Pdiddy Builds Hip-Hop Database Through Web, Wireless

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While many hip-hop followers are consumed with Sean "Pdiddy" Combs, his companies are building a database of hip-hop consumers through wireless and Internet tactics.


The New York-based entertainer's Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment has collected 400,000 consumer names. The database comprises consumers of Combs' music from the Bad Boy Family label and the Sean John clothing line.


"We want to have an ongoing dialogue with our consumers," said Jameel Spencer, president and partner of Blue Flame Marketing and Advertising, a Combs agency that handles marketing. "We want to learn more about them so that we can use them for research, polls and surveys, and also provide a voice for them which they've not had."


Many of Bad Boy's names come from hookt.com, a site that sells the Sean John apparel, and Bad Boy fan sites dream.com and badboyonline.com. Offline, events and participation in sweepstakes by CD buyers also contribute to the database.


Wireless text messaging plays a big role, too. Visitors to badboyonline.com, for example, are asked to sign up for two-way alert pager messages at pdiddy@2wayalert.com. That notice is the first thing that pops up on the site's home page.


Two-way pagers, Palm Pilots and cell phones account for 150,000 of the names collected. The messages are sent, say, on the night before a concert, the launch of a new Bad Boy album from a signed-on artist or new Sean John products and offers.


"The urban marketplace is a very strong wireless marketplace," Spencer said. "People are very into two-way pagers and handhelds and messaging devices. We were probably one of the first to use that medium."


Bad Boy in October will launch a site at www.pdiddy.com. The site currently has a placeholder page with links to www.amazon.com.


Even here, the company misses no opportunity to expand its list. Visitors are asked to enter their name and e-mail address for updates on pdiddy.com's launch and related products.


Spencer is aware that many marketers are eyeing this steady building of a database in this niche market.


"We also want to put our lists on the market," he said, "but it's such a sweet spot for us, we're not really ready to share that right now with the rest of the world. But ... going forward we'll be selling our subscription list."


In a way, the urban marketplace that Bad Boy targets often is a victim of stereotype.


"They think of people being black or Hispanic in community," Spencer said, "and what we found is that up to 60 percent of them are non-minority. And then we also found that white people are young and cutting-edge with their approach to life. They may be a little more long-term and safe with their investments."


One way of changing this perception is through Blue Flame. Founded by Combs and Spencer two years ago, the agency helps market brands oriented toward the urban marketplace.


A full-service shop offering research, planning, strategy, creative, product placement, online marketing and events, Blue Flame began as a marketing tool for Bad Boy. Now, it boasts clients like Bentley, Foot Locker, Sony Pictures, Hewlett-Packard Co., Bacardi USA and Pepsi. Billings last year were $8 million.


Most recently, Blue Flame was named agency of record for the 3-year-old Sean John Clothing Co. It will handle media planning and buying, creative, print, online and outdoor. A special holiday celebrity fundraising event is planned as well.


Obviously, a key task for Blue Flame is to promote Combs' latest album, "We Invented the Remix." It does not help that Bad Boy's previous album, "The Saga Continues [Explicit Lyrics]" was panned in an Amazon review as "nondescript."


"The loss of key franchise players over the years to death, departure, religious conversion and prison means Combs and his label will themselves need an equally drastic turnaround to scale their previous heights," Amazon editor Del F. Cowie said.


So for all their advances, Bad Boy's companies constantly have to deal with the notoriety associated with Combs. But Spencer takes issue with the ink generated over such controversies.


"I think they see the success, but the problem is that it's not transferred," Spencer said. "They're not willing to connect the dots to give credit to the business prowess of the whole enterprise."


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