Tag Archives: nas

Why Kanye West is the ultimate Modern Marketer?

kids see ghosts

Even the cover art is causing hype. Superflat art piece by Takashi Murakami

As I am writing this, I am listening to “Kids See Ghosts”. It is a collaborative effort by Kanye West and Kid Cudi and in its short 7 song glory one of the best albums of the year. Before that Kanye West´s G.O.O.D. Music label released Pusha-T´s Daytona, album that is even better. Kanye West also has released his own solo (not too big of a fan) and there are additional two albums (from Nas and Teyana Taylor) coming in next two weeks.

We are seeing unleash of new music quite unprecedented in music history with combination of scandalous headlines. No matter what are your views about Kanye, it is very hard to dispute his mastery in creating art and also making people talk about that art.

  1. Understand the new economy

The age of traditional record industry with physical sales is over and now it is all about streaming. Kanye West´s Ye has had 180 million streams and Kanye West ties with Eminem and Beatles as an artist with eight consecutive Bilboard Number 1s. The hype machine around the five week flurry of G.O.O.D Music has been massive and they are constantly topping streaming charts. The mechanics of being popular in streaming  are fundamentally different than in physical world. You need to get people hooked immediately.

  1. Polarizing is better than boring

Supporting Trump? Using Whitney Houston´s bathroom as a cover art? Saying “slavery is a choice?” Using naked look-a-like of your wife to promote an album?

It is hard to agree or approve some of the latest moves by Kanye, but that is besides the point. He is creating news and regardless of your views about him, it is hard to not notice. For majority brands the problem is not that people are talking negative things about you. It is that no one is talking about the brand. We live in attention economy and Kanye West is the master of attention.

  1. Always-in-beta

Starting from Life of Pablo, Kanye West has reinvented the album form. Ye-album was still being tweaked right before the last minute of record listening party. Before the new album, he teased (or trolled) the audience with song “Lift Yourself” consisting of following lyrical mastery:

Poopy-di scoop





 Whoopity-scoop, whoop-poop

Poop-diddy, whoop-scoop

Poop, poop Scoop-diddy-whoop


Whoop-diddy-scoop, poop

Internet was baffled and the song was not in the actual album. With the current timespan of pop songs and Internet full of memes and weird content, Kanye is essentially acid testing different ideas that might be genius or insane. They all contribute to this attention economy that drives streams, concert ticket sales and shares. With the five albums with set release dates, they need to also be released. Art does not live in isolation without connection to the audience. Kanye and his crew are breathing “done is better than perfect” mantra of successful start-ups.

  1. Let your team shine

As one of the most well-known artists in the planet, Kanye West did not just release his own album. He orchestrated 5 weeks of the most talked about musical releases. The sequencing of the albums was brilliant. Insanely strong Pusha-T Daytona started this music unleash. He had not released album in three years so there was lots of hype and the strong quality made it talked about. Ye-album by Kanye would have been hit in any case and in fine way it set the way for Kids See Ghosts (that is objectively listening the better album). Next we will have Nas, who naturally has strong own following and huge interest with his collaboration with Kanye. Teyana Taylor is probably the least well-known of the artists so it makes sense to end with her album as everyone has been raving about the different albums for five weeks.

Kanye lends his star aura to his protégés, but at least in Pusha-T album does not take over. Good leaders are not hogging the limelight to themselves but they use their clout to put their star team members on pedestal.

  1. Reinvent the form

Lately many new albums have been too long and too boring. Culture II by Migos was 1 h 45 minutes. While it had good songs, also plenty of fillers. All of the new G.O.O.D. Music releases are only seven songs and about 20 minutes, that is less songs than in the latest magnum opus (in length, not in quality) from Chris Brown. When competitors are doing things certain way, it might sense to go opposite route. The short and condensed form is also perfect for streaming. Sometimes constraints also help to create the best art.

There are not many artists that are not only creating popular culture, but are truly shaping it. Kanye West is one of them.

