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Book Review: Influence of Hip-Hop on Branding

Under the Influence

By Nadijah Imani

The book Under the Influence: Tracing the Hip-Hop’s Generation’s Impact on Brands, Sports and Pop Culture is a must-read for all marketers and managers of products/services in the 21st century, as it truly defines the influence of hip-hop in our culture today, and what CEOs of any company must do to be successful.

            However, in reading this book, it must be understood what hip-hop really is, and Erin O. Patton clearly defines that throughout the book.  Hip-hop is not just the music that many of us listen to in today’s times.  It is a mindset in urban culture of, self-expression, which entails, the ability and strength to move forward, despite adversities.  This is conveyed through verbal communications, entertainment (music and film), clothing and accessories, and success in business or business ventures.

 Patton begins his book by focusing on how the influence of hip-hop touched his life as a high school student in Pittsburgh by explaining how he and his friends had their own “rap battles” during lunchtime in the boys’ restroom in the mid 1980s.

            Patton further speaks about some of the rap artists that were recognized during the 1980s that influenced this genre, such as Run-DMC, LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane (who made gold the jewelry of our choice), Queen Latifah and many others.

            He describes how the influence of hip-hop made its way from the early days to present day society, and how so much of what we read, view on television, witness in our communities, hear, purchase, etc., is all based upon urban consumers, or the impact of the hip-hop culture.

Patton explains that before he graduated from high school, he was influenced, as he wanted a pair of shell toe sneakers that were a brand of Adidas, marketed by LL Cool J, however, he did not have enough money to purchase them.  He learned the two golden rules of hip-hop culture: authenticity and originality.

            I was intrigued by how Patton detailed the influence of hip-hop throughout the years, and what its impact continues to have on our society.  He detailed his experiences with various sports legends, like Michael Jordan – and the marketing of the Air Jordan sneakers; as well as Stephon Marbury, and the Starbury Movement.  It must be emphasized – that Marbury was emphatic about ensuring that his brand of sneakers were made “affordable to the kids, who could not afford the high-priced sneakers,” that were so-often marketed.  Marbury wanted to give back to his community, as he considered himself a voice for the voiceless, which is what Patton has demonstrated that the hip-hop culture is all about.  Patton’s experiences also involved his work with the well-known  African-Americans such as talented tennis players Venus and Serena Williams.  He marketed a brand of sneakers for Venus Williams.

            Additionally, I was extremely impressed on how Patton broke down the marketing systems that a company should follow.  He emphasized how a company must know who or what group of people they are marketing to, and what their needs and desires are.  Thus, he has designed "The 7 Ciphers,” as he emphasized that traditional marketing methods are no longer feasible, nor do they work in selling products.  “The 7 Ciphers” are as follows: Core Urban – The Innovators; Tertiary Urban; Sub-Urban Cipher – The Eminem Factor; Sub-Urban Hip-Hopopreneurs; Contemporary Urban – Hip-Hop’s Generation X; Vintage Urban – Global Innovators; Alternative Urban – The fusion of hip-hop, rock and skate; and the Organic Urban – Keeping it Real. 

In each Cipher, Patton details the age group, their residential geographical area, and what their likes and dislikes are for the most part.  He demonstrates this by the marketing that various hip-hop artists have been involved in via each cipher area.

            In explaining the various marketing strategies, Patton details the various product industries that have had impact on our lives through hip-hop culture, such as sneakers/tennis shoes (which have been marketed by various athletes and hip-hop artists); the automobile industry – marketed by various hip-hop artists like Jay-Z and 50 Cent); the liquor industry, marketed by Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Busta Rymes, P. Diddy, and others.  Additionally, he shows the rise and the fall of many of these products.

            Patton finalizes this book, by reiterating the most important strategies that companies need to maintain their brand momentum and stimulate growth in their industries.  He emphasizes the fact, which I believe to be true, that urban consumers are the driving forces of most companies in today’s society.

            The CEO of any company that is charged with marketing their goods and services to the community should make Under the Influence: Tracing the Hip-Hop Generation’s Impact on Brands, Sports and Pop Culture a must-read for their managers and marketing staff.  They must remember and focus on the fact, wherever they are located, the majority of their profits are received from the urban consumer.

Imani is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men's Magazine.

This article was published on Thursday 21 May, 2009.
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