Dante Terrell Smith-Bey also goes by the name of Mos Def. Part MC, part actor, part awesome, he is a paragon of lyricism and activism.

[EDIT, SEVEN YEARS LATER (2017): Now he’s Yasiin Bey. You’re welcome, past me.]

No matter how he melds himself into American culture (whether on silver screen or on stage), Mos Def maintains his core image while touching generations old and new with his music.

These lyrics from “History” (feat. Talib Kweli) lead me to believe he’s a brand master,

“The history—every soul got one of these. It’s where you been and where you be, and without understanding you cannot proceed complete.”

Now that’s quite a foundation for a great brand.

Haha, you’re dumb! Mos Def is a MC, not a Brand Strategist

True, my friend.

While Mos Def continues to inspire and touch millions, I can’t help but appreciate the brand he has built for himself.

In contrast, Mercury and Dell are slowly letting their brands crumble away. Their legacies remain memorable, but legacy isn’t enough to engage a new generation of buyers.

In the post “The steep and slippery slope to commercial damnation – or, are Dell slowly destroying their brand,” Drayton Bird reflects discounts and branding, explaining how discounts without reinforcement of brand is just a means of short-term selling, while diluting brand value (hat-tip: @imeldak).

He mentions Dell’s current efforts, where most of their marketing efforts offer a deal—but nothing else. Bird argues that the discount without brand rebuilding will hurt in the long run.

Bird calls this tactic a “slow hara-kiri.”


The New York Times has a story about how Ford is going to cut off the Mercury line of vehicles by the end of 2010.

Jerry Garrett makes a beautiful point about how the brand never really found a niche. He states that it sort of floated between “a dressed-up Ford” and a “bargain Lincoln.”

Now, Mercury pays the price by being entrenched with the older crowd, having no means of inspiring younger auto buyers to become brand loyal.

Okay, we get that. What’s Mos got to do with it?

The man stretches himself out across media, inspiring generations.

A good brand that wants to last should do that too.

Look at Nike—it’s everywhere. It’s deeply entrenched from the schoolyards to the stadiums. Nike takes the time to be relevant, to help out, and to inspire (given, they’ve got a whole slew of quarks as well).

I’m just saying that Mos Def embodies the aspiration, inspiration, activism, and dedication that brands need in order to remain relevant. Brands need these elements in order to survive.

If creating a lasting legacy, being memorable and achieving success isn’t a business’ thing, they can always take the route of the Umbrella Corporation or Ryan Industries. Those brands are straight-up badass. They are also completely fictional success stories and are brands that kill a ton of people.

How do you run your brand? Your brand could be yourself, or a business– whichever. How do you choose to let it exist in the world?