How Could I Forget DA Streetz
Thanks to Michael Persaud who reminded me that I missed out a valuable player in this week’s article about Viral/Guerilla marketing. How could I miss Chris Latimer whose company Da Streetz pioneered so much in the game. Cancun Memorial Day Weekend was all Chris Latimer in the 90’s. He innovated event tactics by innovating programs like “House of Fubu” at The Superbowl. “Lat” is an overal “OG” in the game and we are sorry we missed ya dog! As a treat, for those of you who only go to our blog we have decided to rerun the article–enjoy!
Word Of Mouth Marketing Is Hot Today, But Is It Really Such A New Thing?
become obvious that Hip Hop is also a way of doing business. I have been thinking about this a lot lately while observing the newest craze in mainstream marketing which is being dubbed
as “Word Of Mouth Marketing or Influencer Marketing.” Yes folks, the street team game has gone mainstream. Corporations are marketing deodorant using the same tactics (and in some cases even the same street teams) that some of us used to develop artists. Even the Nebraska Lottery decided to use street teams to market their product For those of you marketers who are reading this and think wrapping your vehicle is a new thing, sit back and get a
history lesson. Contrary to what you may have learned in B-School, Jay
Levinson may have coined the term “Guerilla Marketing” but he definitely didn’t invent it.
In the early 90’s, it was Hip Hop that introduced the business world to non-traditional, viral, out-of-the box thinking and approaches. How? Well just like our more artistic b-boy counterparts, marketing and promotions staffers had to improvise and innovate due to a lack
of big marketing and promotion budgets; thus a new genre of marketing was born. In the late 80’s-early90’s to break a Hip Hop act at radio, one had to service and aggressively promote to a list of CMJ and Gavin radio stationsthat were run primarily by kids who had office hours 2-3
times per week at either community/college stationsor A.M. stations. As a savvy promotion person, you would call these guys during their call times, memorize their likes and dislikes, track it on a spreadsheet and badger them untill they actually played your record. The form of“payola” back then was taking a DJ to dinner when you were able to come to their town or at a convention, hook him up with a cutie, or even sending them the infamous label JACKET (remember those!). In somecases you wouldfind a radio dj who also had a talent as a producer and if you allowed them to remix your song they would play your record all the time because of their newvested interest in the artist.
One’s “staff” back then consisted of a street team or national field team. This motley crew of individuals were die-hard music lovers/enterpreneurs who tirelessly promoted artists for very little moneyeffectively owning their market and becoming the eyes and ears to places in the U.S. most labels could not travel to on a regular basis. Theybuilt the word of mouthbuzz and were the “mayors” of their respective markets babysitting the act, and locking down whatever was needed when you came to town. Climbing poles, lacing the local drug spots withmusic, driving
vans w/o drivers licenses, cutting hair in their own living room floors, getting
arrested for posting and stenciling, and finding the best weed were not above these local zealots. Their measurement for success was viral buzz which translated into mix show play, record sales and touring opportunities for the artist/group.
In 1992 corporations like Pepsi, Nike, HBO, EA Sports, Reebok started realizing that they were targeting the same consumers as record companies like Def
Jam,Tommy Boy and Loud Records and started hiring guerilla marketing
companies like Rugged Concepts in D.C. (Duk Ki Yu), Chrewd Marketing in Chicago (Jello), Wytehouse Marketing in NYC (Troy White), FrontLine Marketing in NYC (Sincere Thompson), N5 Marketing in L.A. (Michael Nixon), MadPro in L.A. (E1), Pirate DJ’s in SF(Rolo/Ivan/Mind Motion), and It’s Done Marketing in NYC (General). Though he
is not the originator of guerilla marketing and street teams Steve Rifkind and his
company SRC were able to use Rifkind’s leverage, pedigree, and nepotism to get into corporate doors most smaller companies could not get into. After securing the accounts, SRC would hire one of these local companies to execute. One of SRC’s earliest clients was Nike but the story of
how they secured the business is hilarious. Chilly T (Travis Knight) Phil Knight’s son was a
rapper on MCA Records. MCA Records hired the SRC to promote and market and promote Chilly T’s album on the streets. The relationships were established between SRC and Nike while trying to naturally integrate Nike into the equation. At that time using the word “fashion” at Nike, or drawing a connection to Hip Hop for Nike was off-limits (funny how times have changed). For Rugged Concepts founder, Duk Ki Yu a meeting at Nike corp
headquarters in Beaverton, OR is when his Georgetown B-School schooling kicked in for him. He
says “I was able to really understand during that meeting how I would be able to translate the same thing I was doing for record companies for corporations”. For Rifkind he went on to build a solid personal and business relationship with Nike CEO Phil Knight. SRC opened up offices in NY and L.A., becamea very successful street marketing company and wenton to be a starting
point for SO many other entrepreneurs.(Paul Stewart, Adrian Miller, Mark Persaud, etc) were just a few of the countless people who worked for SRC and later went on to create their own street team or marketing companies.
