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February 23, 2010
Loyalty lessons from Lady Gaga
UPDATE [12/15/12]: My upcoming book called Monster Loyalty: How Lady Gaga Turns Followers Into Fanaticsa, based on some of the concepts outlined in this post, will be released in May 2013. Click here to get more information.
There's a lot marketers can learn from artist and musician Lady Gaga.
At age 23, Lady Gaga has rocketed to global fame in less than two years. Playing piano at age 4 and New York nightclubs at 14, she recently broke Billboard's record as the first artist to have her first five six singles reach number one. She's won two Grammys, and has sold 8 million albums and 15 million singles digitally worldwide. While her performance art-style stage shows and bizarre outfits have garnered much buzz, it's her loyalty marketing that may sustain her for years. Gaga is dedicated to her fans and clearly knows the elements of cultivating a community of evangelistic fans.
With that, here are my 5 lessons about building brand loyalty, Lady Gaga-style:
1. Give fans a name. Gaga doesn't like the word "fan" so she calls them her "Little Monsters," named after her album "The Fame Monster." She even tattooed "Little Monsters" on her arm and tweeted the pic to fans professing love for them. Now fans are getting their own Little Monster tattoos. By giving the group a formal name, it gives fans a way to refer to each other. Fans feel like they are joining a special club. (Related business examples: Maker's Mark Ambassadors and Fiskar's Fiskateers.)
2. Make it about something bigger than you. During her concert tour, Gaga recites a "Manifesto of Little Monsters" (text) (video). Although a bit cryptic, most Little Monsters see it as a dedication to them, that her fans have the power to make or break her. (Related business examples: Smoque BBQ (pdf).)
3. Develop shared symbols. The official Little Monster greeting is the outstretched "monster claw" hand. As all Little Monsters know, the clawed hand is part of the choreography in the video of her song "Bad Romance." Gaga tells the story of watching a fan in Boston greet another fan with the claw hand and that's when she knew this was the Little Monster symbol. Even Oprah knows the Little Monster greeting. Shared symbols allow fans to identify each other and connect. (Related business example: LIVESTRONG yellow wristbands.)
4. Make your customers feel like rock stars. One staple of Gaga's "Monster Ball" tour is to call a fan in the audience during the show. She dials the number onstage, the fan screams out, is located and they are put up on a big screen. While the rest of audience goes bananas, she invites the fan to have a drink with her after the show. (Related business example: eBay Live Conference where attendees walk through a gauntlet of applauding eBay staff as they enter the closing gala)
5. Leverage social media. Gaga has the requisite Facebook fan page (over 5 million fans) and Twitter ID (almost 3 million followers) but it's how she uses them that drives loyalty. On Twitter, she tells fans what she is doing, such as tweeting them before she opened the Grammy Awards. She also tweeted to fans that she was buying them pizza for waiting overnight at an album signing.
Some artists are very protective of their image and prohibit recording devices during performances. Gaga doesn't allow professional photographers into her concerts but is ok with fans recording and putting videos on YouTube.
Whether Gaga will have staying power remains to be seen. But she is making waves in the music business and teaching plenty of people the power of fandom.
Wouldn't you like to have fans like these?
UPDATE: To further illustrate Gaga loyalty, watch this fan-created created video card montage of Little Monsters from around the world for Gaga's 24th birthday. Many of the fans get emotional talking about how Gaga has inspired them to be themselves, and not care about what others think.
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Good article. She has tremendous talent, and she has figured out the marketing system so well that it's astounding.
She has managed to reach across music genres and generations as well. I know a number of Gaga fans that are over 30, some even are 50+.
I think we'll still be dissecting her as a marketing case years down the line, and how she managed to do in 24 months what it took Madonna 8 years to do.
I am pretty sure that Lady Gaga is a lot cooler of a person than Madonna ANY day. (And I love me some Madonna.) I love that her following is so dedicated to her and it's easy to see why. You can tell that she REALLY cares about her "little monsters".
We all want that kind of following for our brands! (Just not the stalkers!) :)
Good article, indeed.
I've recently become a fan of her, and I actually feel really bad for not giving her a chance at the beginning. She's proved that she actually has talent, and a great singing voice. Her outfits are a bit out there, but it's always fun always wondering what she'll wear or do next. And what I like about it is that she's actually hands on with everything she does. She doesn't let her people do it for her. She may not be completely original, but when everything's been done in the past, it's pretty hard to be. I give her props for trying, though.
