So what exactly does Ice T (the musician and actor, not the drink) have to with copywriting?
Well, on the surface not much. But being a master copywriter means looking at things differently and I try to find lessons in just about everything.
Often something will trigger a memory that gets me thinking about what lesson I could learn from it. This happened the other night when I was watching Law and Order- SVU with my wife Jessica.
Now, I must admit that I enjoy bugging her by continually bringing up old stories I’ve told a million times.
One of my favorites is telling her about the time I worked security at a concert featuring Ice-T and his band Body Count. I was in my 20’s at the time, in buff shape and it was a fun gig offered to me by a friend who worked at the arena where the show was.
Honestly, it wasn’t much of a story. I never even met Ice-T and just stood there in front of the stage making sure the crowd didn’t get out of hand.
I just get a kick out of saying I was technically “security” for a big name like that. But what really got me thinking was about how Ice-T positioned himself at the event and how important positioning is in copywriting.
At the time of this concert, Ice-T had recently became a member of the cast of the aforementioned Law and Order – SVU playing a police officer.
This just SCREAMED of irony as his most famous song during his rap career was called “Cop Killa” and was extremely controversial.
In fact, that is actually a major understatement as the song was decried by police departments and politicians all over the country. Even President George H. Bush spoke out against it.
The country as a whole was OUTRAGED over there being a popular song being promoted to the youth of America that encouraged the killing of the police.
It instantly made Ice-T a hero to some, a villain to many more and a VERY wealthy man in the process.
Now, due to the popularity of his TV character the once controversial rap artist was “selling out” in the eyes of many of his fans.
What’s His Position – Rebel Gangsta Rapper Or Loveable TV Cop???
So, how did Ice-T deal with his changing image during the live show? Well, he went on a profanity laced rant designed to get his street cred back with his fans.
But why? I mean the people there had already bought tickets and obviously didn’t care. I think it was more to make a statement that would continue to get the support he was looking for from his fans.
Maybe sell a few more albums. Maybe move some merch at the show – T-shirts, etc.
More than that how could he stand up there singing a song like Cop Killa without letting everyone know he was still the same tough guy he had been years earlier.
He was still Ice-T and not who he was portraying on television. And that’s EXACTLY what he told everyone.
He said something to the effect of…
“You might have seen me playing one of the pigs on TV but I just do that for all the money they are throwing at me. I still say F*** the police!!!”
So, what was the response? With this simple reaffirming statement his fans went WILD.
His POSITION was firmly re-established (at least for the moment).
Well, fast forward two decades and now Ice-T is far more known for his acting and is often seen in car warranty commercials and reality shows.
He seems to have comfortably transitioned to being an elder statesman in the music world as well as a beloved television character.
His personal positioning – his brand – has completely changed. And he certainly seems to be doing fine with it. In fact, I would say he is more successful, more marketable and a bigger name now then ever.
Ice-T is a fantastic example of someone working their way to the top in one industry, with a carefully crafted persona and position in his marketplace…
And then completely re-inventing himself and creating an even more powerful and marketable
As a freelance copywriter it’s important for me to know EXACTLY how my clients want either themselves, their brand or what they are selling positioned in the marketplace. It’s one of the most important ingredients to creating a winning marketing message.
So, the BIG LESSON here is before you start writing any marketing message you MUST DECIDE on the right positioning.
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