wu-tangIn the early 1990s, the rapper RZA (pronounced Rizza) formed a new creative partnership, or as I like to call it, a brandscape.

His daring five-year plan was to leverage the distinct style of seven New York rappers to help the group reach number one on the Billboard charts and change the face of the music scene.

This successful brandscape was called the Wu-Tang Clan.

Creating a supergroup

In a recent NPR story celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Wu-Tang Clan’s debut on the music scene, RZA recalled how the group developed unique personas designed to attract different sub-categories of the rap music audience:

I recall telling GZA, ‘You’ll get the college crowd,’ “because he’s the intellectual. Raekwon and Ghost, all the gangstas” – their metaphors read like a police blotter – “Meth will get the women and children – and he didn’t want to do women and children. He didn’t know that, though. Method Man is a rough, rugged street dude, but all the girls love him.” Method Man is playful. “Myself, I was looking more like that I bring in rock ’n’ roll.

There you have it:

  • The college crowd was assigned to GZA;
  • The gangstas were given to Raekwon and Ghost (that is, Ghostface Killah);
  • Method Man was recruited to reach the single ladies;
  • RZA’s role was to attract crossovers from the rock music crowd.
Wu-Tang Clan performing in 2010. Image by NRK P3 via Flickr.

Wu-Tang Clan performing in 2010. Image by NRK P3 via Flickr.

Who’s your Method Man?

Let’s assume you’ve already created a series of personas to help with your content marketing efforts.

Maybe you’re already creating content designed to engage each of the market segments represented by your personas in a relevant and compelling way.

Have you assigned an individual to act as the brand ambassador to that persona? Who’s your Method Man to the women in your audience?

Over the next five years RZA leveraged the individual personas he’d created to sign separate record deals for each member of the group.

Ghostface Killah became a breakout success in his own right after RZA ensured each  member was given a record deal with a separate label. Image by thecomeupshow via Flickr.

Ghostface Killah became a breakout success after RZA ensured each member was given a record deal with a separate label. Image by thecomeupshow via Flickr.

Instead of signing all five artists to one record label (which wouldn’t maximize their reach), RZA insisted on getting five of the six major record labels at the time to invest in the individual artists.

This simple strategy (leveraging five separate record labels to grow each artist’s fan base) turned artists like Ghostface Killah into stars in their own right. Ghost’s first solo album in 1996, for example, debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 chart.

By building each individual artist’s audience first, RZA guaranteed that the Wu-Tang Clan’s debut album would be a huge success.

Sure enough, five years after Wu-Tang Clan first assembled in a Staten Island basement, their album Wu-Tang Forever hit number one on the Billboard charts.

The Wu-Tang Clan demonstrated that pooling their distinct audiences would not only produce a mega-hit but one of the most influential rap albums of the decade.

What if…

What if you created your own ‘Wu-Tang Clan’ of internal experts assigned to attract and build specific segments of your market?

What if you leveraged the audiences they built on their own to create a powerhouse when you brought those experts and their communities together?

Ask yourself…

What’s your five-year Wu-Tang plan?