09/06/2013 11:40 am ET Updated Nov 04, 2013

3 Ways Jay Z Adds Value for Channel Partners

"I'm not a business man; I'm a business, mannnn"
- Jay Z, Diamonds From Sierra Leone

If you have been reading the 360 blog lately, you may remember I mentioned attending the #INBOUND13 conference a few weeks back. Mike Volpe, CMO of Hubspot was holding an Ask Me Anything session and an attendee asked Volpe, a noted Jay Z fan, what his favourite Jay Z quote is. This remark made me think about the incredible value Jay Z (aka Shawn Carter) brings to the table for those who do business with him and what channel marketing professionals could learn from him.

Product Mix

As one of the greatest rappers of all time, Jay Z has produced the expected mix of albums, DVDs, concerts and other related items. Creating a record label (Roc-A-Fella Records) and clothing line (Rocawear) are commonplace for hip-hop stars. If you run down Carter's complete list of product endorsements and ventures however, there are myriad ways for interested parties to do business with him.

President of the United States? Check. Internet search engine? Check. NBA team? Hell yeah.

Bring It To Your Channels - What products can you offer that ensures your brand is placed with every partner who is worth doing business with? Is there a Special Makeup Unit (SMU) you could create for one of your biggest partners, (or novel ways to entice a new partner to do business with you)? You do not have to abandon your brand and what it means to people, you just have to help people see your brand in new ways.


About a week ago, Carter amassed an incredible number of new likes on his official Facebook page. How did he do it? He accomplished it by releasing a new and like-gated video (featuring Justin Timberlake!) from his latest album, streaming on Facebook only and only for 24 hours. The result was a surge of over 230,000 likes in 24 hours, a massive amount of new exposure. The real winners here, of course, are Carter himself and his end users, the fans. Where is the innovation for his partners?

Back in July, Jay Z engaged in an innovative, previously unheard of partnership with Samsung, achieving significant mutual benefit. During a three-minute commercial break in an NBA finals game, Carter announced that his new album Magna Carta Holy Grail would be available for free download to the first million people who installed his new mobile app of the same name, 72 hours before the album was released for sale to the rest of the world.

The app was built to work exclusively on a limited set of Samsung's hardware, triggering a spike in sales of the hardware and app downloads by Samsung users who were eager to enjoy the free, exclusive content. Samsung paid Carter for use of the albums, of course, but the real value came in the form of the million users-worth of marketing data he now shares with them. That user data and the insights and opportunities it provides, will make money for both partners for years to come. The users win too, of course: they got the new Jay Z album for free!

Bring It To Your Channels - One of my favourite principles to harp on about with sales incentives like spiffs and rebates is to think about how all users can benefit from your programs. You want your channel partners engaged, of course - that keeps business flowing - but you also want to make sure their customers are delighted by your programs as with the above example.

How can you innovate to create significant engagement with your brand in a way that brings delight to your partners and customers? Get inspired and be brave -- market capitalism favours innovators!


In some ways visibility ties to the first point about product mix, but really that's the thing about visibility, right? Jay Z is everywhere. He has woven through our culture to such an extent that people can be consuming his products without knowing it, but those who do notice are in complete awe.

His secret? He knows himself. After over 20 years of rapping about his life, community and what matters to him, that just makes sense. While he may appear to be engaged in a disconnected array of side ventures, they are all actually logically connected to Carter's goals and what interests him.

Bring It To Your Channels -In order to put this principal to work here, you need to recognize the product offering: Jay Z himself. If you listen to any of his music, it makes sense to see him court side at an NBA game, wearing luxury watches and even partnering with a global investment firm. Make the effort to understand your brand in a meaningful way just as Jay Z has. It helps him achieve his objectives and makes a logical extension or placement for his brand.

People are already using your product everywhere, so promote where your brand will get noticed. This type of visibility adds material value for the channels; selling a well-known, iconic brand is many times easier than selling an underdog nobody has heard of. People aspire to own iconic brands. In the rap world, the well-known iconic artists' albums go platinum while the unknown guy keeps on struggling.

By the way, my favourite Jay Z quote actually comes from the same song as Volpe's:

"Difficult takes a day, impossible takes a week."

The man is focused on what he wants and he lets nothing stop him. Awesome.