Around April 2021, Lush Hair, a Nigerian premium hair extensions company, was thinking about how to grow public awareness of its company from 10% to about 30% before year end. In October of that same year, the company was announced as one of the official sponsors of the Heineken Lagos Fashion Week. It was the company's first rodeo on the scene, and it signed a two-year contract with the fashion week platform. This would later turn out to be one of the most impressive experiences for viewers and attendees as the company made an electrifying performance during its showcase. Lush Hair had invited the celebrity entertainer and one of its ambassadors, Denrele, who on the runway tapped into the controversy of his crossdressing aesthetics in the conservative Nigeria. “It was unexpected, but it was beautiful,” Damilola Agboola, the Assistant Brand Manager at Lush Hair Nigeria, tells BeautyMatter. “I think we trended for that entire week, and our numbers skyrocketed,” she says.
Since started in 2011, Heineken Lagos Fashion Week—founded by Omoyemi Akerele and under the housemanship of fashion production company, Style House Files—is arguably one of the most anticipated fashion events in the continent. Executed in the Federal Palace Hotel, a premium hotel situated in Victoria Island, Lagos, the annual event is the showcase of the season. It brings in loads of fashion enthusiasts, buyers, journalists, photographers, executives, and all creative lovers of African fashion and beauty.
Before Lush Hair came in as the official sponsors of the show, it was on the verge of rebranding and solely after audience awareness. The company reckoned that being a part of one of the most venerated fashion showcases, Lagos Fashion Week, was going to help them get there. At the time, the company changed its brand color from green to pink because it was being constantly mistaken for a competitor brand. “When the decision was made [in 2021] to be perceived as a premium brand, it became necessary to be in a space where we would find an audience that shared that same vision with us,” Agboola says.
After the electrifying performance on the 2021 runway, thanks to controversial Nigerian celebrities like Denrele, the annual showcases became extremely anticipated. “We checked on our sites, and saw that we began to get a lot of orders. Backstage, people came to us to tell us about how great the showcase was,” Agboola says, “and there were emails and Instagram DMs from people looking to model for us.” It was indeed an exhilarating experience, as one of the major reasons to officially sponsor the show—awareness—was being achieved.
However, Lush Hair isn’t just loved due to its performances and the quality of its products. The company's marketing stance seems to have tapped into a market that was usually ignored in Nigeria: diversity and inclusion. The beauty industry is known to have certain standards including size, shape, skin color, and even hair type. On the Lagos Fashion Week runway, Lush Hair was intentional about these things, bringing in models of all sizes, shapes, and skin colors to walk the runway. “For us, we wanted to let it sink into the minds of our consumers that we were not segregating anyone. We had a tagline called ‘Be beautiful, everyone is beautiful,’ whatever your size, tone, shape, and skin,” Agboola says.” Also, in Nigeria’s current conservative climate, it is extremely difficult to see men involved in beauty. The Lush Hair team, however, signed Denrele as an ambassador and Tosin Idowu as lead stylist, pushing the sermons of inclusivity and diversity.
This year, as designers presented their SS/24 collections on the Lagos Fashion Week runway, Lush Hair also did the same, but in a much different tone. Normally the company would work with its hair stylists to create breathtaking styles for the models who would dress in plain pink dresses, only drawing attention to the hair. However, this year the company made entire garments from its hair extensions, with attendees cheering for such innovation.
Heineken Lagos Fashion Week records an average of 4,000 guests per season, which is why Lush Hair tries to be clear in the kind of messages it sends during the execution of its marketing strategies. For example, the highest percentage of models who walk the shows are scouted by the Lush Hair team in the Lagos area and are usually new or repeat customers. This sends an exciting message of how customer-centric the company is, giving old customers a reason to continue their patronage and prospective customers a reason to be involved with the company.
Speaking of customer centrism, Lush Hair goes beyond the cameras on the runway shows and into the daily working lives of its customers with educational workshops. In doing this, the company has certain marketing assets that allow it to be in constant contact with its customers. “We do monthly trainings for the Hairstyling Associations. Last year, we took it a step further and created three other main assets, which helps our inclusivity and diversity evangelism to fly better,” Agboola shares. These three assets are the Lush Pink Belle, the Hair Stylist Hangout, and the Lush Hair Professional School.
Although the sponsorship with Lagos Fashion Week might have allowed the company the chance to connect better with its audience, Lush Hair still continues to develop other marketing strategies to help grow its business. With the Hair Stylist Hangout, each quarter the company travels between different cities in Nigeria. This year, Lush Hair visited designated places in Lagos, Oyo, and Enugu, and will visit another city in Nigeria for the final quarter of the year. “We make this a way to get their feedback, and we share what benefits we’re currently running to enable them to be in constant communication with us,” says Agboola.
For a premium hair company, sponsoring shows like this doesn’t come cheap. However, expenses are outweighed by benefits. “We were responsible for styling all the models of all showcasing designers, and we also had our own experience showroom in the event. For this year, we spent nothing less than thirty million naira ($37,000), if not more,” Agboola says. One of the ways the company raises funds is by working with distributors and subdistributors who it calls the Salon Business Partners. These partners buy packages, depending on size and content. The price range these distributors of these packages begin at five thousand naira (~$630), and up to two million naira (~$2,500), depending on package and size.
The partnership between Lush Hair and Lagos Fashion Week transcends the norm. By aligning itself with the high-stakes world of fashion, the company not only showcases its premium product, but also projects and reinforces its brand presence, as well as commitment to its customers. The company's strategic move highlights its dedication to creating a long-lasting impact and securing a position as a key player in the world of fashion and beauty in Africa. With the growth Lush Hair is seeing, these investments in terms of time and finances are clearly paying off with an increase in both customer base and awareness.
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