From Soap Opera to Deodorant Rap – P&G goes Hip Hop

Guest blogger of the week, David Nichols: brandgym head of invention

Peering over my morning cup of tea on a flight back from a tiring workshop this week I was jolted awake by the news that P&G has teamed up with rapper and music producer Jermaine Dupri to launch a music label.  Am I dreaming?  Has British Airways tea become so strong that it’s making me hallucinate?  No.  P&G, kings of analysis and data driven marketing, are putting their faith in Hip-Hop hype. 


TAG Records will be a major part of their strategy for their TAG male deodorant brand in the US, targeted at a younger urban population for whom Hip-Hop is a major passion.  A joint venture with Island Def Jam Music Group, the aim of the new label will be to find and promote new talent, using funding from P&G to put serious money behind new and untested artists – giving them the kind of exposure and promotion only usually given to already successful artists.

Despite this sounding like a bold new frontier in marketing, this kind of thing is not new.  Remember Soap Operas?  Back in the 50’s P&G and others put their faith and money into a new and untested medium and funded the development of TV shows to drive sales of their laundry detergent brands.

I like this idea and I will wait to see if they can make a success of it.  What’s good about it?

1.    Don’t claim you are cool – be cool
If you want people to think you are funny – tell a joke.  So, to give their brand a hip image P&G have decided to actually be cool, not just claim it.  Young urban men are one of the hardest targets to address if your brand is not already part of their world.  We’ve all seen the ads where a trendy young person is holding a product with a caption that says ‘It’s cool!’ – It just doesn’t cut it. 

2. Helping consumers, not just shouting at them
P&G marketing money will actually be used to create future careers for young urban artists.  Helping your consumers in their lives, rather than just targeting messages at them, has got to be a better way to go in these times of message saturation and cynicism.  Of course, you have to hope they do actually find some real talent or they risk a PR backlash.  But there’s no reward without risk and marketing is no different.

3. A way to differentiate all your communications
This is not just a sponsorship deal or a promotion.  If P&G are serious about this (and there is no evidence to suggest otherwise!) then this will give them a strongly differentiating focus for all their marketing and communications on TAG; from POS to promotions to distribution itself – they can use the codes, language and characters of Hip-Hop as the driving theme for everything they do.

The first of these ‘Deo Rap’ artists will be launched stateside in May this year.  If it’s successful, lets hope the Proctoids don’t get carried away and start putting baseball caps on backwards and rapping their brand visions like Hugo from ‘Where’s the Sausage’!