It’s hard to miss. In the music video for Cardi B’s latest single “Up,” rather than marketing clothes or her own merchandise for the 50 million people who’ve watched, the rapper is helping hawk a pricy, rather large salmon pink vibrator.
Sometimes, product placements in music videos are subtle. This was not one of those cases. For about four seconds, the toy is the main subject of the video, clear enough to catch the company’s name — Vush, a sexual wellness brand based in Melbourne, Australia.
Vush said it worked with the Bill Gates-owned Branded Entertainment Network (BEN) Group, a product placement and influencer marketing company, to secure the placement. (BEN is also responsible for other artist brand deals that have put Hot Cheetos in Lizzo’s “Good as Hell” and linked up Lucky Charms with Charlie Puth.) Vush declined to comment on how much it paid for the placement or how many sales have resulted from it, but highlighted brand awareness from the video’s millions of views.
But Vush’s strategy with the Cardi promotion is straightforward and undisguised: The same day the video dropped, Vush made a point to advertise on its site that the particular model of the toy (called the “majesty 2”) was “seen in Cardi B’s music video ‘Up’,” and the company shared multiple screenshots of the vibrator in the video on their Instagram page. “Is this the vibrator Cardi B is holding in her new video?” the first sentence of the product’s description reads. “That’s a BIG yes, babe.” Fans can also use the code “Cardi” for 20% off the purchase for the product.
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Jessica Dang, influencer marketing manager at Vush, says the brand had been courting Cardi for the past few months, particularly after her hit song “WAP” became a defining cultural moment of 2020. Without giving specifics, Dang says the company has more plans for their partnership with Cardi B ahead.
Music videos have become a major marketing strategy for artists and brands, particularly in the tourless era of the pandemic. Taylor Swift did it last year in her music video for “Cardigan” in which she sold the eponymous garment in tandem with the video’s release. And prior to Covid, Jimmy Iovine, who co-founded Interscope Records and Beats Electronics, got placements for Beats headphones in many of Interscope’s artists’ music videos including for Lady Gaga, Snoop Dogg and Ludacris, while — never forget — sales on a red puffy Moncler jacket skyrocketed after Drake famously wore it in his video for “Hotline Bling.”
“Consciously to the consumer, it makes it more appealing and makes the artist and fans connected with each other,” Gurps Rai, founder of shoppable music video platform DroppTV previously told Rolling Stone of marketing through music videos. “We’ve seen it in hip-hop videos, and now these bigger mainstream pop artists, they sell an aspirational version of themselves. Everyone is shifting toward being more approachable.”
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