In an era of #newrules, don’t overlook the Detroit MC’s trailblazing approach to marketing.

“Live TV freaks me out a little bit,” Marshall “Eminem” Mathers said this past weekend during his appearance with Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit on ESPN’s Saturday Night Football. The interview pundits described as “awkward” quickly became a became a viral internet sensation.


Matthers bobbed, with vacant eyes, before Musburger asked his entry question. However, this wasn’t a reprisal of Rabbit’s stage fright in 8 Mile, or of the frightening episode on 106 and Park in 2006—during which a stupefied pop star faded in and out of coherency—but instead a triumphant return of a boisterous, playful character who has continually punched America’s buttons. The halftime show was, much like the promise of the forthcoming The Marshall Mather’s LP 2, a vintage performance.

Mather’s chat with Musburger and Herstreit (in which he describes, sort of, the process of making a music video, predicts a Lions win over the Vikings, and praises Musberger as one of the all-time great announcers) was so perfectly disjointed, watching it, one almost forgot its purpose—to present a teaser of the brilliant video for his new single “Berzerk.” In Mather’s inimitable style, it was a marketing moment made human. The short segment, which aired just as Michigan and Notre Dame took the field for the game’s second half, only partially registered as a rapper’s hawking of a product in midst of one of the great rivalries in college football. Such is Mather’s self-deprecating approach. With little fanfare, he’s regularly pioneered progressive sales tactics.

Let’s run down some highlights: Two Super Bowl commercials in one year (2011), the first video premier on a cable subscriber channel ( “3am” on Cinemax, 2009), and a Willy Wonka-esque golden ticket contest (run with the release of Shady Records artist Obie Trice’s debut, Cheers).

Offering an all-expense trip to a Detroit recording session for the next Eminem album, the contest drove interest in Trice via intrigue in Eminem. Three tickets were placed in 500,000 copies. Cheers sold 226,000 copies in the first week. For Mathers, an artist whose tactics had largely hinged on public beefs and baiting conservatives, the golden ticket was a shift to wholesale embrace of alternative brand building.

For Relapse, Eminem’s 2009 release, Mathers and the Interscope team went social. Seeding ideas through twitter, a slow roll out revealing nuggets of information appeared online. Em’s tweets alternately offered links and off-kilter comments. He alternately offered concrete behind-the-scenes looks at the album—the cover and iPad and iPod games—and oblique suggestions that Mather’s might have been in a mental institute, the fictional Pompsomp Hills.

L.A.-based branding agency Omlet created a website for the hospital. The video for “3am,” Relapse’s third single brought it to life in horrifying color. Debuting on May 2, 2009, the 5-minute affair, directed by Syndrome, was all blood and guts—a shirtless Em stands in the woods reflecting on a murder spree. It’s all horror, in the most theatrical sense, and fitting, considering that the clip was designed to lead into Cinemax’s first showing of The Strangers. Seamless integration of content, seamless integration of tactic.

Visit Complex.com to read the full story.

MMLP2, executive produced by Dr. Dre and Rick Rubin, is coming November 5th.

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