Multicultural Marketing

African American Hair Care Industry Is Shifting, But Still Growing

Every so often, a niche will emerge that has unlimited marketing potential, but moderate action. The African American hair care market is one such niche product category. Despite a huge shift in African American hair care, including the Natural Hair Movement, sales of hair care products to African Americans reached $774 million in 2014, showing a 12 percent increase since 2009. Hair care remains an important part of Black female culture and, although the trends change, the market is showing no signs of slowing. It is, in fact, grossly underestimated. Here are some of the reasons as to why that is:

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African Americans Do Not Trust Big Companies With Hair Care

The past several years have shown an increase in large brands, such as Pantene, Dove, and Suave, developing products for ethnic hair including conditioning cremes, relaxers, and natural hair products. Hoping to leverage their dominance in the mainstream hair care department in an effort to extend their reach into the ethnic hair care niche, these companies have all fallen short. When it comes to caring for their hair it seems that African American's are more comfortable sticking with brands they know will deliver well, instead of branching out and trying new companies or products.

African Americans are more likely to purchase ethnic hair care products from Black owned businesses who are believed to directly understand their needs and who have been delivering reliable products for years. Which is understandable, as many of the mainstream brands cater and have only catered to easy to manage caucasian hair. Niche media groups have made it possible for small Black owned businesses to connect directly with their consumers and share personal hair care stories, which is a marketing success that has not been accomplished by bigger brands. Most of us enjoy showing off a bit when we get a really nice, new hair do or cut, and it's no surprise that one would enjoy doing so if your hair is difficult to manage. African Americans respond to this form of advertising more than big company productions, because they believe the smaller niche companies, communicating with them solely through media to be more trustworthy and reliable when they can share proven results of being able to conquer the seemingly unconquerable frizz and curls.  

Shifts in African American Hair Trends

For many years, large brands branched out into offering popular relaxer products. However, with the natural hair movement at large, a movement which encourages African American women to embrace their hair in its natural form, the market for products like relaxers utilized to change the look and texture of African American hair has faced a steep slump. With the consistent decline in relaxers and related product sales over the past decade, many large brands have pulled out of the market entirely. However, a shift away from styles involving relaxers to more natural hair has opened up an opportunity for new product lines and niche markets. Naturalistas are wary of brands that have previously sold relaxers and are checking the bottles for harsh chemicals before purchasing.

The natural hair movement has, admittedly, caused stagnation within the relaxer market, but endless opportunity exists for authentic ethnic hair care companies using safe, gentle, high quality ingredients and who are perceived as trustworthy. If anything this is a healthy option for both parties, as the focus for the consumers is to love themselves as well avoiding killing their hair by nuking their locks with a bunch of toxic chemicals. The goal of Naturalistas is to do just that, encouraging people to take care of the hair they were born with, by keeping it natural and healthy. Niche brands that understand their what their clientele are looking for are able to market hair care products that both promote hair health and are void of any ingredients that may be damaging. These are the brands that are flourishing during this hair trend movement, are part of its growth, and may overtime gain more influential power as a result of that.

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Purchasing Patterns

Traditionally, the best advertising for African American hair care products has been word of mouth. Beauty shops and beauty supply stores have historically been social places for African American women and secrets and tips were traded about products. For this reason, the African American hair care market was late to the ecommerce world. However, with the increase of YouTube video tutorials and the growing trend of DIY hair styling and care, the opportunity exists and is growing for ethnic hair care products to be sold online on a large scale. Natural hair care brands have already taken advantage of subscription model marketing plans with the advent of curlBOX, a monthly subscription box filled with products for safe for natural hair.

According to an industry report from IBISWorld the African American hair care industry is anticipated to grow at an average annual rate of almost 3 percent over the next three years. This rate of growth and the fluctuations in the market present an ideal opportunity for brands to emerge and for creative and innovative marketing campaigns to succeed within this industry.

Image source: eHowBeauty
Written by Stephanie Lindgren

Steph has a knack for video games, photography and urban exploration. She spends her free time in her apartment that smells of rich mahogany, and is filled with many leather bound books.