One indicator used to gauge current brand fads is how many times a certain brand is mentioned in popular music—so far this year, 59 different brands have been mentioned 645 times in Billboard Top 20 tunes (mainly hip-hop), according to a survey by marketing firm Agenda. Topping the list are Cadillac, Hennessy, Gucci, Rolls-Royce, Nike, Mercedes, Jaguar and MTV. “This is a window into pop culture,” says Agenda president Lucian James.

One of the biggest losers is Burberry, which scored 42 mentions last year (probably the result of a company statement that it didn’t care to be associated with rappers), and one of the biggest surprises this year is Rolls-Royce, which has garnered 26 mentions so far. “The Rolls used to feel dated, but they’ve updated their models and given the brand a new life. It seems to have a direct appeal to the P. Diddy crowd,” says James. The trend has sparked a product placement effort on the part of some companies, who are offering rappers money to mention their brands. “I’ve had lots of companies come up to me, saying, I’ll give you a thousand to mention this, five thousand to mention that,” says rapper Kanye West. “I didn’t take it, but a lot of rappers do. I can always tell when I hear it in the song, because I’m like, ‘Why are you mentioning that product here?’ Sometimes it’s just obvious.”

New York Post 25 Aug 2004