Jay Z's Brand Is Suffering Because People Don't Trust Him Anymore
Aaron Taube | Business Insider
In July, the rapper and business mogul Jay Z partnered with Samsung to release a new album, "Magna Carta Holy Grail," by giving away 1 million copies to the first Samsung mobile users to download a free app.
The deal netted Jay a cool $5 million in sales and a platinum album the moment it was released, and it burnished his image as an innovative businessman. But it's not clear that the $20 million partnership — or other recent Jaz Z ventures — have actually helped Jay Z's image.
According to research from celebrity branding expert Jeetendr Sehdev, Jay Z's partnership with Samsung was the second least popular celebrity marketing deal of 2013 among consumers aged 13-31 (Justin Bieber's partnership with OPI was the most hated).
In fact, the 1,000 millennials surveyed said the rapper himself was among the people least influential to their purchase decisions among the 80 celebrities Sehdev asked about, a group that included a range of personalities spanning from Tom Brady to Hillary Clinton.
Sehdev said that while Jay Z remains popular with Americans of all ages, his brand is missing one crucial piece needed to persuade them to spend hard-earned money on the products he touts: authenticity.
As a group, millennials consumers place a high premium on buying products from brands they see as being honest and having social goals that go beyond those published in their quarterly earnings reports. And despite Jay Z's promise to "Never Change," these consumers say they don't know what he stands for anymore.
The survey found that Jay Z scored 70% lower in the categories of trustworthiness and honesty than did celebrities like Morgan Freeman and Jennifer Lawrence, an issue Sehdev chalks up to Jay's intense focus on making money seemingly however he can.
For instance, Sehdev said consumers praise Jay Z's intelligence, but question his integrity as an artist, noting that he has collaborated with a variety of musicians from Justin Timberlake to Kanye West, and dabbled in various genres like hip-hop, pop, and R&B.
Perhaps more damaging to Jay Z's ability to persuade consumers through branded partnerships are his constant references to other products in his music. Sehdev said that on "Magna Carta Holy Grail" alone, Jay Z referenced eight different luxury brands more than 20 times.
Despite the album's strong sales, critics condemned it for being an uncreative endeavor motivated by commerce rather than artistic expression.
"Millennials question the exact nature of Jay Z’s role in the artistic process," Sehdev said. "Does he really write his own songs? Is he choosing the artists to collaborate with, or is he just the face of a money-making empire?"
Further, Jay Z's recent business decisions outside music are seen as lacking cohesion with the person he claims to be.
After purchasing a stake in the NBA's New Jersey Nets and serving as the public face of a contentious campaign to move the team to his home borough of Brooklyn, Jay sold his interests in the team less than a year after.
The sale allowed him to pursue a new venture as a sports agent, while his beloved Brooklyn has yet to receive the affordable housing the Nets promised when they purchased public land to build their new stadium.
"Millennials questions his approach to loyalty, whether it be to a business deal or his fans," Sehdev said. "His motivations to just make money can be viewed by this audience as self-centered, even if they may be business savvy."
Sehdev praised Jay Z's participation in a revealing Vanity Fair cover story last month as a positive step toward regaining the trust of millennial consumers by shedding light on his social views and the family life he shares with his wife, Beyoncé, and their baby daughter Blue Ivy.
To continue this progress, Sehdev said Jay will have to continue to feed the public's thirst for knowledge about his relationship with his superstar wife and be mindful of only taking on partnerships that mesh with the Jay Z brand.
"We rarely see this true side of him," Sehdev said. "I believe Jay Z is going to need more exposure of his true self, meaningful partnerships, and true philanthropic efforts to get back into the good books of Millennials."