Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Commodization of Hip-Hip

I've been meaning to write this post for more than a week. I read an article about Steve Stout, the hip-hop artist Nas' former manager (fist-a-cuffs ruined that situation if I can remember correctly). It was in last week's BusinessWeek magazine.

Well he's gone on to start a very successful consulting business. He's working with top-notch companies including: Reebok, General Motors, and McDonald's to reinvent their mass appeals. He's a provocateur of what I've coined the commodization of hip-hop. He's using the appeal of urban culture to reinvent GMs image, to bring Reebok back onto the map, and to take the king of fast food up a notch.

Case 1: Reebok
I remember when Reebok seriously threatened Nike's position as the most profitable apparel company. It was on the strength of the Reebok Classic, forgot the urban coinage for these sneakers, but that was a long time ago. Reebok is a second-tier company now. Enter Steve Stout. He's convinced Reebok that their biggest marketing flaw is that they are trying to compete with Nike based on performance. Stout says give it up. It's already a lost cause perception-wise. Leave that appeal to Nike. Instead he used his good friend Sean Carter, aka hip-hop superstar and Def Jam CEO Jay-Z, to champion his new campaign to reinvent their image. Their new direction is to appeal to urban gear, which has mass crossover appeal to non-urban marketplaces.

Case 2: GM
GM's under real pressure from Toyota--as its Japanese rival is slicing market share away in leaps and bounds. It won't take long at this pace before Toyota is the number one car manufacturer in the world.

GM has taken out the boxing gloves. It sought Stout and his revolutionary advertising/consulting schema. Stout has made several clever decisions.
  1. Tiger Woods is the spokesperson for Buick. He says Woods is such a big name use him for as many of your brands as possible.

  2. A new Jay-Z blue GM Envoy for cross-over appeal

  3. The new Chevrolet Impala commercials that you've seen featuring R&B juggernaut Mary J. Blige, southern rapper T.I., and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The last option is just brilliant. It has appeals to so many different audiences. I never even thought about the Impala as being cool until I saw these commercials. I guess I'm the audience that Stout is successfully catering to.

Case 3: McDonalds
Have you seen/heard the new slogan "I'm lovin' it?" That coinage is one of Stouts ingenious consulting tips as well. He's also trying to get the workers to have more pride in their uniforms. He's pitched more urban gear, figuring most of McDonalds employees are young. The more pride they have in their appearance the better workers they will be. If they wear their uniforms outside, free advertising.

Keep up the good work! These little nuggets of information have proven extremely successful. I'm not sure if this philosophy will work long-term. So Steve cash in while you can, while urban culture and its exports are still worthy of mass appeal--and don't become oversaturated.

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