Hollywood Taps the Marketing Power of the Original Social Influencers: African-American Barbers

When black men go to barbershops to catch up on sports, news, gossip, and entertainment, black barbers are leading the conversations.

In the late 19th-century, America’s black barbers moved away from working exclusively for wealthy, white clients and began serving their own communities. Since then, African-American barbershops have represented a safe haven where black men can relax and speak freely about the latest news and trends.

That unique environment is one reason why LeBron James chose a barbershop for his HBO series, The Shop, in which athletes and entertainers come together to dialogue candidly. It’s also why Hollywood studios are taking black barbers seriously as micro-influencers among African-American men.

As Cedric the Entertainer’s character Eddie says in the infamous movie Barbershop, “In my day, a barber was a counselor. He was a fashion expert. A style-coach. Pimp. Just a general all-around hustler!”

It has been shown that authenticity is a key value shared by African-American consumers. 7 in 10 African-Americans say their ethnicity is a significant part of their identity compared to less than half while just 48% of other ethnicities, and cultural pride plays a significant role in African-American purchasing decisions.

Brands that want to connect with this consumer must show that they understand and support the African-American culture. Engaging through barbers who are trusted representatives of the culture can help entertainment brands break into those organic conversations and activate their brands in a space where consumers are already receptive.

Urban barbershop marketing doesn’t stop at the door, either. That’s because the communication skill sets of black barbers seamlessly transfers online where they play digital hosts to thousands of followers on social media channels such as Instagram. Hollywood studios and global entertainment brands should be eager to partner with them to reach this large following of highly engaged and loyal fans.

As Eddie says later in the film Barbershop, “This is the barbershop! The place where a black man means something. Cornerstone of the neighborhood. Our own country club!”

Brands that want to tap into that experience to reach an audience that spends nearly $3.1 billion on leisure-time activities will need to get through the gate-keepers. As most African-American man already know, you need a good barber, and you better treat him (or her) like the OG he is.

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