The summer of 2014 is already shaping up to be a season of blockbuster pairings in the world of hip-hop and pop music—Jay Z and Beyoncé are about to co-headline their On The Run stadium set, while Eminem and Rihanna will do the same with their Monster Tour.
Add another duo to the list: Jay Z and Mariah Carey. The rapper and the songstress won’t be hitting any arenas together, but they will be appearing at 7,500 Duane Reade and Walgreens stores around the country—in the form of two beverages from Go N’Syde, a new brand masterminded by former Def Jam chief Kevin Liles.
For each artist, there’s a specific flavor and demographic target. Carey’s is a pink concoction called Butterfly, aimed at young to middle-aged women; Jay Z’s is an Arnold Palmer-esque drink dubbed 40/40, branded after his nightspot of the same name and intended for sports-loving males.
Launched in late May, the beverages are currently moving at a pace of 1,000 bottles a week, according to Liles. Each bottle, which retails for $1.99, also includes an augmented reality tie-in that allows customers to point a smartphone at the container and call up a content platform connected to each act.
“We have great tasting beverage,” says Liles, who is also a cofounder of 300 Entertainment and manages acts including Trey Songz and Estelle. “But the second part of it is providing a new network for the brands or icons to communicate with their fans. I call it disrupting the consumer packaged goods industry by having your products actually talk to you.”
“I never dreamed that I could have an interactive experience with my fans while drinking my own beverage,” added Carey in a statement. “The whole concept is innovative and refreshing and the drink is beyond.”
The partnership stems from a meeting Liles had with executives from Walgreens. They were talking about foot traffic and demographics, trying to figure out how the chain could expand its purview and grow from just a pharmacy into a more wide-ranging retail destination.
Liles asked for a list of the company’s best-selling product categories, and discovered that the beverage segment was among the top. That’s when the inspiration struck, he says, to partner with major artists and create something capable of becoming a significant player in that niche.
He reached out to Jay Z and Carey, both pals from his label days, and put together deals quite a bit different from the traditional endorsement pact. Both artists formed their own companies to produce the drinks; Go N’Syde serves as the distributor. Liles points out that they will receive a much larger cut per sale, percentage-wise, than they would on a typical record deal.
“Every time people buy a bottle, they get paid,” he says of Jay Z and Carey.
Though the latter has been publicly supportive of the Go N’Syde venture–clinking champagne flutes full of Butterfly with Liles at a launch event last week–Jay Z has been more restrained, letting his nightspot serve as his proxy in branding efforts.
That seems to be a conscious choice, and probably a wise move for an entrepreneur who is more focused on shilling his own champagne and sipping his high-end cognac from Grammy trophies.
“I understand his brand, I understand the essence of it,” says Liles. “And I understand when you can over-leverage a brand. … As far as brand recognition, D’Ussé is a different thing, and high-end champagne is a different thing. I’m doing an everyday beverage.”
Courtesy of Forbes.com