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Brief Published: 10 May 2016

Marketing to Generation Hip Hop

Fetty Wap for Calvin Klein

Hip-hop culture is reaching a mainstream audience thanks to the success of Straight Outta Compton (pulling in $200m at the box office), Broadway smash Hamilton (nominated for a record 16 Tony awards) and Fox TV’s Empire (17.6 million viewers watched the season one finale).

Hip-hop-savvy urban millennials represent “the generation that is driving culture forward in the US and around the world”, according to Sanjay Sharma, chief executive of All Def Digital (ADD) – the digital media arm of American hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons’ Def Jam imprint. ADD is launching an in-house creative unit dubbed ADHD to help marketers reach this “overlooked and underserved” audience, Simmons told Adweek.

There's a psychology associated with hip-hop culture that's very brand-friendly,” he added. “They're the best brand-building community in the world, and they're also the hardest to reach.” This audience is “multiracial, but singularly cultural. It started out 95% black, and now it's 45% non-black, and that's going to keep growing.”

A recent Adweek cover put the spotlight on US hip-hop star DJ Khaled, who has racked up 14 million total followers across social platforms. Brands including MasterCard and Burger King have borrowed signature phrases of his like “bless up”, and even his distinctive key emoji.

Calvin Klein’s spring 2016 campaign includes rappers Joey Bada$$, Kendrick Lamar and Fetty Wap. Meanwhile, Puma’s partnership with Rihanna – named creative director in 2014 – is achieving “excellent results” in womenswear, according to chief executive Bjorn Gulden. He believes she “opens the door” to growth in menswear as well.

For more on reaching diverse millennial audiences, see Representing Diversity and ANA Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Conference 2015.