The highs and lows of controversial marketing illustrated by Kanye West

Everyone is talking about Kanye

If you haven’t heard of him, you’ve got to be living under a rock. If you have, however, you likely have a strong opinion on him. 

American rapper Kanye West, also known as ‘Ye’, is currently one of the most controversial figures in the spotlight. Best known for his music, relationship with Kim Kardashian and questionable behaviour, Kanye frequently dominates news headlines.  

This past week has been a prime example of this – once again, everyone is talking about Kanye. 

The rapper, who is soon to be divorced from wife Kim Kardashian West, has returned to Instagram after a four-year break, but for a less conventional use of the app. In a number of posts that have since been swiftly deleted, Kanye has not held back from criticising his soon to be ex-wife’s parenting, sharing private messages between the two of them, and attacking Kim’s new boyfriend Pete Davidson. 

Kanye West marketing

But with his new album Donda 2 soon to be released, along with the autobiographical documentary ‘Jeen-Yuhs’ having just gone live on Netflix, many have wondered whether Kanye’s recent behaviour has all occurred in the name of marketing. 

Kanye West: A marketing ‘Jeen-Yuhs’

West has previously been dubbed as a “marketing genius” for many of his actions surrounding music or product launches. A big part of his marketing strategy is that he remains completely unfiltered in everything he does. This means that people either love him or hate him, but either way, everyone has got their eye on him. Whether he’s sharing controversial opinions on social media or disrupting others on stage, Kanye always manages to make his way into the news. 

Kanye West Taylor Swift

Not only this, but his unpredictable behaviour constantly keeps everyone on their toes. In the recent Instagram feud, the interesting variety of Kanye’s outbursts has kept everyone wondering what he’ll do next. This has led to more people following his social media accounts and sharing his posts with others, ultimately gaining him more engagement. 

No matter how controversial, however, Kanye’s popularity continues to skyrocket, with sales surrounding his past albums and current work proving this. With such successful marketing strategies, brands may be tempted to take inspiration from Kanye. But is this a good idea?

What we can learn from Kanye

A very common phrase thrown around the showbiz industry is ‘all publicity is good publicity’. Looking at Kanye’s sales statistics, this seems to be the case for him. But why isn’t this recommended for brands? 

While controversial behaviour appears to pay off for Kanye, there’s no guarantee this will work for your brand. In fact, it’s more likely that controversial marketing will simply backfire on your business, without having the same self-branding that Kanye already has in place. 

But what can we learn from Kanye?

  • Be unpredictable – While sharing controversial opinions online isn’t always the best idea for your brand, you can still take inspiration from Kanye’s unpredictable behaviour. Keep your audience on their toes. Do something they’ll never expect from you. This is what will get people looking at and sharing your brand. Just make sure it’s something positive!
  • Be authentic – One huge part of Kanye’s self-branding is his authenticity. Whether you agree with any of it, everything Kanye does is very much ‘him’. In a world full of fakery and inauthentic marketing, current generations value authenticity in the media they’re consuming. While we don’t recommend speaking out quite as controversially as Kanye, your brand will benefit from sticking to its values and remaining unmanufactured. 
  • Be consistent – A reason why Kanye’s marketing works is that it fits his branding. Ever since the beginning of his career, Kanye has seemingly never missed a week in the news for his loud, outspoken behaviour. While it’s fairly out-there, most people have allowed and entertained Kanye’s recent outbursts because it’s typical behaviour for him. Be unpredictable, but also embrace your brand’s identity and what makes it the great brand it is. 

Whether intentional or not, Kanye knows how to get everyone talking about him. And for that, we can call him a ‘marketing Jeen-Yuhs’. 

Want to get everyone talking about your brand (without the added controversy!)? Get in touch with Posh Cockney today.


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