The Grammy-Nominated artist Nipsey Hussle paved new ways for enhancing branding that every professional can find influential.
Just like every profession, the communication and entertainment industries have traditional and normative ways of operating. The late rapper and business mogul, Nipsey Hussle (born Ermias Asghedom), successfully worked past barriers in both sectors—leaving a wealth of examples for communication professionals to find influential. From brand expansion to inter-industrial collaborations, the following are five take-a-ways from Nipsey’s robust career:
1. Operate outside of the norm.
In 2013, Nipsey Hussle shocked the entertainment industry by selling his mixtape, Crenshaw, for $100. The campaign around the mixtape’s release was called “Proud 2 Pay” and caused quite a bit of uproar in the industry. Many fans, onlookers and industry pros were flabbergasted at the audacity of Nipsey, then an up-and-coming independent artist, to charge so much for a mixtape (not even an album). However, the PR and marketing behind the release was completely innovate and outside of the norm for the industry. Hussle provided multiple options for obtaining the mixtape including a free version, a regular priced version on iTunes and a Proud 2 Pay edition for $100. The Proud 2 Pay version provided customers with a private concert, a limited-edition booklet and inclusion in a database of fans for communication of inclusive details and give-a-ways.
Nipsey’s eccentric campaign made $100,000 when the initial 1,000 copies produced sold in less than a day. Much like any other sector of communication, the entertainment industry has its norms. Nipsey’s campaign proved that operating outside of the norm can have its benefits during the growth of a brand.
2. Empower stakeholders.
One of the most commonly shared ideas about Nipsey Hussle was the true care and regard exemplified for his friends, family, fans, peers and business partners. The rapper and burgeoning real estate mogul often shared his lessons and strategies for others to learn and empower themselves. From sponsoring STEM education to sprinkling his lyrics with strategies to break into the industry, Nipsey thoroughly believed in educating others on what he learned. In Spring of 2019, Nipsey shared his expertise as an Adjunct Professor at Loyola Marymount University College of Business Administration in a unique collaboration for a course called “Rethinking the Marketplace”. Some followed Hussle for his music, others followed him for his entrepreneurship—either way his followers were continuously empowered.
3. Strategically expand your brand.
As an entrepreneur, Nipsey thoroughly understood the opportunity for expanding his brand by creating different types of businesses and campaigns that all cohesively funneled under one brand—TMC (The Marathon Continues). The idea of a marathon was a continuous theme that throughout Nipsey’s ventures. The rapper believed that his career resembled a marathon and also named his 2010 mixtape “The Marathon”. His brand TMC branched out to a clothing store, The Marathon Clothing store (initially started by his brother) and also to a critically acclaimed album and campaign, titled Victory Lap. Nipsey also expanded his brand by way of taking ownership in Follow Coin cryptocurrency, buying the entire plaza where The Marathon Clothing store resides and co-founding Vector90—a co-working space for entrepreneurs. Needless to say, all of his ventures were tied to and/or influenced by his music in some way—making for a strategic and cohesive array of brand and business ventures.
4. Create innovative collaborations.
One of Nipsey Hussle’s most innovative collaborations was a partnership with Iddris Sandu, a young engineer, in the opening of The Marathon Clothing store—the world’s first “smart store”. Together, Hussle and Sandu created a concept for each piece of merchandise in the store to include digital content. Thus, if one opened the store’s app on a smartphone and hovered it over the logo or price tag an exclusive music video or documentary would begin playing. The store opened in 2017 and garnered global attention and visitation from entertainers, fans and tourists. The venture wasn’t just an experiential marketing venture. The smart store was a well thought-out solution to bridging the gap between having a physical store location and the increasing growth of tech/internet-based merchandising. Although the brand has a website for online shopping, the physical location offered a blend of clothing and technology that provides a unique experience not captured by online shopping.
5. Cultivate a positive organizational culture.
It is evident from the outpouring of love and respect during the solemn times of Nipsey’s passing that his business partners, collaborators and employees truly felt he created a positive culture. Nipsey connected with many types of people regardless of backgrounds, gender, race and social/economic status. He was the type of leader to hire rehabilitated community members and provide up-and-coming entrepreneurs with a place to start their company. One electrician recalled Nipsey as a generous shop owner who would offer him water and snacks whenever he was out fixing street lights at the complex where the Marathon Clothing store is located. It is clearly evident that Nipsey was a respected person who valued relationships and reputation across the board.
Nipsey Hussle left a profound impact on the way PR and marketing operates in the entertainment industry. Any communication professional can take these five tips and use them as a blueprint for strategic and innovative practices in any communication sector.