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Image is Nothing, Brand Behavior is Everything

Lemon lime soft drinks weren’t supposed to succeed against colas. It just didn’t happen. But then again, hip hop wasn’t supposed to succeed against pop, but that’s exactly what Sprite did – – and that sprite campaign is sort of a metaphor for what hip hop did.
– Dan Charnas (author of The Big Payback)

Sponsorship is easy, right?

You just stamp your logo to famous musician, athlete, whatever and borrow her relevance to your boring brand. When done well, it works great. Unfortunately quite often sponsorship is quite ad-hoc (our CEO likes cricket, let´s sponsor it!) and the bigger role of brand is totally forgotten. Brands have to stand for something and believe in something. That cannot be changed quarterly.

Brands change their sponsorships too often. Last year you were about music, now you are about start-ups and next year about parkour. Because of the short tenures of CMOs, brands are struggling to keep consistency and sponsorship is definitely something that is too often just an add-on. Brands are trying to desperately collaborate with the current hot thing but at the same time forget for what they are standing for.

It makes sense to have focus on your sponsorship. Find a passion that suits your brand and then stick with it. It is better to go narrow than too wide. Instead of being about sports, be about football. Instead of being about music, be about hiphop. Be sharp. If you are everything for everyone, you are more likely nothing for a few.

And speaking of hiphop, one of the greatest examples of sponsorship has been Sprite. They have been connecting itself with hiphop for over 30 years:

That commitment to hiphop has also been something that has made business sense. In 90s Sprite was challenger brand, so it had to find its own voice in sponsorship as well. They made a bet on hiphop and that bet has paid off during those years. What is underground today, will be mainstream tomorrow.

Obey Your Thirst, which within two years doubles Sprite’s market share, and makes it the fastest growing soft drink in America, and eventually, in power of Sprite, they take away the NBA sponsorship from Coca-Cola.
Dan Charnas

Brands need to have consistent behavior, whereas tone-of-voice can vary. Sprite was a challenger brand and it collaborated with challenger musicians. It´s collaboration with hiphop went deeper than just having hiphop music on Sprite ads. They understood and respected the culture. When you have right partnerships and sponsorships they make your brand stronger. When Sprite has been moving away from hiphop, it has been a mistake. Stick to what you believe in and where you are good, instead of trying pathetically to reinvent yourself every time.

What the Obey Your Thirst campaign did for corporate America was that it proved to corporate America that, it’s okay Proctor and Gamble, it’s okay IBM, Sprite took a chance on hip hop and it’s beating everybody. It’s at that point that Sprite sets the archetype for dealing with hip hop straight on. Dealing with black culture and by extension black people straight on, rather than trying to water it down, make it slap happy, and that was sort of a feature of some “minority geared advertising” for many years. Hip hop helps to change the tone of that.
Dan Charnas

The Sprite ads were “content marketing” before that horrible term was coined. Other soda brands had hiphop artists in ads (leaning towards the pop side), Sprite let the artists shine where they were good at.

Pete Rock, CL Smooth and Grand Puba are freestyling on the studio. Funny part is that CL Smooth is dissing “commercial rappers” in commercial. Talking about meta-level:

The knowledge of hiphop roots run through the commercials, like this one which revisits one of the greatest hiphop beefs of all-time:

The consistency and commitment is also apparent with the rappers they work with. With Nas they have worked from 90s and with Drake over 5 years:

Nas & Az over Wild Style beat

Constructing Drake

The assimilation goes deeper than just ads. Sprite has held hiphop talent competitions, pressed vinyl records and now their newest campaign “Obey Your Verse” showcases hiphop verses on the Sprite cans.

The selection is a nice mixture of classic lines mixed with their current brand ambassador Drake.

Sprite connects with the passion of our their target audience in a way deeper level than many other brands. That makes sponsorship a part of brand behavior and not just an afterthought. No need to change your course annually: stick to what you believe in and roll with it.

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