All Articles Tagged "brand"
Misogynist rap lyrics are nothing new. But last week Rick Ross discovered the suggestion that he spike a woman’s champagne before having sex with her without her knowledge was a step too far. After radio stations banned his song, the rapper took to airwaves to plead his case.
The rapper’s apology wasn’t enough for some. (It was pretty terrible.) Protest group UltraViolet delivered 72,000-plus signatures to Reebok’s flagship store demanding they back away from their endorsement deal with Ross. The brand, who Ross name-dropped just a few beats before the lyrics in question, has remained silent on the issue. But, should brands be called in to play the role of morality police, making sure the artists who make their products cool stay on their best behavior?
Rewarding & Punishing Bad Behavior
Brands have distanced themselves from artists for bad behavior or questionable values before. T.I. lost his deal with Axe body spray after going to jail for violating probation in 2010. Chris Brown was dropped from Doublemint after his infamous Grammy night brawl with Rihanna. Pepsi cut ties with Madonna and later Ludacris when they didn’t agree with the images portrayed in their music.
When brands align themselves with artists like Rick Ross, they know what they’re getting themselves into. Ross made himself rich masquerading as a drug lord with murderous tendencies. Ross’ lyrics are horrible, but Reebok would come off a little hypocritical asking their “gangster” spokesperson to tone it down. (“We like you coke dangerous, but not date rape dangerous.”)
Companies, especially juggernauts like Reebok, don’t choose brand ambassadors haphazardly. They strategically choose public personas whose images are in line with their brand, and the lifestyle they want to sell.
Why Do Good Brands Like Bad Boys?
Cortez Bryant, co-founder of management firm handling Lil Wayne, a rapper who has also come under scrutiny for his lyrics, says that companies are willing to take a risk on artists who capture the attention of their target demographics, even when their track record is questionable. “You know, in the previous years we’ve had hard times, but people ‘get it’ for [his] brand,” he said of Wayne’s partnership with Mountain Dew. “It just seemed like where they were going with their brand, which is all about diversity and crossing barriers, is the same place we want to go.”
Would companies like Reebok dropping artists like Rick Ross make other artists rethink their lyrical content? Maybe. Hitting a person in their wallet is usually an effective way to get them to change their ways. But, at the end of the day, it isn’t Reebok’s job to change Ross.
Supplying The Demand
If Ross is selling a lifestyle the Reebok consumer wants to attain, the brand has a successful partnership. Unless their alliance with the rapper impacts their relationships with their other customers, say active women, the brand has no reason to walk away from him. Let’s be real. Ross’ controversy, like countless other rap lyric scandals will most likely fade from the news cycle, his fan base unbothered. If Reebok did drop his contract, he’d just find another brand to align with.
Brands can’t be relied on to influence artists. The more effective approach for those looking to curtail offensive messages against women may be to look at why personas like Ross and the lifestyle of drug-fueled chauvinistic fantasies he promotes are so attractive to some consumers. After all, brands and enterprising artists like Ross will always and only align themselves with what sells.
C. Cleveland covers professional development topics and entrepreneurial rebels who blaze their own career paths. She explores these stories and more on The Red Read, Twitter (@CleveInTheCity) and Facebook (/MyReadIsRed).
Social media is expanding with millions of people worldwide interacting before, during and after work. While social media is an extraordinary communications’ tool, employers can’t help but wonder what employees are discussing on social media during work hours—and even when they’re off the clock.
It’s important that employees understand the impact they have on your brand, as well as their personal brand, when socializing online. The ramifications can be costly, resulting in job loss, forced resignations and legal action.
Black Enterprise offers seven tips to help you and your company create a social media policy that will make it clear to staffers what is and isn’t appropriate for social media as it relates to your brand. To learn more, click here.
After months of waiting, Beyoncé’s documentary, Beyoncé: Life Is But A Dream, is finally premiering tonight on HBO. Oh, and Oprah threw the fans and stans an even bigger bone when she revealed last weekend that she would be interviewing Bey and it would also air tonight, an hour before the documentary. That’s pretty much Bey overload, right? Well, here’s the thing: because we know that “Beyoncé” is a brand and a bit of a machine, there have been some things that she’s managed to avoid talking about. But tonight, we want answers! Even if you aren’t a big fan, you’ve probably heard some things about her that have piqued your interest and you’d like to hear what she has to say too. So check out some of the things we’re hoping Bey addresses – if the interview and documentary are no holds barred.
