I don’t consider there to be any pressure working with celebrities. Working with celebrities is only difficult if you look at them as anything more than brands trying to maximize their value proposition. One of my biggest assets as a marketer of celebrities is that I do not allow myself to become so enamored with them that I cannot be honest enough to do my job. If you can’t tell someone that what they want to do is a bad idea, then you are not going to last. Honesty and truth are the major pillars of how I have worked with these people over the years. They tend to have enough people who will tell them what they want to hear. The most important thing is to clearly understand who that person or brand is, and be relentless in staying true to their DNA. Even when evolving or repositioning [a brand], it must be done in a way that is believable. Once consumers start questioning a person or brand’s truth, it’s the beginning of the end, and that’s consistent no matter how many points you’ve scored or how many records you’ve sold.
How has the hip-hop culture been able to help you, as a fan of hip-hop, in your line of work, based on the brands you help market?
Hip-hop afforded me and a lot of my peers an opportunity to become executives and sit across the table from other powerful people from different and may I dare say, more conventional backgrounds. It’s interesting to me, because if you think about it, pop culture has consistently throughout time been driven by urban culture. Over the last 25 years, hip-hop has been the driving force of urban culture, and as a result, driven popular culture. I always find it interesting when someone wants to dismiss my experience as “hip-hop,” or even “lucky” based on being connected to a Sean Combs or Shawn Carter. I think people often dismiss Puff and Jay’s success as something less than skill, too. The reality is that we are all sitting at the same table but we come from different backgrounds, and it’s unfair or [indicative of] a lack of vision that allows us to dismiss one journey over another. I didn’t go to Harvard Business School, but I have had a lot of Ivy League MBA’s work for me. What I have learned over the last 20 years, being an integral part of the ascent of hip-hop culture, has been as valuable as any business school I could have ever attended.
You’ve recently been named chief marketing officer of Sequential, and you are operating your own agency under the Brand Matter name. Congrats on the new position! What are your goals and directives in this new role?
In my new role I am excited about the opportunity for us to purchase intellectual property and put them in the position to realize their full potential. In the past marketers came up with tactics to put brands on top of minds of a given consumer. In the licensing model that we are activating here at Sequential, we are a more integral part of the process. We define a brand’s “reason to be,” identify license partners who are best suited to assist in realizing that reason, and then secure distribution at a retailer that closes the circle. Marketing is only half of the work. I think what we are doing at Sequential is on the pulse of how marketers will add value going forward. It won’t be enough to just come up with the next cool campaign. With Brand Matter, it’s the same concept of leveraging my relationships and experiences with brands to assist celebrities in realizing their dreams of monetizing their intellectual property. If Jay-Z wants to sell sunglasses or David Beckham wants to sell underwear, Brand Matter can find them the right partners to ensure that they are successful and manage the process so that these associations add to their personal brands.
What gets you up daily to go to work and put your all into what you do? What drives you?