I really like this article, i try to understand but it's ok :).
The analyze is very good!!
GaGa our queen of Pop, One of her little monsters.
I have also become a little mons†er. This woman amazes me. I have never before been a celebrity follower even though I love music. Lady Gaga is such an authentically unique and totally lovable person, I feel I have known her my whole life. That is truly a gifted marketing strategy but she is truly gifted. I am a Lady Gaga fan for life and defend her religiously against all haters. I live for her tweets and wish her the best always.
Wow, Interesting! Thanks for show us these lessons...really useful.
Insightful article, Jackie. I need to be a little monster too!
Ok! So now I actually know what Lady Gaga looks like so that is something, right?! I thought your analysis was really interesting and clearly fans truly feel a connection with her. One thing that stood out was how personal her tweet was. I'm sure that every little monster felt that she was directing it at them personally.
Funny you selected the most contrived artist in the music industry at the moment to provide a "how to" in social media, which should be about authenticity... hm...
I appreciate your opinion. But I disagree. If you listen to her many, many interviews. she talks about being a freak in high school and getting made fun of. She sees all of her crazy costumes and shows as performance art and expressing her creativity. She believes that her fans should celebrate their inner "freak" and not be afraid of showing their authentic selves to the world.
She and Nora Jones are very very different artistically. But I believe both are being their authentic selves. Thanks again for commenting.
Great post. Although not a fan, she has shown remarkable ability to connect with her fans over and above the traditional music means of albums, fan clubs and gigs. Embracing the new social media and showing all of us new ways to connect with our 'fans'. Lots of lessons to learn here.
Admittedly, I have been quite harsh on Lady GaGa in the past. The more I see her, however, the more I think that she has a whole lot to teach us. She really is unique and sets herself far apart from others in her field. Which is where most of us would like to end up too.
Great analytical insight. Well done.
Great article - really insightful. Insane Clown Posse uses "juggalos" other bands have named their fans as well. - any idea who is behind her branding?
From everything I've looked at, she, and her "Haus of Gaga" team, do all of her marketing. She has been a little mysterious about who is in the Haus but it is her internal staff, I believe.
And, don't forget, have a message that connects with those fans/audience: love and accept yourself for who you. My daughter and I would not be fans of Lady Gaga only for her music, videos, or performances, no matter how much fun they are, if we didn't also hear her speak up for sexual and gender equity in public and in many venues. She is not just marketing herself as product; she uses the narrative of "By remaining true to this idea, you too can be part of a community that welcomes and accepts you when the rest of the world puts you down."
Awesome. I didn't know all that about Lady Gaga, and the conclusions you draw from what she's done--the points you make--make sense. Great idea for a post--and helpful. Thanks.
It appears Lady GaGa is using the Grateful Dead (Deadheads) and Jimmy Buffet (Parrotheads) model so its not really a new concept
Marilyn Manson did the freak thing in the 90's. Shock value and appealing to the wierdo's has been done. New decade, different musical genre, hit repeat. Supporting the gay rights? Great PR move - make it look like you care about a target audience. I suppose she's 'genuine' about the product placement in her videos too? Seems like fan love can't give you the money you want. $50 says she'll re-authenticate herself with plastic surgery, it'll save time on the air-brushing.
Y'all been sucked in. For that the sneaky woman deserves kudos.
Dont forget the "where to buy" that she has installed in her fan page that lands on her web.
Nice strat although i dont like her quite much...
Great article. I love it that she was originally turned down by the record labels for being "too theatre" and was turned down by Broadway for being "too pop" - so she set up Haus of Gaga to eventually do it all herself - on HER terms. A great inspiration to all of us - whatever line of work we're in...
Great article. Because Gaga is such a great brand, there are a ton of articles out there on her marketing success. This is the first and only that is spot on - well done!
And can I share my thoughts from post (Jan 8 ) on same? ANd possibly the most important marketing lesson - she is different...
Lady GaGa is so amazing, she looks very hot and sexy!!!
I love her voice and the way she dance on the scene. Very talented girl!
Initiation into a special community? Element of the transcendent? Shared symbols? That's not just the power of fandom; that's the power of myth. I don’t even like her music but admire her genius.