Once upon a time (today included), there was a Queen Bey who reigned unchallenged over every facet of the pop star kingdom. Her unparalleled commitment to outperforming the lesser royals allowed her to outshine them all. Except in one dark area. Being larger than life alienated her from the masses.
Always looking to improve, Queen Bey set her sights on the Web. Other starlets had used social media to their advantage. Surely the Queen could as well. She launched a website! And a Tumblr! Sprinkling out glimpses of her life for the masses to consume, artistic candid photos and handwritten open letters to those that inspired her. Everyone ate it up… for the most part. Some complained. The Queen was showing more of herself, but she wasn’t really telling us anything about who she was.
Bolstered by the delight of fans or the criticism of detractors, Queen Bey decided to take her online presence a step further. She launched The Beyhive blog on Tuesday. She billed it as “my way of showing all the inspiring things I come across every single day… through my eyes.”
Here’s Where the Fairy Tale Gets Real…
Beyoncé’s latest endeavor satisfies the minimum qualifications to be called a blog. The Beyhive is “a frequent, chronological publication of personal thoughts and Web links” (Marketing Terms). The blog features: photo links to the star’s latest cultural and artistic finds, a collection of the notes she writes to newsmakers (previously found in the News section), street style photographed by her stylist, and an archive of fan art. All listed in chronological order.
It’s cute. But she could have just made a Pinterest board.
Let’s look at what other celebrities are doing with lifestyle blogs:
- Goop, launched by Knowles-Carter clique member Gwyneth Paltrow, features interviews as well as editorial heavy features on products, destinations, recipes, and more.
- Little Monsters, the brainchild of the only other performer allowed to make eye contact with the Queen, Lady Gaga, is a full-fledged social network for fans of the provocateur.
- Life & Times, spearheaded by husband to Beyoncé’, Jay-Z, is a full-scale online publication that runs branded video, op-eds, and accompanies all its images with at least a paragraph of text.
Cosmetic company Lip Addyct has just signed Lisa Wu to create her own signature lipstick line, Chameleon by Lisa Wu. You might remember Wu from Real Housewives of Atlanta seasons one and two in which may have been a hot mess (like most reality TV celebs), but she made a name for herself in the process.
Also among many reality TV stars, there’s a limit to the a limit to fame they achieve. To most it would seem Lisa Wu’s brand has cooled off.
According to a press release, Lip Addyct founder, Adrienne Owens, is a fan of Wu’s and approached her with the opportunity. “Lisa embodies what I believe our ‘Addycts’ are – intelligent, beautiful women of elegance and sophistication,” says Owens in the press statement. “She’s a go-getter and, like myself, a mother who continues to press forward and achieves the goals she’s set for herself.”
Adds Wu in the release, ”I chose Chameleon to symbolize the innate capability women have to gracefully transition from one role in their lives to another. With Chameleon by Lisa Wu, they’ll be able to wear my lipstick colors to reflect those various roles.”
With Wu’s popularity waning, she doesn’t seem a likely choice for a product spokesperson. Maybe Lip Addyct is counting on Wu’s blossoming acting career to be successful, thus upping Wu’s stock. Wu will appear in the Charles S. Dutton-directed Must Be the Music, whose cast also includes Black Thought (of The Roots), Tasha Smith, and Meek Mills; First Impression with Lamman Rucker and Elise Neal; and The Internship, starring Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, and Owen Wilson. So there are some pretty big names in there.
When still married to football player Ed Hartwell, Wu had several businesses with him, including a real estate firm called Hartwell and Associates, a jewelry line called Wu Girls, a T-shirt line called Hart 2 Hart Clothing, a women’s clothing line called Closet Freaks, and a baby clothing line called Hart 2 Hart Baby.
But things went downhill. “Lisa and Ed Hartwell borrowed $2.9 million to buy their suburban Atlanta mansion in June 2007. Just more than two years later, Bank of America paid $1.9 million for the house at a foreclosure sale at the Forsyth County, Ga., courthouse, after the Hartwells defaulted on their adjustable-rate mortgage from the bank,” reports website Richest Net Worth. The Hartwells divorced in 2011. Wu was previously married to singer Keith Sweat. Richest Net Worth estimates Wu’s net worth is just about $100,000.
