What better spokesperson could a company have than someone who has been arrested for assault and battery and been incarcerated on drug charges? Just ask the folks at Apple Computer, who are allegedly in negotiations with famous—or infamous, depending upon the point of view—rapper, 50 Cent. From Forbes by way of AllHipHop, it’s being reported that 50 Cent is exploring the possibility of cobranding a computer with Apple for sale to those living in the inner cities of America. Sounding both self-serving and altruistic simultaneously, 50 Cent explains that it’s not about him.
“I’m creating a foundation that will be around for a long time, because fame can come and go or get lost in the lifestyle and the splurging,” Fifty Cent explained to Forbes. “I never got into it for the music. I got into it for the business.”
Of course, between record sales, a clothing line, branded athletic shoes, and a video game, Curtis Jackson has taken in over US$40 million, so it’s not like he’s living the life of poverty he once did. Still, he at least has an understanding of that life, and an understanding of business, as Chris Lighty, 50 Cent’s manager, points out. “He [Jobs] is setting a new standard in the music business,” Lighty added. “Let’s just say we get each other.”
Does anyone else hear the lyrics to I’ll Whip Ya Head Boy reading that quote? And can anyone imagine Steve and Fiddy on stage at Macworld 2007 jamming to a profanity-laden remix of Ebony and Ivory in GarageBand? Is there any more to this than wishful thinking on the part of 50 Cent and his retinue?
Well, Apple Computer is now an influential player in the entertainment industry, if not a purveyor of entertainment. Depending upon the results of negotiations with the film studios, Apple may become the entertainment and electronics company that also sells computers. Free from dependency on hardware margins, Apple could dabble at the low end—for a good cause. After all, Steve Jobs did offer OS X as the operating system for MIT’s US$100 laptop. Finally, Apple does sell a U2-branded iPod, so there is that precedent of associating with popular culture.
But there are associations and there are associations.
Consider that Rush Limbaugh, a longtime Mac user with 15 million or so listeners, has publicly offered to advertise for Apple. It’s not impossible to imagine such an association creating increased sales for Apple within a certain demographic. A deal with 50 Cent might resonate with a youthful audience too, but at what price? Associating with controversial figures, be they from the political or cultural fringe, could do far more damage to the Apple brand than any short term gains in sales.