By: Shea Lenniger, Contributing Writer for The Hair Society
“I’m not only the Hair Club president…I’m also a client.”
Those words became the iconic tagline of the Hair Club’s television commercials, bringing in over 10,000 phone calls after just the first month of airing. It’s all thanks to the creative and innovative mind behind the company, Sy Sperling. As a hair wearer himself, the various contemporary marketing techniques Sperling used to recreate the reputation and language surrounding hair replacement granted him a huge success in the industry.
So how did he do it? Sperling shares his secrets about his humble beginnings, clever marketing tactics, and the huge payoff that comes with truly understanding your client’s needs and wants.
The Psychology Behind Branding
Developing your brand voice and identity is crucial for clients to know what to expect from you. Besides the design aspect of branding, there’s an important psychological aspect to it as well. The more you can tap into that, the greater ability you will have to attract and connect to your clients. Even just the reasoning behind just the name “Hair Club” shows you why it was so desirable. His simple invitation to “join the club” created a unique desire for customers to want to feel included in this exclusive group.
In addition to the enticing name, Sperling explained that the experience that he offered also differed greatly from a normal hair salon. The program began as a shop in a strip mall but soon moved to a private room for consultations, marked only by a discreet HCM sign on the door. Sperling was aware of clients’ hesitation and insecurity when going into a consultation about their hair loss, so he eased their anxieties by giving each customer a more private and individualized experience. Yet another perk of being in “the club.”
Advertising Keys to Success
When it comes to advertising, it’s imperative to understand your audience and know how to effectively reach your target market. In his first advertisement ever for the company, Sperling created a print ad depicting a character named John. A successful writer, a black belt in karate and a swinging bachelor, John found success in all aspects of his life. How? Hair Club took care of all of his grooming needs, making him more confident in himself and therefore more attractive to others. With such a relatable ad posted in the Sunday magazine section of the New York times, Sperling received 300 calls on that ad alone, bringing in approximately 200 grand in sales.
He tapped into a few aspects that make marketing successful. One, the ad used a relatable character with desirable traits. Therefore, the customer who relates to John feels a desire to live a life like John. The key to getting there is by joining the Hair Club. So many men suffer from hair thinning or loss and are willing to invest in a valuable solution, therefore Hair Club is the way to go. It seems simple enough, but it had the right message geared towards the right market that was previously lacking any option like this. Sperling’s Hair Club concept filled that hole in the market.
Understanding the Customer
Though it sounds like Sperling was successful overnight, he assured that success takes time. “You know, when I went into the business, I wasn’t a hairstylist. I didn’t know the first thing about the hair business. I was a client, so I had to learn the hard way through a myriad of mistakes along the way.” But, as we know, understanding and evolving from mistakes is often the best way to learn and grow.
Since Sperling was a customer himself, he could understand the reasoning and purpose behind what his company provided, but he wanted more input from his client base. At first, he had trouble understanding the real psychology behind it all. Therefore, he spent time talking one on one to clients about their thoughts and concerns with hair systems. What kind of changes would they want to see? What would they do differently if they could? What’s missing? All this input from real customers helped Sperling develop and further the Hair Club branding and services.
The Hair Club president saw the most success with creating focus groups and urged that modern-day companies do the same. He would run his new ideas by small groups of participants with thinning hair and test commercials in different markets to see which ones resonated best. As he wisely stated, “The client is the genius.” They’re the ones who come up with great ideas. If you want to market properly to the client, you have to provide them with what they’re lacking and understand if what they want is feasible.
The Power of Celebrity – Not Just a Present Day Instagram Strategy
Using the power of celebrity influence isn’t only a modern-day technique. Though it seems like seeing the Kardashians sell weight-loss teas on their Instagram’s is a relatively recent marketing strategy, Sperling experimented with something similar in the early days of the Hair Club.
A Famous NBA player was a Hair Club customer. Sperling recalls “He played in the NBA playoffs with a Hair Club system and looked great doing it.” The Player even recommended at least 30 people to the club just by word of mouth. So with his strong marketing mind, Sperling knew that getting well known public figures to endorse his product would bring him even more business.
The Hair Club president was on the right track. Despite helping many celebrities with hair systems, they often refused to go on TV and do a testimonial – until Ron Bloomberg. The New York Yankees player agreed to let Sperling create a PR event broadcasting him getting his hair done at the Hair Club. After inviting almost every TV station to run a story about Bloomberg getting his hair done, the story ended up on the whole back page of the Daily News. That event alone brought in about half a million in sales from only a $6,000 investment. Sperling attributes most of his success to the baseball player saying, “I was nobody until Ron Bloomberg.”
Proper marketing is all about being innovative and not following the pack. “Even today, just really good, terrific advertising that’s believable is the way to go,” Sperling continues, “Upgrade it, make it more innovative, more direct.”
There you have it. Taking time to understand your client base, knowing how to fill their needs and correctly market to them are major keys to branding and business success. While the power of celebrity influence is also beneficial, you want to make sure that at the end of the day your product is providing something true and honest to ensure the happiness of your customers. Believe in your product, market it effectively, and make your customers satisfied.