How Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson Expanded His Brand Through Guerrilla Marketing
Updated: Feb 25
Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson is known for many things. To some, he’s known as one of the most popular rappers to ever pick up a microphone. To others, he’s an actor, entrepreneur and executive producer of “Powerverse” on the Starz Network, one of the hottest shows on cable television.
When I hear his name, the first thing that I think is “guerrilla marketing genius.” When it’s all said and done, Jackson will be inducted into the Guerrilla Marketing Hall of Fame.
As a marketer, I’ve studied Jackson’s marketing tactics and strategies the same way an aspiring basketball player would study Stephen Curry’s jump shot. Here are guerrilla marketing tactics Jackson has utilized to expand his brand—tactics you could apply to your marketing arsenal.
Maximize your resources
A guerilla marketer’s “main investment should be time, energy, imagination, and information—not money,” say authors Jay Conrad Levinson and Jeannie Levinson, creators of the term “guerrilla marketing.” Jackson was able to embody those principles after being dropped from his first record deal at Columbia Records after being shot nine times in Queens, New York.
Frustrated, Jackson invested his time, energy and imagination to create mixtapes and distributed them on the streets of New York City to consumers for free—which built a demand for his album. He eventually landed a deal with Interscope/Shady/Aftermath records.
Like Curtis, marketers can create a demand for products or services by providing consumers a free glimpse of what life would be like if they purchased their products.
Maybe you could provide a free service for a day. Or allow someone full access to your app free of charge for a week. The key here is to provide something to consumers that will make their lives better to the point that the slice you gave them for free will make them want to purchase the whole pie.
Make smart collaborations
Jackson’s biggest deal didn’t come by way of entertainment. It came by way of a collaboration with Glaceau, the company that created Vitamin Water—which was later purchased by Coca-Cola for $4.2 billion.
In his book, “Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter,” Jackson describes his reasoning for reaching out to Glaceau and requesting equity in the company and not an ordinary endorsement. “Instead of focusing on how big my initial payday is going to be, I try to evaluate all the ways in which the situation will benefit me,” Jackson wrote.
Glaceau executives agreed to give Jackson equity. They knew that Jackson’s fans would gravitate toward the brand and increase revenue or, as the Levinson’s wrote: “Success in fusion partnering comes from the same tactics that make you valuable and attractive to potential buyers of your product and service.”
As a guerrilla marketer, think of potential collaborations you could make with brands that would be mutually beneficial if the collaboration is successful—preferably, something to which you could value they are missing or vice-versa. As Jackson said, instead of focusing on the initial payoff—think long-term on how all parties involved could maximize the opportunity.
Create attention with intention
Another thing that Jackson is known for: creating controversy. Whether it’s various beefs with rappers or throwing barbs at Madonna, Jackson knows how to stir things up.
But there’s a method to his madness. Jackson understands that controversy is free publicity and utilizes it to his benefit. Guerrilla marketing is all about going after conventional goals with unconventional means.
In “The 50th Law,” a book co-authored with Robert Greene, Jackson describes a publicity stunt in the summer of 2007 after he became irritated at the lack of marketing by Interscope records for his third album, “Curtis.”
Jackson destroyed his office and had the building’s maintenance man take pictures of the damage. Jackson then leaked the photos on the internet and to media outlets—generating attention for the album. As the book recounted: “They could laugh at his out-of-control antics, not realizing that it was Fifty, directing the drama, who would have the last laugh.” As the Levinsons put it: “Guerrillas control the messages that they send. It’s all about intention.”
You could follow Jackson’s blueprint of creating attention with intention by creating controversy that generates publicity for your brand on social media. Challenge one of your competitors publicly. Leak information about one of your upcoming products. Make a bold proclamation about your brand that your competitors wouldn’t dare to make—perhaps one that would make even Elon Musk think you’ve gone too far.
Use your creativity to control the narrative by creating attention for your brand with a clear intention. And if you do, you’ll be a G-G-G-G-guerrilla marketer like 50 Cent.