The deal with Lip Addyct will certain boost Wu’s bottom line, but will Wu do the same for them?
There was a time when stars were more like the celestial bodies they are named for, mysterious and unattainable. Prince’s two-syllable interview non-responses and the mystery hands covering Janet’s breasts on Rolling Stone (that turned out to be her secret husband) come to mind. The most dynamic cultural icons kept you wanting more by staying slightly out of reach.
Cue the internet age. Fans are now privy to the most miniscule details of their favorite celebrity’s life. What they ate for breakfast and what kind of toothbrush they used afterwards is just a click away. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
To be fair, the internet has made everyone more open. It demands that we continuously generate content for one another. Celebrities are not immune to the new kind of intimacy and community social media creates.
A New Kind of Star
Making stars used to be the job of an exclusive group of gatekeepers. Editors, studio heads, label executives and the like engineered what the story of the day or the phenomenon of the summer would be. That system has been blown to smithereens.
Well-established stars scoffed at Facebook and Twitter at first. Then they realized cat videos and GIFs were stealing their spotlight, and suddenly became keen to open up.
“Celebrity” has been democratized with the public setting the news cycle. Anyone can be one. If you can connect with people and keep them interested, you can build a career, whether your medium is video or 140 characters or less. Regular folks are using techniques previously reserved for the old guard of gatekeepers to promote themselves. A well-placed piece of news and a devout following birth a star.
Playing the Online Fame Game
Rihanna, named the top Social Networking Superstar by Forbes, and Chris Brown crooned that their tumultuous love affair was “Nobody’s Business” on her recent album. Days after its release, intimate photos of the pair were posted on their respective Instagram accounts. Both of which have millions of followers.
It’s a contradiction many stars play out (hello Robert). They want a personal life, but like many social media users, they can’t seem to keep anything to themselves. The ones that do are criticized for not giving fans enough. The once private Beyoncé has made a foray into social media. Yet she’s still met with cries for more personal footage.
Going offline is not an option for the new generation of celebrity. Forums, blogs, and overzealous fans work around the clock to predict and perpetuate gossip. Social media gives stars an avenue to take control and elevate the conversation above the salacious. The trouble is many of them have no clue how to do that.
New Game, Old Tricks
To be a new age phenomenon, social media is based on old school principles. It’s about forging personal connections. Whether they’re on the playground or tweeting to millions, it is up to the individual to decide how to connect with another person. Gossip and private matters grab attention, but there are other things to talk about.
Some stars on catching on. Tracee Ellis Ross and Angela Simmons have launched websites based on their lifestyle interests. Starlet Jurnee Smollett uses her Twitter feed to bring attention to social issues.
Social media has created an audience that recognizes its power and wants to engage everything on a deeper level. Many in the public eye are still learning that a deeper level doesn’t always equal the tawdry or inane details of their private business. Forbes breaks it down like this:
We’re looking for celebrities who will acknowledge their dependence on us and their engagement with us. We want celebrities in fact who will admit that they are like us and… will also show us how they are different, bolder, more outspoken, funnier but not distant.”
Social media shrinks the distance between the stars and the rest of us, but we still want them to shine a little brighter.
It’s been 18 months since The Oprah Winfrey Show left the air. Ms. Winfrey has kept herself busy managing a magazine, an XM radio channel, a television channel, and an online presence that includes a content channel on The Huffington Post. Despite all of this, the New York Times recently questioned whether the era of Oprah has come to an end.
The absence of daily face time with her millions of fans has impacted Winfrey’s brand in ways even she didn’t anticipate. Her magazine and website experienced a decline in revenue and sales. Her television network’s rough start is well documented.
If anyone else’s name were attached to these projects they would still be deemed a success. But high expectations are a common side effect of greatness. Lady O doesn’t seem to be checking for her critics’ opinions anymore. Instead she is setting her sights on expanding her audience to include a younger demographic.
Can Oprah Be Hip?
Oprah is influential, but she stopped being cool in the 90s. The median age for an O magazine reader is 49. But Ms. Winfrey thinks she has something to offer younger generations. At her magazine’s annual conference, she said she would like to attract women “in their 30s or perhaps their 20s, to be able to reach people when they are looking to fulfill their destiny.” She added, “By the time you’re 40, 42, you should have kind of figured it out already.”
