For a long time, there has been a widespread use of entertainers/celebrities as endorsers for products — in many formats. Recently, there has been a more concerted effort on the part of some entertainers to also become masters of a second domain: product innovation. Two great examples of this trend are Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas and Dr. Dre, the rapper and record producer.
Will.i.am was recently a featured speaker at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas; and the subject of a January Fortune cover story (click here to access the article). As Daniel Roberts reports for Fortune: “Chances are you know William Adams [his given name] even if you are not a fan of his music. His group, the Black Eyed Peas, has sold some 60 million records and orchestrated the Super Bowl halftime show. But with some of the world’s biggest companies, he has cultivated an altogether different reputation. He has become a source of ideas and insight for the likes of Intel, Coca-Cola, and Anheuser-Busch InBev — a kind of one-man focus group, a futurist for hire. ‘Will is a visionary,’ says Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent. ‘He offers an endless stream of creativity and possibility.’ What makes Adams different is the role he plays: He’s neither pitchman nor conventional investor. He is a co-creator and sounding board. ‘I don’t think of Will as an endorser at all,’ says Genevieve Bell, an anthropologist with Intel Labs. ‘I think of him as part of our conversation about what the future is. His input is invaluable.'”
Photo montage by Art Streiber
Dr. Dre is a leading headphone designer/innovator and the subject of a recent Wall Street Journal story. (click here to access the article). As Steve Knopper reports for the WSJ: “In 2006, rapper-producer Dr. Dre and his partner, music mogul Jimmy Iovine, decided to expand beyond the reeling record business and spotted a niche in the high-end headphones market. Having spent millions to produce perfect-sounding records, they were frustrated that listeners often experienced the music through flimsy earbuds. Dr. Dre had been considering a shoe endorsement, but Mr. Iovine told him, ‘[Expletive] sneakers, let’s make speakers.’ They teamed with Luke Wood. And now, Beats Electronics is a big success story: “The headphones, shaped in a seamless ‘U,’ made their debut at $350 a pop in 2008. By last year, they accounted for roughly half of the market for premium models, according to the NPD Group. (Prices today range from $200 for the Compact model to $400 for the Pro.) Basketball stars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant have worn them in public, and ESPN suggested the headphones were ‘replacing the Maybach as the must-have item for pro athletes.’ Beats generated $1.6 billion in 2012, up 30% from 2011, NPD reported.”
Click the LeBron James photo to access the dynamic Beats by Dr. Dre Web site.