less likely to seek out vegan cosmetic brands (19%) than Millennials (33%) or Gen X (31%). Gen X is more likely to seek out organic/natural ingredients (41%) than the 36% average for other age groups.

Income, however, is one of the factors that most affect cosmetic product preferences. For example, those earning more than $80K a year are significantly more likely to choose brands that are cruelty-free (53%) and vegan (42%) than those earning less than $40K annually (39%) and 21%), respectively. This insight-driven approach doesn't just enhance product offerings; it also builds trust and loyalty among diverse consumer groups.

The Impact of Inclusive Beauty

The beauty industry's shift towards cruelty-free, vegan, and inclusive beauty products aligns with trends observed in multicultural consumer insights. Younger generations are the most statistically diverse in history and wield the power to affect change. They are communicating their expectations to brands or starting their own and challenging heteronormative stereotypes of “beauty.” Companies willing to adapt to these culture shifts will stay relevant as consumer tastes change and contribute to a more compassionate and diverse world.

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