What happens when the aspirational qualities of a product are used to enhance the status of another brand? This can be beneficial for both parties or develop into a point of contention.
For example, a desired ‘status brand’ such as Cristal Champagne that has quietly developed recognition through quality and demand, based on exclusivity may not appreciate obvious, repetitive placement (Homer, 2009). In an interview conducted by the Economist Cristal Managing Director, Frederic Rouzaud, when asked about Hip Hop’s promotion and association to their product simply replied:
“What can we do? We can’t forbid people from buying it.”
The desire aspect of a brand, such as Cristal Champagne defines its aspiriational brand quality as outlined by Doyle in Doole and Lowe’s book International Marketing Strategy (2008):
Such brands do not simply…deliver…high specification and quality, but also recognize the customer’s status, recognition and esteem that can be associated with the brand.
Demand for Cristal already outstrips supply, as the house only produces its product in years when grape quality is exceptional. In a good year the yield is 400,000 bottles, about 65,000 cases. Also unlike Krug, which aggressively marketed to the fashion industry in the 90’s and other champagne brands target Formula 1, Cristal has opted out of this race. Deciding to supply select exclusive parties during such events, adopting a peripheral marketing approach instead (Bhargava, 2008).
Being branded as the drop of choice by Hip Hop ‘players’ was not their idea of quality brand building and for this reason the comments by Cristal executives angered Hip Hop superstar Jay-Z who called for an outright ban of the product in June 2006. He felt his efforts in promoting the product in his music and videos were not appreciated and the comments offensive. So he has moved on to paid product placement by Armand de Brignac (with new product below), now his drink of choice, as investigated in the Atlantic.
In Jay-Z’s and other Hip Hop performers careers Cristal was used as the status drink to ‘swig’ and during live performances used to ‘hose down’ female talent on stage. Offensive Rouzaud’s comments may have been to the Rap community but from a brand perspective so was the degrading use of the product.
I miss my drop
Not all love is lost for Cristal in the Hip Hop community as witnessed by Puff Daddy’s Super Bowl celebrations in 2008 with his exclusive Cristal fueled event. Two years is obviously long enough for a boycott of a quality product. Jay-Z and Puff originally stood together on the boycott. Though in recent years both men have had polar marketing trajectories.
Puff has rebranded himself as an elegant ‘player’ channeling a more refined man with a hint of the truly sophisticated Sidney Poitier (Now that’s talent!). To his empire Puff has added a line of quality bespoke clothing made in Italy and England (his urban wear labels are long established). Jay-Z on the other hand has still cultivated the urban ‘player’ made good. He can afford the dapper lifestyle and has been blessed with a successful, bootylicious wife (Beyoncé) but remains hood to the heart.
The interesting question is was racism part of the disagreement? I believe the disregard for the essence of the product, in this particular case, adds great weight to the discussion. Please don’t ‘product place’ for ME, my product is already ‘BLING’.
Bhargava, R. (2008, February 11). Trendspot: Peripheral marketing. Influential Marketing Blog. Retrieved October 29, 2010 from http://rohitbhargava.typepad.com/weblog/2008/02/trendspot-perip.html
Doole, I. & Lowe, R. (2008). International marketing strategy: analysis, development and implementation (5th E). London: Cengage Learning EMEA.
Homer, P. M. (2009). Product placements: The impact of placement type and repetition on attitude. Journal of Advertising. V38: N3, p21-32. M.E. Sharpe Inc.