Swizz Beatz announced on Wednesday he has joined the creative and marketing team at Monster Cable Inc., lending additional star power to the audio company's already heavy line-up of celebrity backers.
As part of the arrangement, Beatz, whose real name is Kasseem David Dean, has become an equity investor in Monster and is now a board member of the privately held San Francisco maker of headphones, cables and other audio gear.
Monster began beefing up its line-up of celebrity ambassadors last year to begin preparing for its split-up with Beats Electronics, founded by Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre. That relationship expired at the end of 2012 when Beats began to design, manufacture and distribute its own products rather than rely on Monster. Beats products had made up 50% of Monster's revenue.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Monster rolled out the red carpet for its celebrity partners and endorsers, which included singer Sheila E, actor Nick Cannon, rapper Xzibit and boxer Sugar Ray Leonard.
Swizz Beatz' involvement goes deeper than the typical celebrity endorsement, said Monster's chief executive, Noel Lee.
"Swizz will advise us on our creative direction, product design and our marketing," Lee said. "We'll be looking to him to tell us what's next. He's the real deal. He doesn't get involved in something unless he believes in it."
Technology companies have long tapped celebrities to help them connect with consumers. But those relationships have been getting more serious in recent years as artists and technology companies saw how Dr. Dre and Iovine drive headphone sales by being owners, investors and product designers. Now it's common for artists to get titles, paychecks and equity in the companies they link up with. Just last week, Alicia Keys, Beatz' wife, joined Research In Motion as the Global Creative Director for BlackBerry devices.
What remains to be seen, however, is how involved celebrities will get in these companies, how hard they will push those brands and whether their work will yield dividends for the companies that sign them up.
Monster's strategy for celebrity involvement is one of market segmentation. Working with Electronic Arts Inc.'s EA Sports label, which helped bring in Sugar Ray Leonard, Monster is looking to appeal to video gamers and sports fans. Sheila E's marketing campaign is targeted at women. Nick Cannon is helping the company reach out to a younger demographic. And Xzibit generally speaks to the same urban, hip-hop crowd as Dr. Dre.
As for how Beatz will work with the company's other stars, Kevin Lee, Monster's vice president of corporate strategy, said, "He is part of the Monster brain trust, helping us innovate on how we connect to the consumer."
The 34-year-old hip-hop artist and producer has advised a number of other consumer brands over the years, working with Reebok as Vice President of Sports Style Marketing and Design and Lotus Cars as Vice President of Creative Design and Global Marketing. He's also worked with French fashion designer Christian Louboutin to produce a cabaret show called "Feu." He also has a partnership with O&Media, helping the South Korean company bridge the K-Pop music scene with Western music culture.
Before joining Monster, "I analyzed and studied the company for a couple of years," said Beatz. "It felt like this is the right time to be in business together. I have a seat on the board. I am a co-owner. This is a graduation for Monster, and it's a graduation for me. For Monster, it shows they are investing in the culture. They are not doing things just to get by. In the next few months, the world will see who the monsters are in this world."