Brands caught up in Pop-Culture Crisis? Steve Stoute weighs in

At MMXLII when consecutively Lil Wayne, Rick Ross and Tyler, the Creator got caught in scandals involving their brand endorsement we were all ears. We even asked the readers in the Rick Ross case if the responsibility lay more with the artists or the brand, and 70% agreed that ” No matter what Rick Ross’ image may be, a glorification of rape should be an automatic stripping of endorsements”. Steve Stoute – the author of The Tanning of America- who is behind some of the biggest deals that have associated rap  artists with brands, weighs  in, in a blogpost for Ad Age . Here are some highlights:

Using rappers and rock stars for awareness campaigns is certainly nothing new, but if marketers were thinking strategically, they’d approach these relationships as partnering with another brand, not an individual.

Brands need to remember that they’re not buying an artist. They are acquiring the participation of a branded personality who has created his or her brand by being consistent with fans. This is a bond.

As someone who has negotiated deals between musicians and brands, I believe that success can come from taking the following actions:

  1. Spend more time with due diligence and background research. Put all the lyrics and content on the table and review them.
  2. Develop a stronger strategic rationale for these partnerships. Answer this question: “Why is this relationship being entered into?”
  3. Avoid being selectively risk-averse.
  4. Recognize that the artist is a brand and a human being—that things are going to happen.
  5. Don’t drop the artist at the first hint of a scandal. You own the relationship and are culpable, too. Find out how to make the moment something valuable for both parties.

It hardly seems fair, then, that as soon as a brand deal comes under scrutiny, the artist is pilloried in the press while the people who made the deal happen hide in the shadow of the big shiny logo and move on with their lives.

And the truth is, there has never been a scandal with an artist that has brought down a major consumer corporation. On the other hand, when you unceremoniously abandon an artist because of a scandal, you might want to consider the sentiments of the consumers you were targeting when you partnered with him. That type of action has impact on brand health, too.

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