If you haven’t heard of the outspoken Chicago raised recording artist and fashion mogul know as Kanye West, may I ask you where you’ve been since 2000? He is found almost everywhere, in mainstream media to retail and is always trending from tabloids to blogs. Maybe you are not that into mainstream hype and like many maybe you find his antics to be a tad annoying. It’s fair to say many either love him or hate him with little to no room in between. Let me tell you this isn’t another puff piece on the career of the egotistic artist that calls himself Yeezus. With all that being said— Here are a few reasons why you may want to stop and pay attention to what Yeezy’s entrepreneurial spirit has taught us about business.
Big Career; Little Paragraph
Sure everything he seems to have touched since the early 2000’s has turned to gold but it has not always been so easy
for West. During the last track “last Call” off of his breakout album “The College Dropout” he shares how he wasn’t taken serious in hip hop. A music scene that Entertainment Weekly described as “still dominated by authenticity battles and gangsta posturing”. As he broke through he was an instant trendsetter in the hip-hop fashion world, wearing Ralph Lauren Polo and a Louis Vuitton backpack full of demos as opposed to sports jersey’s and bandanas. He continues to set trends musically and in fashion and the only thing that has changed is that he is married to a Kardashian, two little girls and he beefs with Taylor Swift.
Like many before him and as early as Run DMC, Kanye’s recording career and fashion influence spawned endorsements and business ventures. What separates him from those artists of the past, he is well beyond the usual 15 minutes of business fame. To highlight, since 2004 he has founded his own record label, started creative companies, opened restaurants, is co-owner of a music streaming service, and collaborated with Nike and Louis Vuitton to design his own footwear. More recently, he signed a long-term clothing contract with Adidas and won sneaker of the year honors in 2015. Alright, don’t most celebrities get rich and keep getting richer? Sure, and you might also be ready to leave this article because you’re asking how does him making all this cheese relate to me? Now that I’ve laid a background, I’ll tell you.
Kanye West is Everything I AM
Recall when I explained he was out of his league in hip hop back in 2000. He was different; many doubted, but he had drive and he had a vital talent in the music industry. He produced a sound that made hit record after hit record, so much that he became an acclaimed solo artist, a fashion icon and has become one of the most influential people in the world according to TIME. See the similarities in his dream and yours? Did you notice it didn’t happen overnight? He hustled, and grinded to use a few overused business buzzwords. Nothing mattered to him except getting his mom a comfortable life, making it big and silencing the naysayers. You have an idea, a product or service and just like him, you are willing to sacrifice it all to be successful. Now that we found the common denominator and how he’s an inspiration to entrepreneurs and marketers let’s break down his POWER—branding, and how you can obtain some.
Branding on 100, Thousand, Trillion
Since the 2011 release of Watch the Throne his collaborative album with Jay Z , Kanye has been known to open surprise pop-up retail stores. The first in Manhattan’s trendy SoHo and most recently in Sterling Heights Michigan, a Metro-Detroit suburb. What’s the secret to his success? No promotion, no trendy location, yet people in droves are flocking to these temporary stores waiting days to get a chance to buy $325 jackets among other items. Simple, he invested in branding himself and now he’s partaking in the fruits of his labor. This blueprint can work for any business.
The build it and they will come or let’s skip branding altogether models typically do not work these days. You have to put yourself out there, take risks using social channels such as Snapchat and Instagram, find ways to leverage veteran channels such as Twitter and Youtube. Gone are the days where you open a storefront and watch the money pile up. If you’re in the food industry you’re competing with $5 pizzas and $1 menu items. If you’re in the auto industry, most of the cars within a segment are merely the same. Furthermore, most verticals have intense competition where it isn’t affordable to compete with the advertising budgets of big players. Does that stop you? Did the popularity of 50 Cent scare away an emerging Kanye West? No. He knew he was the next big thing. Like Kanye, you believe you have a product or service that’s better than the competition and you will stop at nothing to get it out there to the masses and make them want it. It’s not easy but you have to consistently promote your company. Become a practitioner of emerging ways to reach your audience. Here’s a branding breakdown:
Bonus: Branding Breakdown
Need more clarity? Entrepreneur.com shared this exclusive pocket guide on building your brand:
- Create a modern website
- Write an exceptional bio
- Set up social media handles
- Showcase your company’s persona along with interests of your team.
- Blog or video record stories about your company through the years
- Share your content on networks with pre-existing audiences like Quora and Medium.
- Network and talk to people in your industry as well. Comment on and share their content.
- Always improve your content by evaluating the content of other companies
- Share your successes. Use small wins to get bigger wins.
If you’re doing business in this 21st Century, to quote the great Kanye West, you better be “doing something mean to it, better than anybody you ever seen do it” and commit to branding. At the end of the day you’ll be killing it. No shortcuts or cheat codes just do the work.
Photos: Mike Sington’s Twitter/Complex’s Twitter, Edward Pevos/Mlive