Wil Shelton of WilPower Integrated Marketing

Bringing Brands and the African American Culture Together

Wil Shelton of WilPower Integrated Marketing runs a successful marketing agency that harnesses the power of word of mouth in the African American market through a network of salons and barbershops nationwide, giving clients the ability to reach multicultural customers.

What should we know about Wil?

Prior to starting his company, Wil was a salon owner and hairstylist who saw an untapped opportunity in a space where word-of-mouth is a daily occurrence and consumers are both captive and receptive to input.  Salons and barbershops are special places within the community where clients talk and share information.  Today, Wil boasts a vast network of more than 100,000 African-American salons and barbershops nationwide, giving his clients the ability to reach 100 million consumers annually.  He works with leading brands like AT&T, Universal Pictures, ABC television, Fox Network, NBCUniversal, Lionsgate and more.

How are brands using WilPower’s network of salons and barbershops?

Each campaign is created to be culturally relevant to the brand.  For example, when Fox launched “Empire,” WilPower created branded items and posters for the salons and barbershops. For TNT’s show “Claws” they had advance screenings of the show in salons with food and giveaways provided.  When AT&T wanted to reach African American millennials, a Codes of Culture campaign was created around the distinct culture of each area code, with a social media strategy utilizing memes for different area codes, culminating in millions of posts about AT&T.

Who do WilPower campaigns target?

WilPower has segmented demographics for various audiences and also reaches out to the Hispanic community.  When asked to target women for televisions shows or albums, they can deliver that female customer efficiently.

How are salons fairing in COVID-19 times?

Salons were hit very hard and have been struggling to stay afloat.  Wil’s company encouraged them to restructure.  Some salons began to sell products online.

In wanting to use correct terminology when speaking about the African American market, what terms should we be using?

Wil says that terminology is changing fast but the two things that stand out are not using the word “urban” and capitalizing Black when referring to the African American market.  And Black and African American are interchangeable terms.  The term urban has held back some of the community and pigeon-holed them.  This year the Recording Academy, the GRAMMYs and record labels are discontinuing the use of “urban.”

In talking to brands, what type of advice does Wil give them for standing in solidarity with racial equality?

Wil says they must make sure their “stance lines up with their stats.” Authenticity, prior record, and future commitment are going to be the determination of brand’s real support.

Resources and Links

WilPower Integrated Marketing website

Wil’s Blog: The Next Cut – Connecting entertainment brands with African American consumers through their unique relationship with the urban salon experience

Wil Shelton on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/wil-shelton-25520b18/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/WLpower