Are Brands Ready For A Hip-Hop Future?

For years, brands and hip-hop artists have come together on a variety of levels. Whether it’s unintentional or the result of a carefully planned marketing campaign, brands have benefitted from the hip-hop culture for years. For as long as we can remember, certain artists were associated with certain products and brands. There have been many relationships and collaborations that worked and others that didn’t. As Advertising Week moves forward, the panels and workshops continue to shed light on a variety of topics. Tuma Basa, Shana Barry, Ethiopia Habtermariam, and Sacha Jenkins sat down with Andre Torres to discuss the evolution of hip-hop and the genre’s relationship with brands.

It’s no secret that hip-hop has been an important catalyst for a lot of style trends and marketing campaigns. Some brands do it right while others completely miss the mark. Creating a genuine brand x artist/celeb collaboration is very important to the success of the marketing campaign. Ingenuine partnerships are all too common and consumers are quick to call the brand on the BS. Trying to tap an artist and their movement because it’s “what’s poppin'” is not always the smart marketing thing to do. Not only will consumer Bullsh*t meters go off but the campaign will most likely be an unsuccessful situation.


“An ingenuine brand collab can result in a waste of marketing dollars.” – Shana Barry

Hip Hop is a lifestyle and culture all its own. Artists have their own sense of style before coming in and will display that style whether the brand is backing them or not. There are many brand collaborations that developed because of an artist’s love for a particular product or clothing. Lil Yachty and Nautica linked up because he had a genuine love for the brand. He spent a lot of time looking for vintage pieces and when Nautica found out, the collaboration was born. The brand can bring its products to Yachty’s fan base which could result in increased sales. If brands learn about the artists and their natural interests, it makes it easier to link up with ambassadors or influencers that can dictate the trends in the culture.

There was a time that brands would not want to involve themselves with certain artists or genres of music. Hip Hop was definitely one of them. Now that the genre is evolving and literally becoming the culture, brands are motivated to become more educated and aware of what’s really happening past the “mainstream”. They are putting their ears to the streets so that they can get their marketing and messaging in order. Artists, especially Hip-Hop artists, are going to wear what they want whether the brands want them to wear it or not. If the brands were smart, they would make an effort to get acquainted with the artists and their stories so that they could fully benefit from the value of the artist. Some get it, some don’t.


“Artists can educate the brands on styling and design to attract their fan base demographic.”

One of the brand marketing Cinderella stories is the relationship between rapper Cardi B and brands. There was a time when she would buy certain brand products and they didn’t even want her wearing them. They were not “seeding” her their gear and she was purchasing them because she liked them. Now, brands are pulling her left and right to wear their stuff because they realize her influence on the culture and her fan base. Now, big-name designers like Christian Siriano and Helmut Lang are dressing her and make-up moguls like Pat McGrath are beating her face. It’s amazing to see the turn-around and hopefully, this will make brands become more aware of the culture. Hip-Hop has natural marketers and the artists basically do the marketing for you. Whether it’s drinking a brand of water or wearing a certain pair of sneakers, the fan base picks up on it. The artist gives the brand shine without even asking. Imagine the marketing magic that could happen if brands genuinely nurture those relationships.

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