Is Kanye’s new ‘Donda’ Album, and ongoing beef with Drake, Helping or Hurting his Business brand? Let’s learn a Lesson on PR Branding
We’ve certainly heard more about Kanye West recently than we had for some time before he released his long awaited Donda album, named in honor of his late mother. And notice that the public relations moves from the Kanye camp have been relentless, including a well-publicized beef with long time nemesis Drake. Is all this a coincidence, or a calculated strategy to trigger a healthy response to the new album, and also to enhance his fashion brand given the Kim Kardashian divorce mess from earlier this year?
If you’ve seen my other videos on branding, then you should already know the answer. So far, a few weeks after releasing the album, the Kanye machine is humming along juuuust fine. He’s not just an artist, but also a billionaire businessman with other deals that intersect with his musical products. Let’s run down a quick business profile of the Kanye mogul, who is said to be the wealthiest black man in American history.
In early 2021, various notable news outlets like Forbes Magazine reported that he is worth over $6 billion, half of that attributed to his sneaker line. What a bankable set of fashion business interests this brotha has. A notable deal he signed with Gap this year for his Yeezy line is forecast to exceed $1 billion in revenues, according to a Wells Fargo prediction in June.
Let me add that they may have to adjust their numbers as the word’s global supply chain is not doing so well, and will likely have a negative effect on the upcoming Christmas shopping season. Time will tell. This might be another good reason for him to have released his Donda album this summer, which might help to counter the potential slump in retail demand.
In their analysis of the Kanye deal with the Gap, Wells Fargo and data firm Guidepoint identified some people who normally don’t shop at the Gap, but would be interested in buying Yeezy shoes and clothing from the store. Now this is a win win for both Kanye and the Gap, given that the retail chain had been viewed as struggling to bring in new customers in recent years.
In addition, Kanye has an even more lucrative deal with Adidas, helping to boost his net worth and fashion influence. You might remember that his Yeezy dream actually first started with rival Nike in 2012. Going from one great brand to another is impressive. That’s the power of the Yeezy brand. All of this fashion success was no easy task, as his fashion career nearly died after his Taylor Swift VMA awards scandal in 2009. However, Kanye was still able to parlay his VMA bad boy stunt into a brand builder that kept his dreams alive.
His ongoing beef with superstar rapper Drake has been part of the reason his bad boy strategy worked. How did this beef get started? I won’t have time for the details, but it’s been reported that Drake used to look up to Kanye, as he was coming up in the game, and when he did blow up, allegedly Drake felt Kanye was jealous of his rise to fame, while others say Drake copied Kanye’s style. I’ll let you decide what’s true. But even now, as Drake reigns supreme as arguably one of the most prolific rappers in history, their beef has cleverly diverted some of that Drake brand value into the Yeezy brand. Smart move.
His business brand hit a new plateau at the 2015 New York Fashion Week with Yeezy Season 1. It was a success. And now, this Fall, Yeezy Season 9 is set to be an Elon Musk inspired extravaganza. And if you ain’t heard, this brotha has a $30 million documentary deal with Netflix to cover the highlights of his life, including his brand boosting 2020 presidential campaign (yes, folks, it was good for his PR machine and brand).
If you’re curious, it looks like he doesn’t exactly own the trademark rights to the design of his Yeezy footwear. Adidas owns those, though I’m sure Kanye is still pleased with the Brinks Truck money Adidas hauled to his bank account. Part of the money Adidas paid to Kanye, amounting to $191 million in 2020, was directly for royalties due to those trademark rights.
This is important to understand, business warriors. If copyrights and trademarks are a part of your business plan, learn how to build value in your brand like Kanye did, so that you can sell the rights to an interested business partner.
Moving on, his rather interesting divorce or split from his estranged wife Kim Kardashian has left his shadow director role in her Skims line in question. Is he still a legal partner of her wildly popular fashion line? She kept his last name in part for the children, but another part I suspect, might be to capitalize from his brand, which is gaining in value. I’ll cover the Kardashian brand strategy in another video. But both the Kardashian brand and the Yeezy brand have mutually benefitted each other in many ways. Unlike the other Kardashian husbands, Kanye’s business smarts proved to be more impressive than most realize. Good for him.
So how should you position your brand after you start your business, or if you’ve been in business for some time? Keep in mind this equation:
Brand Success = Positive Points – Negative Points
where Negative Points is less than Positive Points. Negative Points is the sum total of all your bad behavior that the public does not approve of based on your image. For example, if the image you present to the public is that of a good, wholesome and financially successful person, but you turn around and you get arrested for committing fraud against hard working people, your brand’s negative points will grow significantly. If your customer service skills suck, then same thing. For every negative point, you want to add at least one positive point by doing something the public perceives as good. Keep that in mind.
Until the next video, my business warriors: war and peace.
Gap’s Yeezy line to bring $1 billion in sales in year one: Wells Fargo (cnbc.com)
Kanye West Reportedly Worth $6.6 Billion, Boosted by Yeezy-Gap Deal (businessinsider.com)
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