Is “Beef” Good For Business?

January 3, 2012  |  

by Cortney Cleveland

While the rest of us were battling crowds for last minute holiday gifts, some of our favorite rappers were gift-wrapping subliminal shots at their rivals. Common released a track titled “Sweet” that takes aim at rappers who sing. Days later, Nicki Minaj debuted the buzz track “Stupid Hoe” targeting unnamed promiscuous women with sub-standard intelligence.

The two fiery tracks barely made a ripple in pop culture. Common’s attacks were largely written off as the cries of a broken-heart, given gossip of singer/rapper Drake getting cozy with his ex-fling, Serena Williams. People have surmised that Nicki is beating a dead horse to death, namely Lil’ Kim’s career.

The lackluster response reflects the overall decline of beef – or rivalries – in hip-hop. The genre has played host to legendary battles. But in recent years, rappers have largely stayed to themselves. There has been a diss record here, a subliminal shot there, but nothing that has come close to the battles of yore. Since the tragic conclusion of the East Coat-West Coast feud of the 1990s, you could even say it has been discouraged. However, beef is a hip-hop tradition for a reason. Healthy competition allows rappers to generate buzz while demonstrating their lyrical prowess. As 50 Cent proves, it can even launch a career. When done correctly, beef can be good for business, any business.

Brands were beefing long before hip-hop got into the game. Competition can serve to improve a product, as is the case with the Ferrari vs. Lamborghini rivalry. Ferrucchio Lamborghini was a successful tractor engineer who enjoyed cruising in Ferraris, but felt the cars had design issues that his tractor expertise could remedy. Lamborghini once claimed that Ferrari (the man) told him he would never be able to handle a Ferrari (the car) properly. That was before Lamborghini produced cars that many consider comparable, if not better than Ferrari’s, initiating an over 50-year rivalry.

Microsoft and Apple started as a partnership, when Apple licensed parts of its user interface to Microsoft so Microsoft could build software for the Mac. The relationship soured in 1988 when Apple filed a lawsuit that accused Microsoft of borrowing its interface to develop Windows. Though the two companies are not direct competitors, they offer alternative views of the direction of technology that has generated excitement in their industry for decades.

Direct competitors PepsiCo and Coca-Cola leverage their product’s similarities to create publicity around both companies. The beverage companies have spent billions in advertising comparing the two products, climaxing in 1985 when they sent their products into space on a shuttle mission to determine which fared better in zero gravity. Coca-Cola has maintained the upper hand overall, controlling 42 percent of the US market, but PepsiCo isn’t doing badly with 29 percent.

Competition has a danger of degenerating into feuding and shady practices. Earlier this year news broke that Facebook had hired a public relations company to plant stories that painted its rival Google in an unfavorable light. Facebook’s plan to draw attention to Google’s user privacy issues, an issue Facebook has been scrutinized for as well, backfired when a journalist posted their request online.

Facebook violated the number one rule of a good rivalry – the audience’s enjoyment, not the participants’ ego, comes first. Competition at its best benefits the consumer and businesses. A healthy rivalry can drive innovation, build better relationships between consumer and brand, reinvigorate a brand to enhance appeal and is always entertaining. It the beef doesn’t meet this criteria; it is simply not worth it. That’s true for business and hip-hop.


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