Fast Chat: Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs

The rap mogul on the Rat Pack, his brand and building a better mousetrap

Sean Combs, aka Diddy, likes to compare himself to Sinatra. He's done it in interviews for years, and in his new ad for Ciroc vodka (see below—it was filmed in Las Vegas to the tune of "Luck Be a Lady"), he uses the video form. But at heart, Diddy is a businessman, and given the variety of his ventures—he’s made millions off film, TV, music, clothing and fragrances—an entirely different public figure comes to mind when fishing for comparisons: Donald Trump. Adweek caught up with the hip-hop mogul to discuss just what his brand stands for and whether he thinks he’s anything like The Donald.

Adweek: Your new vodka ad is set to the tune of Sinatra’s “Luck Be a Lady.” How did the idea for the spot come about?

Combs: The spot that put Ciroc on the map was the first partnership we did with the Sinatra estate four years ago. I did a huge out-of-the-box buy on CNN, and I knew there would be a lot of traffic because Obama was running for president. And sales went through the roof. It was one of the most impactful ad campaigns in the spirit’s history. Also, for years, people have called me the black Sinatra. So that’s where the whole collaboration came from.

The theme of this spot is the Rat Pack. What is it that interests you about the Rat Pack?

It's community. It’s the family. It’s the guilt by association. These guys had a taste and elegance, and I take pride in carrying on that tradition.

What do you think your brand stands for?

I think I stand for aspiration. [That] hard work pays off. People from all walks of life and all over the world look at me and know my humble beginnings and know that everything I’ve done has been through hard work. People respect me as a marketer and brand builder.

Like Donald Trump?

A little bit different. He came from money, he was in real estate, he slapped his name on everything. My style is to service my community through entertainment and products.

And you probably won’t be considering a run for president anytime soon?

I definitely won’t be running for president anytime soon. I do not think I would be able to pass the presidential scrutiny test.

You’ve acted and also produced television shows. Any plans for either in the near future?

I have huge plans for both. Twelve months ago, I basically relocated to L.A. I still live in New York, but I’m bi-coastal. I have some major announcements at the top of the year on things I’m producing—an announcement that’s bigger than anyone can realize on something I’m acquiring. And also, films that I’m starring in. I’m looking forward to 2012; it’s a huge transition for me out of music onto the big screen and continuing my legacy as a producer. You know, I’m one of the most successful African-American television executive producers in history. I’ve had six shows on the air at one time. I don’t say that in a braggadocio way. But you should definitely remember this conversation and look back at it and say, "I remember he told me he was going to make some huge announcements."

Can you give us a taste of what those announcements are going to be?

Today is about [the Ciroc ad]. The only other thing I can tell you that I am working on is I have been spending some time in Mexico learning about the art of tequila. I’m a huge tequila fan.

You’re involved in so many different things: vodka, film, TV. What’s the grand plan here?

My dream was that you would wake up in the morning, your alarm would go off, one of my records would be playing. You’d get in the shower and use my shampoo. Then you would get out and use the beauty products. You’d get dressed and put on Sean John [clothing], and then you would go to work. And after work, you would go and change into your evening wear to go out to a club or out on a date and you’d put on Sean John again, spray on another of my fragrances, stop by and have a drink of Ciroc. And then maybe take your young lady out to a movie that I was starring in.

So you want your brand to consume every point in a person’s day?

It’s "how can I follow them throughout the different steps of their day and make the day more entertaining?" But it’s not "how can I get money from them?" Then, if I market it in the right way, you know, it’s like building the right mousetrap.