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Scott Wakeman Discusses the Impact of Hip-Hop Star Power on Brand Building

Music has accompanied the human race throughout the evolutionary process, appearing millennia before recorded history began and bonding people together. According to one theory, it may be the reason the world exists in its current state because “in causing such bonding, [music] created not only the family but society itself, bringing individuals together who might otherwise have led solitary lives.”

This universal and impactful language has remained a constant in human history, but it is only in the past century that marketers have been able to tap into its power thanks to technological advances. However, brands have been quickly catching up, becoming increasingly effective in the use of music to shape consumer perceptions, attitudes, and emotions in order to trigger the desired behavioral response. Seasoned marketing executive Scott Wakeman comments, “The year 2020 has brought significant change to the way marketers present their products, but one trend has continued unabated, and that is brands leveraging music to connect with their target audiences.  While celebrities in general have proved extremely valuable assets in brand building campaigns, no music genre is more culturally relevant today than hip-hop, and its stars hold power of unrivaled magnitude.”

The potential of hip-hop to elevate a brand became apparent in 1986, when Run DMC scored a hit with “My Adidas.” The response was so overwhelming that the iconic New York City act snagged a $1-million endorsement deal with the German sportswear giant. Since then, hip-hop has grown in popularity to become the dominant music genre in pop culture, creating a gold mine for marketers engaged in brand-building campaigns. Hip-hop moguls were the first to truly leverage their celebrity clout, cutting deals in the apparel, liquor, and media spaces. With the rise of social media and the emergence of a new generation, these stars are also making significant inroads as brand advocates. There is also a new generation of hip-hop talent to tap, Scott Wakeman notes, pointing to collaborations that rely on the draw of celebrities. One recent success is the collaboration between a popular fast food chain and a rapper,  the result being a $6 meal which proved so popular that the fast-food giant was hit by ingredient shortages.

Smaller brands have also entered the game, says Scott Wakeman, who was behind an award-winning collaboration with a prominent Miami rapper. Commenting on the power of these partnerships, the marketing executive points out, “Some brands may be reluctant to embrace the hip-hop space, but Rick turned out to be an amazing brand ambassador.  He’s a consummate businessman and truly understands the power of social media. On top of that, you get the cachet of being associated with a well-known and beloved performer, which contributes to keeping the brand vibrant.”

Scott Wakeman has accumulated 20 years of experience in the digital marketing space, holding executive positions at several blue-chip companies and global advertising agencies. His expertise has been instrumental in building brands and driving revenues across various categories, with particular focus on packaged goods, sports/entertainment, and restaurants/hospitality. Scott Wakeman graduated from Atlanta’s Emory University with a BA in political science, following this with an MBA from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

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