What Can Hip-Hop Teach Us About Branding?
I haven’t met a lot of business professionals with a strong awareness/appreciation of hip-hop music and culture. At the end of the day, hip-hop delivers a message in the same way a business delivers goods and services. As a marketing scholar and a 20-year hip-hop fanatic, I find today’s hip-hop artists to have a very high branding IQ.
Branding is the act of using any combination of the following tools to establish a significant and differentiated presence in the market that attracts and retains loyal customers:
Name– One of the easiest ways for any person or business to stand out is to come up with a name that is unique and memorable. Sean Combs entered the music industry as Puff Daddy in 1997, and has since changed his name to Puffy, P. Diddy, Diddy, and back to Puff Daddy again.
Logo– Graphic marks, emblems, or symbols promote instant public recognition. Known for its backwards E in the middle, Eminem’s logo is clever and catchy, just like his lyrics.
Slogan– Hip-Hop’s equivalent to short and striking memorable phrases are called “ad libs”, which are things that rappers say spontaneously on several different songs. Chief Keef’s “Bang Bang” or 2 Chainz’ “True” have become a part of everyday lingo in hip hop culture.
Color & Font Styles– If you saw a McDonald’s sign that was blue and white instead of red and yellow, you would immediately think that something was wrong. Color and font consistency also play a role in branding. The Game uses the same font and a red, white, and black color scheme on everything that has his name on it.
Mascots– A fictitious personification of a person or a company, mascots are great for brand recognition because they never get old and they never get in trouble with the law. Young Jeezy’s Snowman is a great mascot for the gangster rapper and is featured on T-Shirts and medallions.
Jingles– Extremely powerful if done correctly, jingles relate a person or business to a particular song or sound. Just as Intel’s 5 tone jingle resonates in the tech world, Jadakiss’ laugh is infamous among members of hip-hop culture.
While old school hip-hop artists only needed good lyrics and a nice beat, artists today must have more flair. They must be a brand and a business, delivering lyrics in iconic and electrifying ways. It’s no surprise that some of today’s artists have incorporated branding fundamentals to better compete for a loyal fan base. All artists mentioned in this post have made millions without a massive marketing budget, so if nothing else, they can teach us how to brand in the most natural and simplistic way.