B2B Marketing Tips from Rap Stars - Part II

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Mike Volpe
Mike Volpe



As a follow-up to my article and rappers and the insights they can provide to B2B marketing, I thought I would mention a couple other marketing tips that B2B marketers can learn from rap stars.  These were inspired by the many emails I received about the original article, so thanks for everyone who contacted me with thoughts and comments.  To see the first 4 tips, read the original article - 4 Tips on B2B Marketing from Rap Stars.

1) It's OK to appear in ads for other products/services.  Rappers are constantly promoting other products, even products not relevant to their music.  Method Man has been in a bunch of Right Guard deodorant commercials, and now Jay-Z is in a huge advertising deal with Budweiser for their new Budweiser Select beer.  While more traditional musicians usually avoid "going commercial" and being featured in advertising, most rappers embrace it.  Why?  Well, I think the answer is simple and is related to the "repetition is good" point from the original article.  The more time in front of people you can get, the more likely they are to remember you and develop an affection for you. "All PR is good PR." So, even if you are taking about the benefits of the power stripe in Right Guard deodorant, people will still see you on TV and hear your voice and will be more likely to buy your album.  And the great part about this type of advertising, is you also get paid for it.

2) It's OK to promote other products/services in your product.  This seems very similar to the last point, but read carefully, because it is a bit different.  The last point relates to the benefits of you or your company being in advertising or promotion for other products, this point relates to you actually promoting other products or services as part of your own product.  There are lots of examples of this in rap music, but perhaps the most famous one was when Busta Rhymes created the hit song "Pass the Courvoisier".  Courvoisier saw its sales increase by 4.5% initially (Q1 2002), and then even more after the song became an even bigger hit later that year.

Other examples include rappers mentioning products such as Cristal champagne, Hummer trucks, Lexus cars, Timberland boot, Bacardi rum, and Nextel cell phones.  Early growth in Cadillac Escalade sales were largely driven by its prevalence in rap music.  "Escalade" was the top mentioned brand in early 2005 on the Billboard Top 20 singles, with 41 mentions (in just 20 songs!).  Most of these types of placements started without any monetary compensation, but that is changing.  Petey Pablo in his song "Freak-a-Leek", rapped about gin in general, until he signed a deal with Seagrams, which saw sales rise 10% in urban markets after he changed the lyrics a bit.

3)  Make sure to cross promote your own products.  Not only are rappers masters at promoting other companies products, but they also cross promote their own products in thier music.  P.Diddy always taks about how he wears Sean John apparel (his line of clothing named after his legal name) and Jay-Z often raps about hanging out at the 40/40 Club (his chain of clubs/upscale sports bars, one is in New York, one is coming in Las Vegas).  Many B2B marketing professionals feel a bit queasy about cross-promoting their brand, but if you do it effectively without detracting value from the original product, rappers are proving your customers won't mind.

4) All this promotion needs to be relevant and unobtrusive.  I have now written two decent length blog articles about rappers and marketing, yet if there really was a ton of annoying ads in rap music, none of these rappers would be selling millions of records.  How do they do it?  Be relevant and unobtrusive.  When rappers mention a brand in a song, it is not an in your face promotion where the song stops and a 5 second advertisement plays before the song begins again.  Usually the brand is just mentioned in a subtle way, fitting into the flow of the lyrics and not necessarily extolling the benefits of the product in a very detailed manner.  It is almost subliminal, but that is what makes it work.  And, of course, all of the brands they mention are relevant to the audience and the brand of the rapper.  You don't hear them speaking about Depends or AARP.

For more reading, check out this great article about marketing and rap music from BusinessWeek and another article with a lot of details about some of the promotion of liquor brands in rap music.

I think this will be my last article about rappers and marketing for quite a while, so I thought I would end with one relevant quote that brings all of the marketing insights from rap music into a single sentence. As Jay-Z says in one of his songs, "I'm not a businessman; I'm a business, man." Think about it. He's right.

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