Oprah has made it clear that she won’t stray from her message of “living your best life.” Rightfully so, it is clearly her passion and has become a primary part of her brand along with interviewing the most noteworthy names in pop culture. Oprah seems to be hitting her stride in adapting the latter to new platforms. Appearances by gossip blog favorites Evelyn Lozada and Maia Campbell on self-help guru Iyanla Vanzant’s show, Fix My Life, hint that she is working out how to use one of her trademarks to boost the popularity of the other.
Spirituality For a New Age
Oprah was originally criticized for her New Age spirituality that didn’t identify with a set religion. But the inclusive nature of her faith is the perfect fit for younger audiences. A recent study found that 72 percent of millennials, the generation between 18 and 30 years old, say they are more spiritual than religious.
Despite not identifying with a religion, or maybe because of it, young people crave spiritual direction. Holistic lifestyle topics like wellness, spirituality, and healthy living are becoming increasingly mainstream. Oprah was already covering these topics on her show. She continues to use platforms like OWN to bring spiritual advisors of all kinds to a mass audience. Now is the perfect time for Winfrey to lead this conversation for a new generation.
An Army For Oprah
At 58, Oprah can’t speak the language of millennials, but she can empower people who do. I want Oprah to be satisfied with hanging out with Tyler Perry on the weekends and leave him out of her business. His 12-hour block on TBS is more than sufficient. OWN and her bevy of multimedia channels needs to empower a new generation of spiritual ambassadors that promote her message.
An army of young, diverse men and women empowering other young people to live their best life is a powerful image. In exchange for Oprah’s stamp of approval, this band of brand ambassadors will bring a much-needed hipness to the Oprah brand and bring fresh content and followings to her other platforms. This strategy is nothing new to Oprah. She’s producing most of daytime television (Dr. Phil, Rachel Ray, and Dr. Oz) using the same formula.
Taking shots at Oprah has become a popular pastime but it’s silly to bet against her at this stage in the game. Her public journey to reshape her career shows us all how success happens. Most of the time you’re not a hit straight out the gate. Greatness requires a never-ending process of trial and error that constantly reevaluates and recalibrates your efforts.
The woman credited with getting Middle America to vote for our nation’s first Black president does not have the option of sitting around twiddling her thumbs. It would be irresponsible for her and her influence to sit at home and count coins. Dreams are easier than ever to achieve, and we need someone to remind us of this. If anyone is up for the job, it’s Ms. Winfrey.
Along with a Kids ´N Comedy show and a Long Island Farm and Spirits Tour, you can buy tickets to see Keyshia Cole at the Best Buy Theater in New York on the LivingSocial website. The package is going for just $59 and you get a general admittance ticket, Skip-the-Line Entry, coat check voucher and a drink voucher. The show will happen on November 19. You have two days to get yours.
It sounds odd to us for a singer of Cole’s caliber to be offering a special ticket package online. To be fair, today the deals site features packages to attend the UR1 Fest in Miami, which will have acts including Kanye West, Keane, and Lenny Kravitz. For $499, you get a two-day pass (December 8 and 9), access to the media rooms where the acts are interviewed, money for souvenirs, prime seats, and an open bar. A weekend like this is usually reserved for someone with bucks to toss around. At $500, this is a mega discount, but it’s still not something that’s so cheap it loses the vibe of exclusivity.
Cole may be banking that her new CD Woman to Woman does better than her last, Calling All Hearts, which had low sales. After all, getting butts in the seats and records out the door is the larger goal. But doing ticket promotions like this one could damage her brand. Such a move (at such a price) gives the impression that concert sales (and interest in seeing her live) have bottomed out.
On the other hand, there are lots of people who want to see her on TV. The songstress has become a successful reality show celeb, with her BET program, Keyshia & Daniel: Family First, scoring big ratings for the network. The show has redefined Cole’s brand, giving her an “I’m just like you” air. But to sell tickets and CDs, she needs celebrity appeal. The deal works against that. And as evidenced by our recent slideshow, it’s important that modern divas have a strong brand, which becomes a calling card for fans and staying power at a time when many famous people are just a flash in the pan.
During her career, Cole has released four top-ten albums, had three number-one singles, and garnered four Grammy nominations. She is a successful woman, and the people doing her marketing need to perpetuate that image, not one of a singer desperately seeking sales.
Women rule pop music. They hold the top spots for digital downloads, money earned and albums sold. For the most part, the female dynamos dominating the music scene manage to coexist without stepping on each other’s toes. Each has a unique brand that allows them stay in their own lane.
