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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Trend: User-Created: Hip-Hop's "Unwelcome Attention"

In a special edition of The Economist Magazine, the managing director of Louis Roderer Cristal addressed the popularity of the sparkling wine brand amongst Hip-Hop artists. If you don't know, you can't watch an MTV hip-hop or R&B video without seeing "big pimpin'" rappers "ballin'" on camera with bottles of high-priced cognac and champagne. And shouting out the brandnames. For Free.

In an article titled "Bubbles & Bling" Frédéric Rouzaud, the managing director of Cristal, was less than thrilled at rappers' fondness for the posh drink.

"What can we do?" Rouzaud told The Economist. "We can't forbid people from buying it. I'm sure Dom Perignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business."

The article further labeled the constant Cristal patronage by rappers as "unwelcome attention."

According to, the pricey champagne was the 8th most mentioned brand on Billboard's Top 100 chart in 2005 with 35 mentions, being promoted by the likes of Kanye West, Trina, Lloyd Banks, The Game, Mariah Carey, and others.

AKI COMMENT: Whaddya do when a whole culture insists on name-checking your product (for free) in their songs, and pouring your product (for free) in music videos, and showcasing your product (for free) backstage and in the VIP Rooms at the club? Dang, what a big problem you've got. How many liquor brands have I worked for in my life that paid me to strategize some secret-sauce to get that magical hip-hop endorsement?

While I respect Cristal's dilemma - it ain't upper-crust when the 'hood is sippin' it outta plastic cups. I do think what you do firstly is DON'T COMMENT NEGATIVELY ON ANY CONSUMER PASSION, ANYWHERE, FROM ANYBODY. Sure, you can choose not to goose it - don't send a complimentary crate of the juice over to Snoop's house (you sure bout that, boss?). But getting on the mic and clowning consumer passion for your product just seems ill advised no matter how you cut it (remember, this is $600 joy juice, here).

This move is faulty particularly, when:
A)the cliche upper-crust consumer you think you sell to (let's call him Cadbury) has no clue about this subculture endorsement anyway, and

B)don't be fooled, Cadbury (if he is under 40) has all the CD's by these artists bumpin' in his Maybach (or at least his sons and daughters do) and he aspires just as much to the hip-hop fantasy as the 'hood aspires to the yachting lifestyle. Look closely at Paris Hilton's invite list, it ain't Bif and Muffy at her party, it's 50 Cent and Dr Dre posing in W Magazine in golf shirts on the lawn. And

C)you're dissing guys who are professional speakers, constantly played on radios, on tv, on mics, every nite, in every city, before packed crowds, globally...they can just as easily make your brand the butt of every rhyme, too. Why pick a fight?

Ironically, it is Cristal's type of blatant exclusionary snobbery that makes the hip-hop nation chase it for admission. It is quite possible this rebuke of "unwelcome attention" MAY NOT halt sales in the 'hood. Go figure...

Yet the fact that Cristal's dismissal may not affect hip-hop's demand is purely accidental on Cristal's part.

Consider smart brands like Louis Vuitton and Courvoisier who've recently learned to track in both spheres of influence. Their ads and initiatives have definitely gotten a shade "ghetto fabulous" and made the best of an unstoppable train. Consider, too, the 'hood is gonna purchase pirate product or purchase some near-lux copycat brand with, or without you. Well, why let pirates get paid off of your brand? Put J-Lo and Busta on. Gloss 'em up and get paid off of a good thing that you never saw coming. Money spends no matter who is giving it - work with it, don't fight it.


Adrian said...

This is so sad, you have to believe that a bunch of other folks from Cristal, jumped this guy and tied a gag over his mouth as soon as he finished talking.

Anonymous said...

When I first heard it I thought it was hilarious. Because its one rich guy insulting a bunch of other rich guys (rappers).
Normal people cant afford Cristal. So they wont be drinking it anyway.
But the guy may be onto something here. He doesnt want his luxury brand to be associated with hippity-hop. And I can understand that. It took them a long time to build that brand and now you have P-diddy pouring it on the ground and on chicks in videos.
And Kimora Lee Simmons soaking her feet in it. Come on now. :)
Its not like he said he didnt want "black people" to drink it, he probably just dont want rappers mistreating their brand, pouring it down girls butts in videos, like supermarket champagne. :)
I think Jay Z should've waited to talk to the guy and hear what he has to say personally and then act.

AKI SYSTEMS 2600 said...

Well...I dunno if Cristal's true pedigree as the drink of the emperors and czars screams "well behaved" and civilized sipping. Let's be real here. I think the brand is firmly rooted in old world excesses and flambouyance. This isn't expert wine, it is celebratory baccanal juice. In fact, post-modern excesses (of the hip-hop flavor) seems quite the fitting update for this brand. This is $600 a bottle juice, here. So noone in the room should be surprised to learn that the old world lords and emperors poured a bottle or two on some strumpet's toes (or other body part) in the parlor room of his castle.

I don't see these excessive lux brands as refined sipping for gentlemen, I see them as old world hedonism juice for the lord who can afford to throw a bottle against the wall, smash up the hotel room and giggle about it. Today, that same hedonist lord archetype is a Rock Star, a Hollywood Celebrity, a rich debutante, Sports Athletes, the Super Model, the Gangster/Druglord, and the Hip-Hop star. Let's be real, WHO DO YOU THINK REALLY DRINKS THIS STUFF, AND HOW DO THEY REALLY ENJOY IT?

Brands like Cristal serve an archetypal purpose in our minds, as the QUIET COURTIER TO HEDONIST LORDS, who like Vegas or your weed supplier (not that I know about these things), knows enough to keep what happens on the hush-hush and "between gentlemen". That is truly the value equity of such brands to the czars of yesterday and today.

We don't look to $600 bacchanal juice to issue morality judgements. Czars and lords and rock stars have lubricated their orgies with Cristal for centuries, why is Ying Yang Twin's orgy suddenly any different?

So, really, I don't buy that extravagant rappers pouring a bottle on a girls breasts as so off-brand strategy. What is most off-strategy is Cristal getting on the mic condemning that hedonism when that is very much it's quiet legacy and brand purpose. Stick to your purpose - consiglieres don't expose their capos. Ever. Stay on strategy.

Olivier Blanchard said...

Too funny. You've all been duped. I grew up in affluent French circles, and never heard of Cristal until rappers adopted it as their drink of choice. Cristal and Courvoisier are both "poor taste" wannabe brands in the old world. No one with any class would ever be caught drinking that swill.

Bentley, on the other hand - which is a real "money" brand - has completely embraced the hip-hop millionaire crowd, as they should. Has their brand been de-valued? Nope. Quite the contrary.

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