The back of a head has never been more interesting. The songwriter and singer phenomenon known as Sia is exemplary for something rare in the business: Rejectionism for a conventional music industry alongside extraction from it of mass appeal. See the comments:

Despite capsules like, Why Sia is a marketing genius…not a reluctant star, she can legitimately be both. Sia is smart enough to know it wouldn’t work if it wasn’t authentic. Her back to the audience you have no choice but to listen–what we once did with music–as you can’t see her. Her album debuts tomorrow.


The Baffler persuasively summarized the professional network LinkedIn as effectively this:

“…an Escher staircase masquerading as a career ladder.” –Ann Friedman

My brand is rocket fuel. It would take this brand 10 years to get to where I can take it in one year.”Sean “Diddy” Combs

Diddy signed a 2007 deal with Diageo PLC entitling him to a 50% stake in Ciroc Vodka.  Here’s how business has done since he signed, and for simple comparison, how the Air Jordan sneaker business did for the same period after Michael Jordan signed his famously successful shoe contract with Nike.  It’s a succinct graph but in both categories sales were either flat or growing unremarkably up to the contract:


It’s one of many new deals between the alcoholic beverage industry and proven influential lifestyle brands in industry moguls and icons.

In the March 2011 Forbes column “Why Diddy Will Be Hip-Hop’s First Billionaire” , Forbes staff noted:

“…Executives at Diageo could never have expected just how much Diddy’s presence would boost sales. In 2007 sleepy Ciroc was moving cases at a rate of 60,000 per six months, or 120,000 per year. In 2009 Diddy’s second year with the brand, Ciroc moved 400,000 cases. This year Ciroc is on pace to sell more than 1 million cases. The boom was fueled in large part by Diddy’s diligent shilling—on billboards, in lyrics, on Twitter and even through a self-proclaimed nickname, “Ciroc Obama.”

Diageo management framed Ciroc’s success after the Combs partnership:

“Only twice in my career have I seen an immediate response in our brand tracking”…“We saw it really take off in the African-American community, and it has started to broaden its appeal. Throughout the entire economic recession, it was one of the few brands that never slowed down.”… “As a community, African-Americans are leaders in terms of style, fashion and image,”…“They can take brands and make them very big themselves.”–Jim Mosely, Diageo Senior Vice-president for consumer planning 

Other examples of non-textbook breakthrough African American marketing influence can be found in industries of fashion and accessories, food and non-alcoholic beverages, fragrances, electronics, automobiles, and even travel.


Michael Porter’s famous 5 forces have been heralded, debated and even extended to 6. But typical barriers to entry for new competitors to an industry consistent with his framework include:

  • patents + proprietary knowledge
  • government regulation
  • economies of scale
  • switching costs + brand identity

Now reading Jay-Z’s Decoded, I say a key barrier to entry that competitive analysis frameworks like Porter’s omit is ignorance: not knowing there’s a market to enter. It’s not obfuscation or some proprietary knowledge either. It’s inability to recognize a market. This will keep you out perfectly. And particularly when there exist cultural blind spots due to things like class and race: It’s dense Iceberg’s unqualified “no” to Jay-Z and leaving him with no choice but to start Rocawear (eventually unloaded to Iconix for more than $200 million); it’s Jay-Z not getting a record deal in the first place. Arguably, it’s greatly how personified monopolies like Jay-Z and Master P can earn monopoly style profits and do so across multiple industries for significant time.

Screenshot: Hip-Hop mogul Jay-Z’s book Decoded hit stores today. Brick and mortars think it’s a music book–it’s in the music book section. Or rather the service that categorizes print for retailers thinks it. They’re wrong.

This is a business book.

Decoded is fillerless. No intros. Just story from word one. There’s an urgency and clarity to communication in the world from which Jay-Z came.

The first 18 pages are among the most entrancing, gritty, authentic, poetic and sophisticated story channeling I’ve read. I’m on record saying Jay-Z is not a rapper–but  a storyteller.

Who it’s for:

  • The business minded who aren’t tricked about value because of packaging.
  • White people like Seth Godin, with marketing “expertise” who are culturally walled off from unique value propositions in strong US microcultures.
  • Black people who don’t speak “urban”.
  • People mastering their 10% vs. succumbing to the 90%.
  • Brand builders.
  • Poets.
  • Hustlers. Which really, is anybody who ever had to eat and think about it.  It’s a primal timeless human testimony.

And the photography and presentation are perfect, likely due to the sufficiently autonomous and thankfully rogue sub-brand of publishers Spiegel and Grau.

Decoded discussion with Charlie Rose: An hour with Jay-Z from the Brooklyn Museum.


Business folks talk in bullets. Government talks in paragraphs. Here are bullets of President Obama’s accomplishments. No matter one’s politics, the impact of these bullets which work like flash cards is effective at focusing attention, distilling events and making a case. As a marketing and soundbite communications piece–with links to detail– it’s clever.The PG-rated version of the site is


It’s getting like a lyrics war in a Hip-Hop song: Apparently, progressives critical of President Obama set up a rebuttal site to this site called .

Screenshot: “If a gay guy impersonates you, you are a bad bitch. Period.”–Nicki Minaj


This isn’t just mouthy rapper speak. It’s a sophisticated marketing comment from the 25 year-old female raptress. She’s on the current cover of OUT magazine.

While part of a team that successfully pitched a marketing campaign to Serino Coyne–the premium NY advertising agency for Broadway musicals (Cats, Dreamgirls, Les Miserables, The Lion King, Annie Get Your Gun, The Producers, Hairspray, etc.)–I learned this from partner Rick Ellis: musicals and campaigns approved by gay males are hits. It was a key metric. If they voted “no” you needed to be worried.

Minaj’s comment is a blunt, Hip-Hop app of Rick’s wisdom. Gay males have certain thought and creative leadership intuition across entertainment and Minaj understands it, is bubble bath comfortable in it, and in real deviation from her genre’s culture, calls it out. Her choice to do OUT’s cover was hers alone she says, and a smart and due thank you to her gay and particularly gay male fan base. And all before her fall album drops. I don’t remember an artist who was out-shining established artists on whose tracks she contributes only seconds of lyrics and whose album was more anticipated and buzzed up than hers appears now.  Well done.

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