How Hip Hop entered the Global Economy

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The question of international appeal and market segmentation makes me automatically want to examine Hip Hop as a culture. It’s interesting to note how, without marketing specialists and advertising executive’s influence, Hip Hop spread around the World. Still, it speaks to some of the same characteristics needed to define market segments used today by those same professional marketers.


Hip Hop spread around the globe first through the youth culture while it also spoke to older individuals who understood the World view Hip Hop presented. The intrinsic value of ‘coming up from the bottom’ is something understood by many, no matter where they live. That is more of a segmentation by class, economic and political power-distance. But not only were the ideologies accepted across regions but picked up in cosmopolitan areas where people “purchase global brands because they enhance their self-image of being cosmopolitan, sophisticated and modern.” (Global Marketing) Urban markets also accepted Hip Hop flair for fashion and fun (i.e. Dancing, Deejaying and Beatboxin).


Now across the World, Beatbox, Rap, Break Dance (Breakin), Graffit Art, and Deejayin competitions are held to entertain millions of people each year. Though, there are vast differences in demographics, group affiliations, economic and educational status, the just-like-us segment can work on a very specific level. This market segmenting strategy tries to utilize the same techniques abroad that it does in its home market. For every type of product, this strategy does not apply, it seems, because of the differences in cultural attitudes, demographics etc. However, when the just-like-us segmentation can be narrowed down and simplified, the message communicated can be relevant across cultural barriers. For example, Nike exemplifies athleticism, competitiveness, endurance and any number of one word adjectives that describe types of people across all cultural and demographic divides.


Hip Hop as a culture is able to tap into these core feelings that exist across regions with new slang words. These words are added to the lexicon or altered in meaning by the Hip Hop Kultural reference. In the beginning it was words like fresh, dope, underground, diss, props, ill and now its words like swag, twerk, or turnt up that breed the familiarity with people across cultures. The notion this revealed to me was that, when marketers can tap into the buzz words of a culture and understand what they mean, they can uncover the motivations which percolate through that culture. These buzz words can create a picture of what kinds of attitudes, interests and opinions a consumer might have towards a product.

Gillespie/Hennessey, Global Marketing, 3rd ed., Cengage Learning 2011

Kurt Nice

Kurt Nice aka Kurtiss Jackson is a behind the scenes pioneer in the Hip Hop Kulture, creating the first nationally distributed video mix tape series, Shades of Hip Hop, in the late 1990s. Since touring the country with the Stop the Violence Movement and the Temple of Hip Hop as KRS-ONE’s National Marketing Director, Kurt Nice has been a constant commentator on conscious Hip Hop and its relevance to the new rap music of today, through radio and cable appearances. contact Kurt at

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