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American Gangster | Business Lessons

Over the Holidays I watched AMERICAN GANGSTER again. Great movie. Great story, Great acting. Great cinematography. Great business wisdom.

Yes. Great business wisdom.

I know what you’re thinking … AMERICAN GANGSTER is a film about a drug dealer (portrayed by Denzel Washington) and the New York City cop (portrayed by Russell Crowe) who busted a big-time heroin ring. Business lessons to be learned?

Oh, yeah. Lots of business lessons to be learned, including: Mentors Matter, Launching New Products, Brand Dilution, Leadership Qualities, The Weakest Talk the Loudest, and Winners Can Quit.

[FYI … Long-time Brand Autopsy readers will recall a series of posts from February of 2004 highlighting STREET CORNER SELLING LESSONS from a book called Dealing Crack (Bruce Jacobs). So this isn’t new territory for Brand Autopsy.]


American Gangster synopsis:
Following the death of his employer and mentor, Bumpy Johnson, Frank Lucas establishes himself as the number one importer of heroin in the Harlem district of Manhattan. He does so by buying heroin directly from the source in South East Asia and he comes up with a unique way of importing the drugs into the United States. As a result, his product is superior to what is currently available on the street and his prices are lower. His alliance with the New York Mafia ensures his position. It is also the story of a dedicated and honest policeman, Richie Roberts, who heads up a joint narcotics task force with the Federal government. Based on a true story. [SOURCE]


Mentors Matter (Jan. 8th)

Launching New Products (Jan. 9)

Brand Dilution (Jan. 12)

Leadership Qualities (Jan. 14)

The Loudest is the Weakest (Jan. 15)

Winners Can Quit (Jan. 18)


  • Dennis says:

    John,Completely off-topic, but since I don’t ‘tweet’, I have taken the ‘old-fashioned’ option of commenting on a few of my favourite blogs (and you are on the list 🙂 to engage in discussion about the question: what will change the world? The question was asked and answered by over 100 of the brightest on (it is not a blog) so I have summarised their views on my blog. One answer is ‘social media literacy’ – and I wonder what you think?

  • Dennis … I love all John Brockman’s stuff. Provocative to say the least. Some of it is beyond my comprehension but the questions and answers always get me thinking.WHAT WILL CHANGE THE WORLD?That’s a meaty question. It gots to think on that before riffing.Oh my! I just checked out your blog posting. You’ve done a helluva job summing-up all the smart answers. Great work.

  • Travis Dahle says:

    I loved the business ideas that were presented in American Gangster, especially the Branding of his product. What I was amazed with was the fact that it wasn’t even suggested but talked about in the movie. Denzel’s character has a chat with Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character because he is watering down his product and Denzel says he can’t have that because his product was a brand…he had a name to protect. I thought it was interesting that a 70’s drug dealer was that savvy when discussing branding…but I guess that’s what made him so big. I’m excited to see your discussions about it starting on the 8th

  • Great post, I liked the business lessons in American Gangster too – in fact, I wrote a post about on my SEO company’s blog –

  • Pinny Cohen says:

    John,I greatly enjoyed this, and it reminds me of an old post I wrote about the business lessons from the Godfather: do you think?