He's Gone by Puffy, Diddy and Now ... Brand Manager

Q&A: Rapper Set to Lead Marketing for Diageo's Ciroc Vodka

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Meet Diddy, brand marketer.

The multimedia mogul and CEO of Bad Boy Entertainment added another position to his resume today with his announcement to take on all brand-management decisions for Diageo's Ciroc vodka, including marketing, advertising, public relations, product placement and events. The role is "too big for one title," he told Ad Age, but, he added, "I'll be taking the lead on all the things traditionally a CMO or a brand manager would do, just doing them my way. Marketing in a way that is truly unique."

Diddy's goal is to turn Ciroc into the top luxury vodka brand, much in the same way that he has indirectly helped put Courvoisier, Patron and Cristal at the top of their respective categories through mentions in hip-hop songs and product placement in music videos. Part of this strategy: declaring Ciroc the "official" vodka for New Year's Eve.

"When the ball drops, if you're not drinking Ciroc vodka, you're not drinking New Year's Eve the right way," he told reporters at a press conference today in New York.

It's a lofty goal to essentially take a luxury vodka from scratch and build it up to become the top beverage in its category by year's end, but one worth pursuing for Diddy, given his previous endeavors. His music label, Bad Boy, has issued recent No. 1 Billboard albums for both himself (2006's "Press Play") and "Making the Band" contestants Danity Kane, while his clothing line Sean John has surpassed Russell Simmons' Phat Farm as the top-selling brand in urban clothing. And his dual line of men's and women's fragrances for women, Unforgivable, recently outsold other celebrity scents from Jennifer Lopez and Sarah Jessica Parker.

"I'd just like to take a moment to apologize to those ladies and hope they still speak to me on the red carpet," he joked during the press conference.

Diddy's announcement represents the latest in rappers trying their hand at brand building in the beverage category. 50 Cent was an early investor in Glaceau's Vitamin Water before it was acquired by Coca-Cola for $4.1 billion in May, leaving the rapper with as much as $400 million to cash out. Jay-Z, meanwhile, took an even more hands-on approach to spirits marketing as co-brand director of Anheuser-Busch's Bud Select, helping the brand reach the urban market and endorsing the beer in its ad campaigns. But even his efforts couldn't help the brand gain market share, as sales fell 20% from 2006 earlier this year.

Diddy and Diageo project Ciroc's potential value to be worth $100 million for Diddy. But, he was quick to point out to reporters that "you won't get that for a long, long time. That's just a figure to get you guys excited." Shortly after making his announcement, Diddy answered a few questions about his new gig and the challenges he's been able to overcome in viral marketing.

Ad Age: You just endeared yourself to thousands of marketers today by taking on this unique role in brand marketing with Diageo. How will you define success by today's current standards of marketing?

Diddy: Everybody has their marketing lingo, but I'm about results. I'm always about having the No. 1 shows, albums, fragrances and clothing lines. I think this is a huge testament to the marketing power we possess [at Bad Boy].

Everybody has dreams. As a recording artist, my dream was to play Madison Square Garden. I've always been able to attract the bottom line, so I saw an opportunity to do this as a brand builder.

Ad Age: You already have a special Ciroc mixed drink in your Justin's restaurants. What was it about the vodka that made you want to take it on from a larger perspective?

Diddy: There's no vodka out there that spoke my language. It was the same with my records and with Sean John. Nobody was speaking to the fashion community like I was. I didn't think there was a vodka whose marketing spoke to my lifestyle, that made me feel like I want to feel. I've branded myself as the king of celebration, and that's what this alliance is about. It's not a glorified endorsement deal, it's a hands-on, day-to-day investment. Diageo is No. 1 in the world spirits companies, so I look forward to having a lot of fun with them. It's also significant for them to see things my way and break away from the industry to reach out to African Americans. It's not an industry filled with color, so it was good for them to diversify themselves.

Ad Age: Last year you spoke with us about your viral video channels on MySpace and YouTube for "Press Play" and partnership with Burger King. And just recently you appeared on "Oprah" with the YouTube guys to talk about your successes in viral marketing. What have you learned about it and the challenges it presents in breaking through the clutter?

Diddy: I have my own formula and learned how to engage people and inform them. People say content is king, but only when it's content people are interested in. I can't make 1 million people view nothing unless it's tagged to something they like. That's the only way people are going to pay attention to your content.
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