Hammertime! The Cautionary Tale of M.C. Hammer

Posted on November 10, 2011


I recently interviewed CBS Radio’s VP of Top 40 Programming Dom Theodore for an article that ran in the first edition of Billboard’s new Top 40 newsletter and he spoke passionately about how talent need to be authentic and vulnerable to be successful.

Not long after I came across this iMedia connection article about marketing lessons that can be learned from some of rap’s biggest social media users and one of the case studies is M.C. Hammer.

The saga of M.C. Hammer is fairly well-known.

“Can’t Touch This” was one of the biggest singles of the early 1990’s with a video that played incessantly on MTV. Baggy “Hammer Pants” were the rage. The guy was everywhere.

Then hit ran into financial problems going from being worth over $30 million to being more than $10 million in debt.

Apparently, since his meteoric rise and historic tumble Hammer has become a social media innovator.

According to writer Dita Quinones, Hammer was an early adopter of Twitter and YouTube. He tweets upwards of 30 times a day, has more than 2 million followers and is an app developer for Flipboard. He also lectures on social media at top universities and is currently marketing a tough-as-steel iPad case.

Quinones talked to Jim Tobin, president of the social media advertising agency Ignite Social Media, who says, “People were surprised when MC Hammer started showing up online, but they gave him a chance and found out he’s a real guy trying to make it through the day.”

Tobin added, “It’s easy to make fun of a caricature, but hard to pick on a real guy.”

In radio, a world of talent with goofy one-word names and over-the-top personas, Hammer’s fall and recovery are a great cautionary tale.

If your wacky character isn’t pulling in the ratings it used to maybe it’s time to consider the lesson of M.C. Hammer and start letting the audience see the real person behind the nuttiness.

Like Theodore said, authentic and vulnerable or as Hammer says, “too legit to quit.”