Can Businesses Learn from Lady Gaga’s Branding

Mar 12, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Brand Recognition, Corporate Blogging, Industry News, Social Media  //  1 Comment

Gaga’s business model starts with an incongruous product.

Listen to Gaga’s Poker Face and you might imagine it’s Britney Spears  in a track suit. But watch the video and you’ll see a work of conceptual porn. Gaga, a 23-year-old blonde with bulletproof bangs and 3-inch lashes, slinks across stages in gleaming metal bustiers, smoked latex underwear and thigh-high stiletto boots. Performing Paparazzi at the Video Music Awards, she ended the set dangling above the stage in gauzy white La Perla lingerie, horrifying her audience as fake blood gushed from her bosom.

All this debauchery is purposeful fodder for social media and the mainstream press. "She’s a perv, but Lady Gaga understands viral marketing better than anyone on the pop scene today," says magazine industry veteran Simon Dumenco. By showing up wearing a bird’s nest or a model of the solar system on her head, every Gaga appearance becomes an item (11,500 mainstream media stories cite her this year). "She is directing every frame of her music and her life, imagining how clips will appear on YouTube and what people will tweet after she appears on the VMAs," says Dumenco.

She’s meticulous about imagery, especially the sets of her live shows. Preparing for a gig in Los Angeles, she discovered that a stage had been painted a radiant shade of white. "This isn’t the freakin’ ice capades!" she yelled at the crew. It was repainted.

On Gaga’s Twitter page, 1.6 million people track her outlandishness. They learn of Gaga’s problems with hairspray and get updates on her father’s recent heart surgery. Having that many followers can be perilous. Last month Gaga posted a link to one of her own videos on fashion icon Alexander McQueen’s Web site. After a single tweet by Gaga, her rabid fans streamed in and crashed the site’s servers.

Gaga leverages buzz by sharing the limelight with other, mightier entertainment brands than her own. "There’s an art to fame," Gaga once told Vancouver television. Performing with members of the Bolshoi ballet, she wore a hat designed by Frank Gehry that resembled a mini Bilbao and played a piano painted by Damien Hirst. This year she collaborated with Beyonce and Michael Bolton. In October she showed up onSaturday Night Live with Madonna, where the two of them, dressed in matching dominatrix gear, tussled in a mock catfight (and near kiss).

One surprise: Gaga’s outré sexuality hasn’t fazed corporate marketers. Branding guru Steve Stoute, who paired Jay-Z with Hewlett-Packard, is working on a handful of tie-ins for Gaga. This month he inked a deal for her with Mac cosmetics. Next will be Gaga-branded electronic sunglasses, he says, similar to the ones that often cover half her face in concert.

“ Telephone ” is choc-full-o Lady Gaga shock value, and at more than nine minutes in length, could probably classify as a short film. Dating site PlentyOfFish somehow managed to get prominent placement (fast forward to 4:27 if you’d rather skip the rest of it).

Early indications are that “Telephone” will be every bit as popular as recent Gaga hits, with the song, its participants, and even a string from its URL already dominating trending topics on Twitter ahead of its offical premier on E!. It also briefly took Vevo – YouTube and the record labels new music video website — offline.

So what can businesses learn from Gaga’s understanding of the social media sphere?

By now I am sure you are saying why would I ever want to learn something from a person that pushes the limits of pervocity, it is not what she does, it is why she does it, and what she is motivating by doing it. Businesses need to look at their products or services and truly looking into how you can motivate you customers with it.

Branding isn’t just for big companies any more. With the internet and search, it’s become easier and cheaper to for companies to brand their names in front of their target audience. It’s true that good branding efforts will always cost you some time, energy and even a little bit of money, but it’s not out of reach of small businesses with little extra cash on hand for what is traditionally considered a non-sales generating marketing strategy.

The benefits of branding yourself, your business, your products, or services…

A solid branding strategy is important for any business and should be a part of its online marketing efforts. So let’s talk first about some of the benefits of branding yourself. If you’re like most small businesses you’re more concerned about selling products or services than you are in establishing a name for yourself. Why go through the effort? Simply put, branding helps sales.

Let’s look at this in the smallest of cases. Say you create name recognition for your company with a single person. That’s right, one person knows your company and you’ve convinced them to trust you and the products or services you sell. Big deal, right? Well, it is.

This one person will choose to buy from you rather than your competitor. Your ability to brand your name, and make it synonymous with your quality, has just earned you a sale. But one sale? Big deal!

Well, yeah, it is. Because that one person may tell one other person. The trust you earned by one has just multiplied into two. You just got another sale. Another big deal? OK, by now you’re getting it. Branding is a big deal.

Let’s look at this from anther angle. What is the effect of branding on an unknown audience? The most effective branding is not in the number of people you reach, but in the number of times you’re able to reach any single person with your brand.

This is where Lady Gaga understands how to manage her customers in the social media sphere, she keeps them guessing for what comes next. She handles and motivates people to want to do something

Let’s say you want to buy the pair of headphones she uses (Yes, I want a pair!) Assume that want one but you don’t know who sells them or where to go to get one. Where do you turn? Your favorite search engine of course.

Do a search for Lady Gaga Headphones and you see a list of results all ranging around Monster Beats by Dre..

As my easy button would say, “that was easy.” Perhaps a bit too easy, who knows everyone might catch on.

The branding strategies employed by business will be similar to what we saw here. But you don’t have to be a pervotic rockstar or go after highly competitive keyword phrases to get similar branding power. All you need is research, an understanding  of your customers, and a branding strategy.

If you need help 4D Impressions is here, “Bringing Fresh Ideas for Your Growing Business”

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