A few months ago I was to attend a wedding in Cancun Mexico with my boyfriend. A day before we left, I went to my stylist to have my hair done for the trip and took a few hair extension clip ins with me. I requested her to install the clip ins so that my hair would look a little more dramatic for the wedding. She explained to me that hair clips are for the day of wear. That they are not durable enough to be worn for multiple days and that instead I could get the same results look wise but more durability by sewing in a few tracks. A sew in? (for those of you who are lost, this is where you take purchased hair and sew it to tiny little cornrows). Of course as an adult black woman living in 2015, I know what a sew in is and have seen many of my friends wear them but me? I have way too much hair on my head to have other hair affixed to my head for longer than a day or so! But I trust my stylist when it comes to my hair, so I let her do it. We attended the wedding in Mexico and she was completely right. Those clip ins would’ve moved around, popped out, or caused me to be in super princess mode for our first afternoon of vacation (we arrived on Friday afternoon and the wedding was on Saturday.) in order to keep them looking right for the wedding. And even then it probably wouldn’t have worked. Well that was 2 months ago, and we are back from our wedding vacation but I still have these tracks sewn in! Turns out that you can wash them along with your regular hair and curl them and just incorporate them into your normal hair routine. My stylist politely told me during my last visit that it is time for me to part with my tracks, so I will during my next visit. She explained that if I wanted to do it again, I could put more in so that when styling there is less of my hair dealing with the harsh elements of the blow dryer and flat/curling irons and more of the weave shouldering the burden. That this was called a protective weave.
What does this experience have to do with Marketing?
Well first, it reinforces the need for your category and brand to have experts advocating on its behalf. Had I heard about sew in extensions? Of course. I see people with them daily. I pass by beauty supply stores with the mannequin heads showing several colors and textures of hair for sale regularly. But my attitude toward this entire category is a marketers nightmare…It’s not for me. I don’t wear hair extensions, I have enough hair and it is long enough, why would I need that? And I keep on walking. I even have a friend who started his own weave company and have been discussing the product with him for the last year or so...but it is just not for ME. Having an entity that is trusted by your target provide advocacy with authority for the category and then for the brand may be the push you need to turn non-users into users. It could also be a huge help in moving your innovation from being experienced only by the early adopters to being experienced by the masses (reference crossing the chasm). So find those super users and give them simple words to use to advocate for the brand. Find the certified experts and provide them with the proper points. This is much less sexy than advertising, and may even be a category play vs a direct brand play but the dialogue that is created when an expert advocate engages with a customer could be the last push needed to get that customer to try your category/product.
Second, it showcases that products that incorporate themselves into the consumers existing behavior have the best chance at immediate adoption. Teaching people new behaviors is NOT an easy way to get them to try something. Also by incorporating your product into the consumers existing behavior, it ultimately creates a slightly new behavior without the consumer realizing such that removing the product would make the consumer feel as if something is missing. Then they become a super user and advocate. I’ve heard women speak about taking out these sewn in tracks after a few week and months of wearing them. Feeling like after all of the time that they’ve spent combing and brushing and washing and styling this hair as if it were their own that without it something is missing. Therefore they want to sign up for the next set of tracks and so on and so forth. Ask yourself, what existing behavior are you leveraging to get your category/product integrated into the lives of your consumers? How long will they use your product? What will they miss about your product when it is no longer a part of their lives?
The hair extension category is a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide.