Category Archives: Trends

It’s Not Selling Out, It’s Ca$hing In

Hip hop is far from the first culture to be infiltrated and subsequently mined for profit by corporations, but the trends, rhythms, fashions, and lifestyle of hip hop has global effect, from suburbanites in the Valley to hustlers in Brooklyn to cab drivers in Africa.

With a global audience, it was only a matter of time before corporations reached out to hip hop to validate their image.  To this end, corporate America has met with unparalleled success, securing rap godfather KRS-ONE and all-around mogul Jay-Z as two of their biggest spokesmen:

KRS-ONE Interview: Rap Merges with Major Brands

Jay-Z Co-Brand Director of Budweiser Select

As more hip-hop celebrities become spokespeople for brands, we see a dovetail with earlier trends (reference “Remix!”) and the artists’ answer to recording studios’ new 360 degree contracts.  As individual album sales may drop due to open source technologies, artists both become and represent brands.

Artists can certainly profit in this manner, but is this trend (a) good for the culture the artists propagate and/or (b) a risky attempt to trade on “street cred” for major companies?

Perhaps some other dons of hip hop, the Wu-Tang Clan, have the answer embedded in the lyrics to their banger “Protect Ya Neck”:

First of all, who’s your A&R
A mountain climber who plays an electric guitar?
But he don’t know the meaning of dope
When he’s lookin for a suit and tie rap
that’s cleaner than a bar of soap
And I’m the dirtiest thing in sight…

REFLECTIONS

1. When worlds collide (e.g. hip hop culture and corporate America) in pursuit of a common goal (profit), at what point is the relationship between credibility and profit no longer linear and exponential?

2. How can businesses draw on the talents and experiences of artists to profit in a respectful and reciprocal manner?

ACTION

Keep it Real.

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The Honor System

According to the 2007 white paper “What’s Next?” published by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) in Colorado Springs, CO, only 8% of responding professionals believed “Ethical Decision Making” was an essential leadership skill of the future. And yet, several visionaries, from Radiohead to restaurant entrepreneurs, are making headlines by betting on personal ethics, creating systems in which consumers determine the value of the good or service purchased.

For specific examples, check out the following websites:

Radiohead Bypasses Labels/Piracy, Trusts Consumers

One World Everybody Eats

Terra Bite Lounge

Is such a social experiment profitable? To see the results of one such endeavor, read the following excerpt from the 2005 book Freakonomics, profiled in the New York Times: Bagel Man\’s Honor System

REFLECTIONS:

1. Are such seemingly extreme examples utopian and easily dismissible? Allow yourself to imagine a world that operated on the Honor System. What would it look like? What would be your role? The role of your company?

2. At their core, all human interactions–business, social, or personal–revolve around relationships. As social creatures, human beings form friendships, select partners, and do businesses with individuals whom we trust. What is your business doing to inspire trust in its consumer base? What more can you do?

3. Do most businesses treat customers as cohorts or culprits? What effect does this have on consumer psyche? On profit margins? How does your business treat customers?

ACTION: Consider the reciprocal implications of businesses actively demonstrating trust in their consumer base.

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