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5 essential digital marketing lessons from hip-hop’s finest

Hate’m or love’em, today’s hip-hop superstars are the marketing Dons on top. Some call them lyrical faux-gangsters because they sing rather than sling. Some call them smart American entrepreneurs that came up from the roughest neighborhoods to succeed on Main Street. The one thing you have to agree on: if you don’t listen to the streets, you might be missing out on some important digital marketing and branding lessons that all marketers can follow.  

1. Drake: #Yolo your way to the top with a smart hash tag

Rapper Drake, one of the fastest growing brands in a new era of Hip-Hop, started from the bottom, well almost the bottom. Either way the Canadian born star came from humble beginnings to a lead role on a public TV show ‘Degrassi,’ to the top of the music charts. More importantly, he was able to establish a brand for himself through social media by using a single hash tag ‘#YOLO’ (You Only Live Once).  The popular hash tag phrase became a statement that inspired its followers to take chances and follow their dreams and aspirations.

2. Jay-Z’s: Build a digital umbrella brand using icons with raving fans

Aside from the meteoric rise from street drug dealer to a major music mogul, producer, and global entrepreneur, Jay-Z is known for creating the “diamond” icon, which represents Roc-A-Fella records, his label. Whenever you go to a Jay-Z concert, Beyoncé’ or anyone under his label (which includes Rihanna, Kanye, and many others), you will see folks flashing the iconic ‘triangular hand sign’ that symbolizes their ‘belonging’.

3. Rick Ross: If you mention a desirable brand’s name enough, they will let you use it even if no money exchanges hands to build your brand.

Rick Ross, the Miami-based Rapper, has a very tough exterior. But also a promoter’s brain to boot. Using ‘Maybach,’ the iconic luxury German car’s name to create a likeness to his own brand, Rick Ross has established a luxury brand all of his own.  Listen closely to every song under his label and you will hear ‘Maybach Music’ pronounced by a sultry lady singer. This common form of advertising is called “piggy backing,” where one brand uses another more popular brand to leverage its own.

4. Kanye West’s: Be evocative. Be provocative. Be consistent: Haters fuel engagement.

Kanye West proceeds to define his artistic brand around ‘provocative’ statements that always capture the attention of the press. He engages social media to make you cringe, and creates X-rated music videos that are banned from YouTube only to be replicated on other sites, increasing his press coverage. If you hate him or his music, he gets more fans, clicks and downloads.

5. P-Diddy’s: You don’t have to belong to a club. Create your own club.

One of the best in the game. Two decades after P-Diddy showed up on the scene, he continues to make a name for himself with his own apparel, fragrances and vodka brands. Ciroq continues to make a name as a high-end vodka evoking images of Frank Sinatra and other prominent celebrities. Moreover, who could have imagined that P-Diddy would be selling the new Italian Fiats as a ‘luxury sell’ to the masses?

In summary, what do all of these individuals have in common? Each has his own, very unique insignia. Whether it’s a provocative persona, unique phrase or iconic gesture, one thing is for sure: they all have serious marketing swag.

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