The number of musicians singing about the timepieces they sport on their wrists continues to grow, especially in the rap world, where rappers use the brand names to signify their success, power, and achievements. But the only brands cited are the true luxury offerings—products that few regular consumers could ever hope to access. Such links create an interesting opportunity for the luxury brands, many of which have not quite decided how to leverage the free advertising, but also the potentially damaging reputational links, that arise when a notorious musician name checks them.
The mentions include a range of brands, but all of them are clearly luxury products. Rolex is the most widely cited, with references to its appeal going as far back as music produced in the 1970s. But more recently, Patek Philippe seemingly is the brand of choice, appearing perhaps most famously in the recent Beyoncé/Jay-Z duet “Everything Is Love.” But some rappers, such as Kendrick Lamar and DJ Khalid, seek to go beyond these relatively well-known brands to name check more exclusive options, such as Vacheron Constantin.
Although the artists and the lyrics vary, the role of the watches is consistent. By demonstrating their ability to afford the extremely expensive accessories—often describing how they drip with precious metals or jewels—the rappers establish their own success. Thus they leverage the brands’ luxury images, achieved partially through their extremely high price points, to identify themselves as wealthy, powerful, and enviable.
Such images are widespread in rap culture, but so are some other notions, including frequent references to illegal behavior and violence. For some watch brands, the links thus might not be ideal. An image affiliation with a musician who winds up in prison might not be one that will appeal to luxury brands’ traditional consumer segments of wealthy, older, often relatively conservative buyers.
Still, the appealing increase in name recognition that results from these rap mentions is hard for the brands to deny. Fans are more likely to search for Richard Mille watches because Jay-Z mentions them so often. Even if most of these fans cannot afford the products, some might, or else might seek other options to access the brand, such as finding used versions. In addition, current artists attract young audiences, and if a teenager becomes familiar with the name Hublot as a desirable watch brand, in 20 years, the same consumer as an adult might retain that positive association and information. Such image enhancements and potential sales benefit the brands ultimately.
1. How can luxury watch brands leverage the widespread tendency of rap artists to use their brand names in their music?
2. Should they do so? What are the risks involved in entering into an association with a popular musician?
Source: Melanie Abrams, “Getting It on the Wrist (Yo!),” The New York Times, November 22, 2018; Sheldon Pearce, “Objectified: Rap’s Obsession with Patek Philippe,” Pitchfork, August 8, 2018