Hollywood Marketers Flip the Script to Reach African-American Consumers in Salons and Barbershops

Why studios should do more out-of-home marketing to reach black audiences.

Americans spend around 21% of their time pursuing out-of-home activities, and yet marketers still allocate just 9% of their media spend to out-of-home advertising. This has to change if studios want to drive more ticket sales in today’s hyper-competitive market, especially among African-American consumers. The case for reaching these consumers in urban salons and barbershops has been in plain sight, yet it has continued to be a blind spot for most entertainment media planners.

Out-of-home marketing offers incredible opportunities to reach African-American consumers in places they already go. During their out-of-home hours, African-Americans, like most Americans, are going to church, volunteering, shopping, going to the movies, enjoying time with friends and family, relaxing at restaurants and, yes, grooming at the beauty salon or barber shop. These are all opportunities to meet a consumer where they are in more authentic ways.

Black consumers offer one of the most reliable sources for future growth of the entertainment industry. To reach them, authenticity is key. This is partly because historically, entertainment brand strategists failed to create unique campaigns to reach African-American consumers, even though they are a segment of the population that is voracious about consuming media and are also seen as societal trend-setters in fashion, movies, television and music. Instead, advertisers tended to extend existing general market campaigns to make them “more black,” resulting in self-conscious advertising that failed to connect and sometimes even risked brand reputation with the audience they were trying to reach.

On the flip side, African-American audiences reward cultural relevance—advertising that truly resonates with black culture—with loyalty and support. And, unlike many entertainment consumers, African-Americans are adamantly vocal about media they like and will even go to see movies they like multiple times—especially if they can support black content creators, actors, and black culture by doing so.

Reaching African-American consumers out-of-home and in places they feel comfortable enables entertainment brands to play off of activities their audiences are already engaged in. For instance, weekly visits to the beauty salon or barbershop are second only to church in importance to black men and women, because they represent more than just a place to recharge and attend to personal care.

African-American salons and barbershops are a sacred space where men and women can go to connect with others in their communities and exchange ideas about news, politics, health, and entertainment. They are also an incredible touchpoint for marketers to reach this segment with OOH campaigns, if they are executed authentically.

One approach is to leverage black salon and barbershop owners and hairdressers as brand ambassadors, because they are natural gate-keepers and trend-setters in this captive environment. Providing them with custom pieces like movie soundtracks, posters, t-shirts and other branded merchandise relevant to your project will enable them to actively champion your film, television show or album to a captive audience that already knows and trusts them.

Out of home campaigns executed in spaces such as this do more than just reach individuals that happen to be there. They also incite those individuals to evangelize, whipping up excitement within the exact demographic you want to reach. Not to mention all of the “free” advertising you will get from unleashing these new brand ambassadors onto city streets all over the country wearing your branded t-shirts or baseball caps and carrying branded tote bags, coffee mugs and other swag.

Compare this approach to an ad campaign that may or may miss the cultural mark, and it’s easy to see why it’s time to flip the script and dedicate a larger portion of your consumer spend to authentically executed, highly targeted, out-of-home African-American outreach.

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