How Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson expanded his brand through guerrilla marketing

As a marketer, I’ve studied Jackson’s marketing tactics and strategies in the same way that aspiring basketball player Stephen Curry studies the jump shot. Here are the guerrilla marketing tactics Jackson used to expand his brand — tactics you can apply to your marketing arsenal.

Maximize your resources

“The primary investment for a guerrilla marketer should be time, energy, imagination and information — not money,” says authors Jay Conrad Levinson and Jenny Levinson, who coined the term “guerrilla marketing.” Jackson was able to embody these principles when he was dropped from his first record deal at Columbia Records after being shot nine times in Queens, New York.

Frustrated, Jackson invested his time, energy, and imagination creating and distributing mixtapes on the streets of New York City to consumers free of charge—which fueled demand for his album. He eventually struck a deal with Interscope/Shady/Aftermath Records.

Like Curtis, marketers can create demand for products or services by providing consumers with a free glimpse of what life would be like if they purchased their products.

Perhaps you can provide a free service for one day. Or let someone have full access to your app for free for a week. The key here is to provide consumers with something that makes their lives so much better that the chip you gave them for free will make them want to buy the whole pie.

Smart Collaboration

Jackson’s biggest deal didn’t come via entertainment. It came about by collaborating with Glaceau, the company that created Vitamin Water — which Coca-Cola later bought for $4.2 billion.

In his book “Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter,” Jackson describes his reasons for seeking equity in the company rather than a regular endorsement. “Rather than focusing on the size of my starting salary, I am trying to assess all the ways in which the situation will benefit me,” Jackson wrote.

Glaceau executives agreed to give Jackson the rights to the property. They knew his fans would gravitate toward the brand and increase revenue or, as Levinson wrote: “Success in a merger partnership comes from the same tactics that make you valuable and attractive to potential buyers of your product and service.”

As a guerrilla marketer, think about potential collaborations you can have with brands that would be mutually beneficial if the collaboration were successful – preferably something you can add value that you’re missing out on or vice versa. As Jackson said, rather than focusing on the initial return – think long-term about how all parties involved can maximize opportunities.

Attract attention structure

Another thing Jackson is known for: stirring up controversy. Whether it’s different types of meat with the rapper or throwing barbs at Madonna, Jackson knows how to stir things up.

But there is a way to his madness. Jackson realizes that the controversy is free publicity and uses it to his advantage. Guerrilla marketing is about pursuing traditional goals through unconventional means.

In “The Fifty Law,” a book co-written by Robert Green, Jackson describes a publicity stunt in the summer of 2007 after being alarmed by a lack of marketing by Interscope recordings for his third album, Curtis.

Jackson destroyed his office and had a building maintenance worker take pictures of the damage. Then Jackson leaked the photos to the Internet and the media – which attracted attention to the album. As the writers recounted: “They could laugh at his out-of-control antics, not realizing that it was Fifty, who directed the drama, who would finally laugh.” As Levinson said, “The fighters control the messages they send. It’s all about intent.”

You can intentionally follow Jackson’s scheme to get attention by sparking controversy that generates publicity for your brand on social media. Openly challenge one of your competitors. Leak information about one of your upcoming products. Make a bold statement about your brand that your competitors wouldn’t dare to do – perhaps an ad that would make even Elon Musk think you went too far.

Use your creativity to control the narrative by drawing attention to your brand with a clear intention. And if you do, you’ll be a marketer of GGGG-guerrilla like 50 Cent.

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