This is why so much emphasis is placed on branding. In a crowded market, your brand sets you apart and allows you to attract an audience, even when other brands offer a similar product.
Developing your brand is as simple as embracing who you are and allowing your identity to influence how you do business. Here are a few concepts to help you articulate your brand:
- Mission – What do you do? What is your purpose?
- Offer – What are you selling?
- Relevance – How do you meet your audience’s needs?
- Values – What’s your personality? What is important to your brand?
Let’s look at how today’s reigning divas epitomize their brands. Which diva best matches your personal brand?
Rihanna – The Vamp
Mission: Rihanna’s image has morphed through many phases since “Umbrella” launched the star into the pop stratosphere. In recent years, Rihanna has settled on being pop culture’s symbol of youth and sexuality. An unrelenting stream of singles and gossip ensure the singer’s flirtatious presence is constant.
Offer: A good time, and all the mistakes that come with it.
- Stay on trend. Rihanna molds her style and sound to mimic the pulse of pop culture.
- Stay on the scene. Rihanna doesn’t give her audience a chance to miss her. She constantly releases music, and her life provides endless fodder for entertainment outlets.
- Remove your filter. Rihanna’s potty mouth, suggestive lyrics, and unbridled sex appeal create an image of youthful rebellion her audience loves.
Values: unapologetic, open, risqué, trendy, fun
Nicki Minaj is a star, whether you want to admit it or not. More than that, she is on the brink of ascending to new heights of celebrity. Television is the platform that will cement her “Icon of the Moment” status. An E! three-episode series, Nicki Minaj: My Truth will debut on Sunday, November 4 at 10:30 pm, preceding her debut as a judge on American Idol next year.
Her endorsements with Pepsi and Adidas, and the product deals with MAC and Elizabeth Arden fragrance are cute. But, her foray into television is a different ballgame. After being declared the clear winner in female rap, Minaj is working on pulling ahead of the pop star pack.
The next level of stardom for Nicki – true mainstream success, where parents and grandparents know your name – will require the star to face her most common criticism.
Minaj bristles at the mention of the dividing line between rap and pop in her image. She told Vibe magazine when promoting Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, “I cannot break my album down into how the normal person like yourself would break an album down and say, well this is rap and this is pop. There is no rap or pop for me. It’s Nicki Minaj. It’s one collective body of amazing work.”
But, her collective body of work debunks her point. Both of Minaj’s album releases can be divided into separate rap and pop discs, and have been criticized for “exploring her musical identity… rather than perfecting one.” She even employs a two-face strategy to music videos, releasing them in pop- and rap-themed pairs.
Minaj’s decision to embrace her inner theater geek and follow the larger than life path Gaga paved has paid off for her. But, the wigs, makeup, outfits, and personalities could also be her undoing. To those who aren’t firmly in her fan base, and some who are, she can come off as a screaming wall of color. She makes an entertaining spectacle, but is hard to connect with.
For all the personalities in Minaj’s arsenal, we have yet to be introduced to the one that really matters. Even her fans debate her true identity. Is she “old Nicki,” the mixtape diva whose return was called for before her debut album could settle on the charts, or the opportunistic pop princess that rose out of a Taylor Swift co-sign? Minaj has gotten away with being two stars at once. But, creating a brand with universal appeal requires a cohesive image.
The hallmark of an American icon is having something real – whether it is a captivating story or sheer talent – that fans from all walks of life can connect to. Minaj’s decision to invite E! cameras into her life and set up shop in America’s living rooms every week is a sign that she is ready to forge that connection. The only question is, which Barbie will we get? It’s time for the real Nicki Minaj to stand up.
Her performance on E! and American Idol will give a hint of who Minaj wants us to believe she is. She may opt to appeal to a broader audience and risk alienating her hip hop base beyond repair. Her on-set feud with fellow Idol judge Mariah Carey shows Minaj brought Queens with her, but too much attitude could alienate the parents of the kids who love her.
Minaj has another option, one that she rarely manages sonically. She could find a balance between her two sides, and meld them together into some type of the-hood-meets-Candyland concoction that leaves everyone craving more.
Whatever direction she chooses, Minaj’s next moves will be among the most important she has made. Watching her find herself should make for good television. Her performance will be an important determinate of how much longer we’ll be seeing her around.