Jessica Rossenblum (Stress Marketing) was also a real pioneer in viral marketing in NYC. In addition to throwing some of the best parties in NYC (her parties with this young kid named Sean Coombs being some of the most infamous) Jessica and her then partner
Funkmaster Flex managed other DJ’s(Doo Wop, Stretch Armstrong, DJ Enuff). With their power at mixshow radio nationally, as well as being involved in NYC hottest parties they were able to parlay that into corporate business. Rossenblum still operates her company,Stress Entertainment, in NYC and Funkmaster Flex is, well you know the rest. “I
hate talking about the old days though because wedidn’t make a lot of money, but it was FUN,” says Yu about those times. He recalls the line between theartist and promoter being so thin back then. “I forged relationships with guys like Tribe CalledQuest and De La Soul that I still have today”
Another O.G. and pioneer who continues to thriveis Patrick “Sincere” Thompson
and his companyFrontline Marketing & Promotions. In the mid 90’s he had the national streets “on lock” and was aninnovator in merging hip hop and alcohol companies.Thompson left a job at Morgan Stanley to create oneof the most successful guerilla marketing companiesin the business. Today he continues to get checksfrom various corporate clients and is largely known as “the man” at Martell.
Another aspect of “word of mouth marketing”
product placement hit full swing in the past 5 years. One of the most talked about deals is the Busta Rhymes andP Diddy’s 2002 hit, ‘Pass the Courvoisier’, an example of a
product endorsement opportunity that has changed the
way business is done. The song mentions the brand-name
4 times in each chorus and a bottle is seen around 30 times
in the video. Busta’s management, Violator had said
that the massive hit about cognac was merely an
artistic choice, but it also helped Courvoisier’s
parentcompany, France’s Allied Domecq, achieve a double-
digit increase in U.S. sales. Domecq later reached a
promotional deal with Violator and the game was
And how can we
not mention Steve Stoute, who has
continued to workhis way in circles not commonly traveled. From
carrying Kid & Play’s bags, doing a&r at RCA
Records, managing Nas and Mary J.
Blige to now negotiating deals for Gwen Stefani and
Hewlett Packard, the industry is still baffled by how a
guy with no prior marketing experience quickly used
his relationships to have so much success in marketing and brand
development. Quite simply, Stoute was able to ride
the late 90’s wave and interest in Hip Hop to become
a conduit for corporations like Reebok at just the
right time.After spending time as a consultant and partner to
guys like Tommy Mottola, Jimmy Iovine, and Peter
Arnell, today Stoute is known as Jay Z’s chief
business advisor and has a booming strategic
marketingbusiness called Translation.
Looking at today’s new found corporate love affair
with guerilla marketing, there are a slew of companies who now
claim to be experts in viral/guerilla marketing. If you
do a search on street teams you will find search
results that bring up new jack companies like Mr.
Youth and Elite Marketing who all claim supreme
expertise in alternative marketing, experiential
marketing, etc. There is even a new
organization called the WOMMA (Word Of Mouth
Marketing Association) that has become the “United
Nations” of the viral marketing game. Last week in
Orlando, WOMMA hosted a successful conference
(mad I missed it!) that brought together brands and
companies aggressively implementing alternative
tactics. Mainstream marketing companies have taken
what hip hop started, built very similar models that
work in the corporate world and now have remixed
thename of the genre to Alternative Marketing. Venture
Capatilists have jumped into the game recently giving
Dave Balter’s BzzAgent Marketing $14M in capital for
In the end, bad marketing is bad marketing no matter
what context it is being used in. Not all of the viral,
street campaigns used “back in the day” were great.
The innovation and the usages of the right
tactics within the right environments are what made
those campaigns great. Even IBM tried its hand at
a “Peace, Love & Linux” street campaign and they
unfortunately ended up catching a brick.
As technology allows the consumer to become more savvy and
product aware and as information continues to move
at a much faster rate it will be interesting to see how the
genre matures. If you are a marketer who
does not yet see the value in building a campaign
outside of traditional methods then you are already
late but if you were smart enough to read this entire
article you are on the right path.