Feud Branding in the Age of Hip Hop


I was recently asked to weigh in on the rash of “Beef” raps that hit the Web over the past few months. In case you don’t know, “Beef” in hip hop terms is basically a feud started by one rapper who calls out another rapper to highlight something that he doesn’t like about that person. “Beef” can be about anything from a dispute over skills and credibility… to some other nonsensical reason.

Recently it was 50 Cent vs. Rick Ross, Rhymefest vs. Lupe Fiasco, and Joe Buddens vs. Saigon, battling against each other for the sake of oneupmanship.

Product rivalry has always been a part of marketing as we know it. Whether it was Coke vs.Pepsi, Hostess vs. Drake, or Big Mac vs. the Whopper, we’ve all heard our share of “beef” before.

When we look at the example of rap artist 50 cent. For all intents and purposes, 50 has done a masterful job at keeping his name and image in the forefront of gossip rags and music blogs. His video skits, feuding with Rick Ross, garnered hundreds of thousands of hits to his site “Thisis50.com”.

Ever since his debut single How to Rob, 50 cent has been known for inciting peer rivalries to promote his music. Whether it was with Ja-Rule just before the release of his debut “Get Rich Or Die Tryin“, The Game during the release of “The Massacre“or his dust up with Kanye West, when 50 said he’d quit rap if he lost in first week sales, before the release of the album “Curtis“. Well he did lose in first week sales to Kanye…by over 200,000 cd’s, but failed to retire.

At first look, it’s easy to assume that beef worked in 50′s favor, but “beef” only works if the end product is worth buying. There was no denying that 50′s first album Get Rich Or Die Tryin was a hip hop classic. Regardless of any “beef” he had going on, 50 focused on his music and created a high-quality product that spoke for itself, and earned him the attention he craved. No beef needed.

Recent brands that have done well by incorporating beef are Apple, with its “Mac vs.PC” campaign, and Dunkin Donuts (vs.Starbucks) with its ” America Runs On Dunkin” ads. This type of feud branding works by showing the contrast and strength of one product against another. If you can make a compelling case for why your products are better than your competitor’s, then feuds, beefs and other comparison tactics may be worth trying. Just be prepared to back your argument with proof as you boldly feud on.

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