• DeJuan Wright

Hip-Hop Remains a Branding Behemoth

Updated: Dec 15, 2021



Hip-hop, from a business standpoint, is currently in a very peculiar position. On one hand, besides the rap artist Drake, there’s not one single hip-hop artist that has perennially dominated the Billboard charts in the last decade. Yet, on the other hand -- hip-hop is still the most dominant artform in the world and continues to dominate the Billboard charts despite the shelf life of the average artist getting shorter.


However, whether it’s real estate on the Billboard charts. Or simply the sheer impact on society and culture -- hip-hop remains the preeminent force driving the direction of today’s youth. And with it, all that they support and evangelize from a consumer perspective.


According to Nielsen Music/MRC Data, six out of ten of the most streamed artists of the last decade were hip-hop artists...and the other four artists (Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Rihanna, and Ed Sheeran) have featured hip-hop artists on at least one of their singles.


This data confirms what many brand marketers, film producers, and record label executives already know -- when it comes to Millennials and Gen Zers, hip-hop is the biggest branding behemoth not only in America -- but around the world.




Impact at the cash register


Brands that have embraced and aligned with hip-hop culture have always yielded great results. Whether it was Adidas partnering with Run-D.M.C in 1986, which resulted in the first endorsement deal for a hip-hop act with a major brand. Or Kanye West signing a partnership shoe deal with Adidas 27 years later in 2013 (West also signed an apparel partnership deal with Gap in 2020, which Gap expects to generate an estimated $1 billion annually). One thing has been consistent, as Adidas can attest -- hip-hop is the ultimate cheat sheet to increasing sales for a brand.


There’s plenty of other examples of hip-hop artists boosting sales and market share for brands that seemed to plateau. One of the most recent examples of a hip-hop artist boosting sales and demand for a huge brand is the McDonald’s and Travis Scott collaboration.


In September 2020, McDonald’s launched the “Travis Scott Meal”, which consisted of their Quarter Pounder with cheese, bacon, lettuce, an order of medium-sized fries, BBQ sauce, to go along with a Sprite (all items which were already on the McDonald’s menu).


The result? Consumer demand for the Travis Scott meal was so large that even McDonald’s wasn't prepared enough to fulfill it! In a memo to USA Today, a spokesperson for McDonald’s stated, “It’s been so lit, some of our restaurants have temporarily sold out of some of the ingredients in the meal.”


Let’s think about that for a second. A hip-hop artist that your parents probably never even heard of, increased the demand for a meal that most people could have already ordered (albeit as a custom item) at McDonald’s to the point where the largest fast food restaurant chain on the planet wasn’t prepared for it. Pretty impactful...right?


At the time of this publication, McDonald’s currently has the “Saweetie Meal” on its menu in collaboration with hip-hop artist Saweetie. Early indications are that it’s already a success for McDonald’s.



Impact on the screen


Not only does hip-hop have a positive impact for brands at the cash register. Hip-hop can also revitalize television ratings. Case-in-point, hip-hop artist Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson’s impact on the Starz network.


According to Deadline.com, subscriber acquisition for the Starz network rose 42% the first week after the premier of Power Book 2: Ghost, a series co-created and executive produced by Jackson. In fact, Jackson’s impact on the Starz network has been so positive that even prior to the success of the sequel to the series Power, Jackson landed a four year development deal with Starz worth an estimated $150 million.


Jackson also has development deals with Lionsgate, and ABC. Companies that have all made it a priority to ingratiate hip-hop culture as of late.




Impact on culture


Still not convinced that hip-hop is a branding behemoth? That’s okay, how about I show you an example that you could see in person? Here’s the challenge, wherever you’re reading this; go to your local mall on a Saturday afternoon and look around. I’m certain you’ll see many different elements of the influence that hip-hop has on culture all around you.


From the way that clothes are worn by the youth. To the slang they're using in conversation. Even down to the headphones they’re wearing...and especially the music that they’re listening to in those headphones. And if you really want to see the influence of hip-hop at capacity, step foot on a college campus. There’s no escaping it even if you wanted to -- hip-hop has pervaded every part of society...and that’s a great thing.


It’s a great thing because hip-hop is inclusive. Hip-hop is a culture birthed from the expressions of youth yearning for equality -- while rebelling against the status quo. Hip-hop isn’t a race, gender, or sexuality, it’s simply a mindset...which at its core, is rooted in equality and individuality.



Why brands should embrace hip-hop culture


In marketing 101, we were taught the philosophy of market orientation. Market orientation emphasizes that the social and economic justification for an organization’s existence consists of customers’ wants and needs --while meeting organizational objectives.


Hip-hop as a culture and a movement, by far -- is the inexorable force that appeals to the wants and needs of Millennials and Gen Zers. So, if one of your brand’s objectives is to appeal to them, it would be in your best interest financially to embrace the behemoth.