It’s Time for Streaming Services to Get Serious About Reaching African-American Millennial Consumers

Even during coronavirus isolation, black barber and beauty shops offer unique, creative options for marketing film, television, and music.

Fox Corporation recently launched a new streaming service called FOX Soul, which is aimed at African-American millennials. They did it for one very good reason: Black millennials spend about $7.3 billion dollars a year on streaming services. Why wouldn’t a major network want a piece of that?

To put things into perspective, millennials now make up a quarter of the American population, and 14% of millennials are African-American. Furthermore, as a Neilson report noted, African-American millennials spend about 12-and-a-half more hours per week watching video and TV streaming services than other millennials. That was 33 hours a week even BEFORE coronavirus forced most of the nation into isolation.

Sheltering-in has since caused a 60% spike in viewership habits, making this an unprecedented time for streaming services to gain and retain African-American viewers. But current circumstances also mean streaming services will have to be creative about marketing to them. One of the most unique ways is through the social media platforms of African-American salons and barbershops.

Before COVID-19, the majority of African-American millennials probably maintained weekly or bi-weekly visits the beauty salon or barbershop in their communities both to refresh their looks and to catch up on the latest in gossip, sports, politics and, of course, entertainment. Black salon or barbershop owners were a key source of information on what was worth watching on a streaming service—or which streaming service was worth watching—and they were probably streaming content on flat screens in shops while clients waited to be serviced. This made these venues a perfect place to market film, television, and music.

Those storefronts may be shuttered for the time being, but the reach and influence of black salons and barbershops has not waned. Instead, it has simply expanded in online spaces. Streaming services that want to leverage a unique approach to reaching African-Americans in a culturally relevant way can do so through the robust social media platforms of black salon and barbershop owners, where hundreds of thousands of followers are still tuning in for advice and guidance on doing their hair from home, as well as for a sense of connection to their community.

As streaming companies begin to truly understand what influences the African-American consumer, they can position themselves to gain immediate consumer acquisition. In effect, beauty and barbershop owners and patrons can serve as real-time ambassadors of streaming channels to drive sales, growth and profit.

Digital salon and barbershop campaigns are an ongoing, 24-7 approach that streaming services can use to connect authentically with African-American audiences, and they are elevated by the implicit recommendation of the salon or barbershop owners, who are seen as trendsetters in their communities and micro-influencers online.

So, how does a streaming service go about activating its brand on these platforms?

It starts with creativity. Providing salon and barbershop owners with promotional codes they can blast out on social media to drive trial. Additionally, they can produce customized, branded swag such as posters, t-shirts, and other promotional collateral to drive, tune-in, and build awareness about a streaming project to spark conversation and excitement among customers through giveaways and contests. But the experience shouldn’t end there.

Streaming services and global entertainment brands can also generate excitement by creating competitive activations between urban shops in different area codes and even different markets. For instance, you might challenge salons and barbershops to outdo each other by offering incentives for the most social media engagement for your show and watch their Instagram or Twitter light up.

Ever since Americans first stayed home to help curb the spread of COVID-19, businesses have been trying to figure out new ways to capture attention—and dollars—online. The field is as crowded as it will ever be. However, urban black salon and barbershop owners have been experts in this space for decades, and they are not starting from scratch. The sheer number of their loyal followers is staggering, and their ability to capture and keep their fans attention is a hard-won skill that few others have.

With that in mind, it’s easy to see why entertainment brands are investing marketing dollars in digital salons and barbershop activations as a trusted and cost-effective way to launch, analyze, assess, revise, and continuously market brands to African-American consumers.

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