Over the past week, South Africa has been under a Lady Gaga
spell with the pop star's recent tour to our shores from
airport sightings to meet-and-greets to fans (or should I say
'Little Monsters') overloading social media platforms raving about
her performances in both Jo'burg and Cape Town. For someone who was
waiting on tables only 5 years ago, Lady Gaga has sure risen to
super stardom quickly: scooping up a plethora of awards, selling
out mega-stadiums, endless attention in the press; and a social
media following that's larger than the population of many
As I sat in awe of the concert - a spectacle of lights,
outrageous fashion and high energy - I tried to comprehend how this
small in stature 26 year old has become completely larger than
life. She can sing, but she's no Adele; she may write her own
songs, but she's no Elton John; and she may have some great moves,
but will never come close to Michael Jackson. Given this and as I
looked around me at the sea of pink wigs in the crowd, I realised
what it is that Gaga's got: Marketing!
With this in mind, what branding lessons can we learn from good
Whether you're a fan or not, almost everyone remembers something
about Lady Gaga. Whether it's the infamous meat dress, arriving in
an egg at the Grammy Awards or her risqué lyrics, she's always
creating memorable moments that get people talking. With the mass
of choice out there, brands need to follow suit to get noticed and
break through the clutter. It's not only about shock tactics
(although brands like Nando's and Diesel do use these), but
memorability can also come in the form of distinctive iconography.
During the concert, Gaga raised her hand to form her famous
'monster claw' and the crowd went wild. So many great brands do the
same: memorable icons like the Coca-Cola bottle, Oros man or even
Intel's signature sound all create resonance.
The mass attendance of die-hard fans at her concerts and with
almost 32 million Twitter followers, it is an understatement to say
that Lady Gaga has a huge following. It's a massive fan base and
they are the biggest brand ambassadors: the hottest commodity for
any brand. She's grown this bunch of brand disciples by paying them
lots of attention. She's calls them Little Monsters and the
'monster claw' is the official greeting they share. This way they
feel that they are part of something and can identify each other.
Throughout the concert she spoke about her fans and even brought a
whole bunch on stage to sing with her. Where professionals are not
allowed to attend concerts, her fans can share their recordings on
YouTube. She knows how to treat her fans and make them feel special
and in return they have made her the 'Mother Monster' and a
mega-star. Not too far off from the great brands like Converse and
Harley-Davidson that have spawned sub-cultures.
Lady Gaga has always positioned herself as being a bit offbeat.
She's even rather extra-terrestrial. Throughout the show, she
referred to herself as being alien and after a while you can
actually start believing it. The reason for this: consistency.
Whether at an awards ceremony, landing at an airport or shopping
for groceries, Gaga maintains her wacky persona and has the outfits
and external cues to go with it. She talks her talk and walks her
walk, and that's why the Lady Gaga 'brand' is so believable and
credible. Consistency not only creates brand resonance, but it
gives fans (or consumers) the peace of mind that what they like
will stay how they like it. Other brand greats like KFC, Cadbury's
and Marlboro all employ this strategy.
Before the concert started, at regular intervals the screens
around the stadium played advertisements for Lady Gaga's new
fragrance, Fame. Talk about a captive audience and potential for
cross sell opportunities! The Mother Monster's empire extends her
brand further into cosmetics, clothing and earphones - platforms
that are relevant to her character. She's also picky about what she
endorses and will only do so if it is consistent with her values -
for instance she turned down the lucrative opportunity to partner
with retailer Target because of its donations to anti-gay rights
political candidates. Gaga is also famous for putting music
teasers on her social media platforms and the fans lap it up. She's
utilised the power of integrated marketing & communications to
its fullest while still staying true to her brand.
Love her or hate her, Lady Gaga is truly a marketing marvel. In
such a short space of time, she has brilliantly and strategically
built a brand that's recognisable across the globe. She could have
easily disappeared back into the blue yonder after releasing her
first single,Just Dancein 2008 (like so many other one-hit wonders)
but this marketing machine is still going from strength to
strength. All too often, we as marketers revert back to complicated
theories and marketing models, but how Stefani Germanotta
transformed herself into brand Lady Gaga is truly phenomenal. We
can all learn something from this marketing monster.