Will.i.am: Corporate America’s hit machine

From CNN:

The Black Eyed Peas has sold some 60 million records and orchestrated the Super Bowl halftime show. Its songs regularly top pop charts. Adams’s music burrows so deeply into the mind’s soft tissue that even brief exposure is likely to leave you murmuring Peas lyrics. As a pop star, he’s beyond bombastic. But with some of the world’s biggest companies, he has cultivated an altogether different reputation. He has become a source of ideas and insight for the likes of Intel (INTC), Coca-Cola (KO), and Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD) — a kind of one-man focus group, a futurist for hire. “Will is a visionary,” says Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent. “He offers an endless stream of creativity and possibility.”

To be sure, Will.i.am is hardly the first celebrity businessperson. In recent years Ashton Kutcher has invested in Foursquare and Flipboard. Justin Timberlake co-owns Myspace. Even Kim Kardashian’s style site, ShoeDazzle, got $40 million in backing from Andreessen Horowitz. What makes Adams different is the role he plays: He’s neither pitchman nor conventional investor. He is a co-creator and sounding board. “I don’t think of Will as an endorser at all,” says Genevieve Bell, an anthropologist with Intel Labs. “I think of him as part of our conversation about what the future is. His input is invaluable.”

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