How Cristal hustled Hiphop
By: Hadji Williams
What can we do? We cant forbid people from buying it. Im sure Dom Perignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business. Rouzaud said of hiphops pallets.
Well, as a 15 year marketing vet, Ive got a scoop for Marcys all-time great: Your boycotts too late, fam. In case you havent noticed, it works like this, folks: Hiphop, like the Blues, like most everything from the black community before gets mined for its cool cache. And this time, yall been strip-mined and pimped as corporate cheerleaders. And basically for free, no less.
Rouzaud never cut any brother a check for any of those mic checks. The nouveau rich and the not-so riche been chasing Cris and those uppity brands because Jig, Puff and every other bruh with some BDS and MTV said the bottle was hot. And it worked. Cristal is the 8th most popular brand in 2005 behind Mercedes, Nike, Bentley and Rolls Royce. Meanwhile most of the Hamptons, Hollywood and Wall Street are, as Mr. Rouzaud, put it curiously serene.
Fact is Rouzaud is shooting his mouth off now, because he knows Cristal doesnt need hiphops praises anymore. The Jigs up and theyve moved on. The whole black kid made good angle is played and upscale consumers arent feeling us anymore. You can only play dress-up for so long before the clock strikes. There’s a reason someone like David Beckham now carries more marketing muscle than any handful of ethnic celebs you can name. (Read KNOCK THE HUSTLE -I warned yall this was coming.)
Secondly, its called luxury for a reason, folks. Luxury always excludes. Luxury excludes by class, by price, and yes, by race. And I dont care how much money you got, IT stops being luxury once enough negroes cop it. Sorry, but its true.
But young heads are still sleeping: In the eyes of most marketers Hiphop (and black folks at large) are just disposable media outlets. Its all about reach, frequency and brand equity. Hov dont have the reach n frequency he used to; in fact, hiphop doesnt. (Hate if you want, you know Im right.)
Therefore most luxury brands are starting the slow steady exodus back to more exclusionary brand strategiespaler faces in their ads, more upscale and selective partnerships and cross-promotional opportunities. They want their swagger back.
See, I know this game. While my cats hustled on the streets, I got my grind on the suites too many brands to mention. Never Cristal, but I did help a certain, +A vodka get mad bullish few summers back. (Yep, that was me. See KNOCK THE HUSTLE.)
Anyway, once I got hooked up with some Euros who owned a hard cider brand called K. You know why they called me?
We know that in order to really push this in the states we need to get it in the black community. That’s what these Irish cats told us, point blank. Theyd never been to the US but they knew that much. They asked me for a list of hiphop stars, hot urban clubs, etc. Their plan was simple: Get slick brothers and sisters hyping it up knowing full-well everybody else would be on it in a couple years, if not sooner.
Unfortunately cats werent really feeling the hard cider so it never popped. But that’s how that part of the game works. We sit in rooms and politic and scheme. Sometimes checks get cut and next thing you know your favorite rap superhero is dipped in [INSERT BRAND HERE]. Rouzaud and his kind are no different. No matter what they say.
Now, Im not saying thats how/why Jay got with Cris. Im sure Hov was a Cris fan back when he was just hyping Jaz; just as Run was lacing up Adidas before their contract, and LL rocked Kangols while he was slicing up Kool Moe
Anyway, Mr. Rouzauds sentiments are an orchestrated shoutout to his base that hes putting the velvet ropes back around the Cristal. But hes not alone. While his my-clothes-arent-for-black-folks/Oprah-interview was a hoax, Tommy Hils announcement that the Hilfiger brand is moving out the urban arena and back to its upscale mainstream roots is quite legit. (Google the press releases for more info.)
You can’t slam a door on folks that are walking out on you. Most of the companies that have gotten cool and rich off of hiphop cosigning are cashing out and moving on. Some are looking to Hispanic consumers. Many are going for NASCAR Dads and Soccer mom sets. Others are chasing upscale anglo roots. Some are trying to revive the X-treme thing, etc. But make no mistake: The bachelor party’s over and hiphop just got ran thru by half the cats in the house. And now, theyre going home. So who cares if you dont want to put out anymore?
My advice to the hiphop community is this: Keep these companies names out of your mouth and dont ride for any INC until you know exactly who youre dealing with. Do your due diligence. Most of these folks have no regard for you, your community, your culture, or your art. Youre just a means to an end; and when push comes to shove, theyre mean and focused about getting their ends.
And to every crime nigga that rhyme: theyll touch your mic every time, cuz their minds are quicker. Much quicker.
A 15-year vet of the marketing industry, Hadji Williams is author of KNOCK THE HUSTLE: How to save your job and your life from Corporate America. Email him: email@example.com