Action Bronson: A Case Study on Building a Multi-Dimensional Brand
Action Bronson has built a multi-dimensional brand that crosses many audiences, reaches multiple niches, and opens the door for a variety of brand partnerships. Some people know Action for his music, some for his culinary expertise on Fuck, That’s Delicious, and some for stoner culture insights, all which are powered by a brash and charismatic personality that draws people in. So let’s examine how this all came together and what it has meant for his career.
As with any good brand it all starts with understanding yourself. From understanding who you are and who you are not, your brand is the summation of your unique story—your experiences, goals, interests, and mission pulled together and displayed authentically to your audience to give them a reason to choose you and allow them to deeply connect with you. The beginning of the process of building your brand is being clear on who you are and how you want to represent yourself. It requires clarity in order to engage with people authentically. This is something Bronson nailed out of the gate and with this clarity he can infuse himself and his influence into everything he does.
From the beginning he immediately wanted to bridge the gap between his two loves, food and music. Before Bronson became a rapper or actor or anything else, he was a chef. In fact, as far back as 2009 you can find videos of Bronson in the kitchen at his job being filmed by a friend as he teaches recipes for pasta, tuna and salad for a data night, and the Bronson burger. Out the gate he was acting as a media company, producing his own content, in this case a cooking show that stood alone as its own thing but also promoted the start of his music career. Obviously, a harbinger of how his career would unfold. The clarity of himself allowed him from the get go to bring forth two of his interests, but not only that, it gave clarity to the type of music he wanted to make. Rather than adopt the mainstream sound he tapped into reflective nostalgia. “Reflective nostalgia accepts the fact that the past is, in fact, past, and rather than trying to recreate a special past experience, it savors the emotions evoked by its recollection.” He took inspiration from the classic 80s and 90s New York sounds, put his own spin on it, infusing his personality, and created music that appealed to hip hop heads seeking new music with that older New York flavor.
By knowing himself and having that clarity, he was able to tell a compelling story that drew people’s attention. A chef turned rapper, bringing back a classic New York sound in the early 2000s, rapping about food, exotic experiences, drugs and outlandish scenarios. As mentioned immediately people with an interest in 80s and 90s New York hip hop were already willing to check for his music as were people with a shared interest in hip hop and cooking. Immediately he drew interest from both publications covering food and publications covering hip-hop as they hoped to explore this unique story. A story that shaped opportunities across the board. From interviews that took place while he cooked, working food trucks at festivals, judging competitions at food festivals, wherever food and music intersected people began thinking about Bronson. I wrote previously about how food and music are both experiences and when paired correctly can be additive, Bronson is one example of that coming to light and opening a variety of doors.
Bronson isn’t an artist with big radio hits, most of his early career was centered around a steady diet of mixtapes, so how was he able to build his following, garner such attention, and create all these opportunities while not being mainstream? He built around niches and across channels. As mentioned his music didn’t conform to a mainstream sound, but rather was made to appeal to hip hop heads and anyone looking for a 90s inspired New York sound. His sound has evolved to include multiple genres around the world and unorthodox beats, while maintaining signature outlandishness and charisma that draws people in. He then appealed to foodies, home cooks, basically anyone who enjoyed certain food styles or an even narrower, foodies and hip hop head crossover market, then he also authentically appealed to stoners. While individually hip-hop, food, and weed are broad interests that appeal to a huge amount of people and have mainstream appeal, he combined the 3 to find the niche audience within each. It created a more unique and focused target audience, but wasn’t so restrictive that you had to like all three to enjoy, but if you like one, or 2 out of 3 or all 3 there was an immediate appeal. For example, I first knew of Bronson from his music, but I recently had a conversation with someone about him as they brought up Fuck, That’s Delicious, and they had no idea he even made music they like that he was was stoner with a food show. Within that niche it was very easy to see how Bronson could fit into your life. Whether it was watching a cooking video to learn how to cook for a date or when you have the munchies, culinary inspiration from music, just music to listen to while cooking or getting high, or something to watch and learn about food and culture while you get high. There was a clarity on the appeal among the niches he was hitting and yes, it didn’t appeal to everyone, but to those it did, they were fans who would keep coming back creating the momentum for partnerships.
The mediums he originally used were the early 2000s hip hop blogs and YouTube. Other publications came into the mix as well and he eventually linked up with Vice. Vice focuses on niche content and Action was already appealing to a lot of the niches they served. They had a platform that would introduce him to a wider audience without breaking the niche formula they were already utilizing. It was possible for this to work, because Bronson and his team had already been making similar content to what Vice would eventually roll out with Fuck, That’s Delicious. Bronson had been documenting his travels when touring and making cooking videos. When Fuck, That’s Delicious came out it allowed him to elevate the production, creating his take on an Anthony Bourdain influenced travel and food show, which he had grown up watching with his mother, building the That’s Delicious brand. From there he continued creating shows, writing a cookbook, doing art shows, hitting up larger publications, and collaborated with companies to put out limited edition olive oil, and having his own line of ice cream available. Because he had a fiercely loyal fan base built through niches, the opportunity to perform at festivals or be offered brand collaborations and partnerships was almost always available. All these avenues to create allowed him to shift focus and he never had to rush out an album to stay relevant. He was relevant as long as he was creating anything that piqued his fans interest because he had set the expectation that he was a creator across mediums, not just music, nor was his fan base only focused on music, if they were even interested in that element of the brand.
Action Bronson has built a brand that is strong, dynamic and flexible, opening him up to numerous opportunities and success by focusing on his interests and strengths. His experience brought to life a unique and engaging story and appealed to a more niche audience rather than a mainstream audience. He set expectations early allowing him to branch out, take breaks from music to focus on his show or other interests without alienating his fan base. He operated like a media company, putting out plenty of content to allow fans to enter his world, get to know him and build a deeper relationship. He found brand partnerships that felt natural and authentic, not forced, and elevated his platform, giving him avenues to reach new audiences and create new revenue streams.