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Influence Peddler: Celebrity Colorist Justin Anderson on Creating Authentic Content

The Hollywood hair colorist invites his famous clients and influencers to the DP Hue House — a private bungalow-turned-salon meant to inspire Instagrams.

As a celebrity colorist, Justin Anderson has plenty of content to feed to his 80,000 Instagram followers. Known in L.A. as “the blonde guy,” Anderson regularly tones the hair of stars like Jennifer Aniston and Miley Cyrus. And now he has a new home base: DPHue House, a West Hollywood bungalow-turned-invitation-only-salon opened by the hair color and care brand, for which Anderson serves as creative director.

More of a Coachella VIP-style hangout than salon, the house serves as Anderson’s one-chair space to work on his celebrity clients and influencers. The idea is that once they’re in the house, the content will flow naturally — spurred in part by the bungalow’s hip furnishings — and DPHue will up its social media engagement organically.

Most of DP Hue’s products — the brand is distributed in Sephora, Ulta Beauty, HSN and other online retailers — are designed to extend the life of a professional color job in between salon visits. The brand’s ceo Donna Pohlad, who founded DPHue out of her own frustrations in keeping color fresh between appointments, also felt the brand could benefit from a dedicated space for creating educational content during a time of high growth. After entering Ulta last year, the six-year-old brand is up 75 percent.

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The DPHue House is a far cry from the network of professional educators that many salon brands still lean on — and that’s on purpose.

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“We want to give the consumer confidence through influencer content — one of the key [hairdresser] needs is, ‘I wish I could give my [client] more products they could bring home to keep fresh color,’” said Martin Okner, president and chief operating officer of DPHue.

“We believe in education as a marketing tool, and in influencer marketing obviously,” said Mark Ferdman, DPHue’s chief marketing officer, who joined the brand last year from Origins, where he had been vice present of global e-commerce and digital marketing. “[Hue House] is a great place to create content — we didn’t want to pay influencers, we want people who want to be here and talk about the brand. Nothing is scripted, we’re just capturing what’s going on.”

WWD caught up with Anderson at DPHue House to discuss the ups and downs of content creation, and his number-one rule: Don’t force it.

WWD: What is your goal with Hue House?

Justin Anderson: You see all these people on Instagram who are promoting product, and now it’s getting very professional. The normal person is getting really savvy to that — it doesn’t seem authentic anymore. We want to have authentic relationships — we invite influencers and my celebrity clients into the house, it’s a cool creative space and we can educate them about how to take care of their color at home with our products, and it’s an environment where they can shoot content. We’ve had Chelsea Handler come in, [and] Rita Ora, Kristin Cavallari, Leighton Meester…we get a lot of big names. The people who are really exciting for me are the people I find on social media who I gravitate towards. There are people on Instagram who I’ve loved for years who come into our space and I’m like, “Let’s hang out and see what happens.”

WWD: What is your platform of choice?

J.A.: I love Instagram. I look at it constantly — it’s become my source of entertainment. I miss the days when things weren’t so edited and contrived. I look at my peers in the hairdressing world and my feeds look constantly professional. I do a big list of names — Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Jennifer Aniston — but I never want my feeds to be those three girls over and over again. I know they get a lot of likes and people end up following those accounts, but then those people are following just for those celebrities. The more and more I talk to people in this business, it’s got to be more authentic. People are getting really picky now.

WWD: Who do you follow on social media?

J.A.: I really like to laugh. I used to follow fashion and beauty accounts on Instagram, but to be honest social media has gotten so contrived that I’ve gotten turned off of beauty influencers that I used to love. I get that people have to be paid and to sponsor things, but I gravitate towards funny people that make a joke of it — “Of course I’m getting paid, but this is great, check it out.”

WWD: What kind of hair content do your followers want to see?

J.A.: People respond really well to before and afters — on Insta Stories, you can tell people go back and forth on before and afters. Our tutorials are getting a lot of attention — silly little things you can do at home that other brands aren’t telling you, like I use our Cool Blonde conditioner mixed with Olaplex at-home treatment. It’s good if your blonde is getting dull and brassy. People respond to the fact that [I don’t] use all DPHue product, I get a lot of messages where people are like, “Oh that’s cool,” and I fight with my team all the time [about it]. As a consumer, I don’t believe everyone should be using all one brand, I’m about mixing things to get the results you really want. One woman shouldn’t have a bathroom shelf full of just one brand.

WWD: What are some challenges when it comes to content creation?

J.A.: I don’t like when people try. Like “Today we need to get this photo,” or “We have so and so walking into the house, we want to [promote this product.” I don’t play that game. I don’t want forced content, like “we need to nail this, this and this.” Because of my personal social following, the brand has gotten a lot of attention from blondes — I’ve made a name for myself in L.A. as the blonde guy. So a lot of my clients are blondes, and we’re doing a lot of blonde content right now — if you look at our numbers, it’s all about blondes and that’s the direction we’re going right now. But at some point we’ll go in a different direction. You can’t force it.

WWD: Do you get product ideas from social media?

J.A.: I do a lot of tutorials on YouTube. I have some videos with over one million views, and we’re constantly checking the comments of what people are writing. I’m constantly asking on Instagram, “What are your guys’ biggest concerns? What do you want to see?” We get a lot of feedback from that. Since we’re so small, we can take it straight to the lab and I can test out a quick little concept in the salon or on real people I see all the time. I’m at the gym every morning handing out unlabeled bottles. The other day we created this brown gloss, and this woman at the gym — it was Jason Bateman’s wife — was saying that her hair fades so [quickly], so I brought her some.

WWD: What are your favorite hair-color trends right now?

J.A.: For the longest time there was this whole thing on ombré hair. Everything was ombré. Now we’re taking a step back to all-over, even and beautiful [color]. Highlights are being done again, and bright colors — vivid bold blondes, reds and brunettes. That excites me as a colorist, that’s what we’re enhancing. Everyone wants little kid hair — that real extreme, grungy, grown-out ombré look is gone and I’m so happy. I like pretty hair that looks healthy, shiny and taken care of.