Thursday, August 11, 2011


This is a brand that has made the world sit up and take notice, for not only is it worth millions, but it also teaches us important lessons in Brand Building. The day she changed her name from Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta and rebranded herself as Lady Gaga, a star was born, both for the music world and the business world. Single handedly, this ‘Lady’ has shown the world how to build a brand and how to do business in today’s crowded market place.


Lady Gaga is not just a singer, she is the way of doing business in the future. If you want to ensure that your brand will survive in 2025, it’s time to learn some quick lessons from the Lady. She understands the system the best.

The business model of the future has some new rules now. However, some ground rules never change. For starters, your product has to be good. Everything depends on this. Like all good brands, she first ensured that her product is good. Yes, her music is good and she can sing. She works hard on her lyrics, writes them, conceptualizes the music, the video and the costumes. Working on her piano, she ensures that her “core product” i.e. her music is of great quality. We all know one simple fact; no amount of brand building will do you good if your product is not world class. Secondly, you need to understand your audience very well. You need to keep a finger on the pulse of the audience. No one has been able to understand the market the way she does.

She knows what excites them and what intrigues them. Many may find her costumes outlandish, but they work for her and her fans wait for her next appearance, just to see what it is that she would wear next. Whatever she does, she has them eating out of her hands. The third lesson one learns from this entertainer is the benefit of staying “in-the-news” all the time. This is not an option, but it’s a necessity of today.

In today’s market place, if you are ignored, you are doomed. That is one thing this Lady has mastered. She cannot be ignored. Every appearance of hers is well thought of and crafted. Be it a bird’s nest, a model of the solar system on her head, or be it her meat dress, she never fails to grab attention. In fact, she will go to any extent to grab attention. In one of her interviews, she recalled an incident where, during her early days of struggle, she was playing at a bar (in USA) filled with drunken NYU students and no one paid a hoot to what she was playing. She says, “I started playing in underwear at the piano,” and suddenly everyone was looking at her and listening to her song.

Just creating a buzz is not enough; you need to know the right places to create the buzz. The audience of the future will be spending a lot of time in cyberspace. Whenever Lady Gaga makes an appearance, she does it with one intention – to create the maximum buzz there. With over 145 million blogs in cyberspace, more than 50,000 new blogs being created everyday and over one million new blog posts being posted each day, the internet is a very crowded place today. To get noticed, to be written about by maximum people, requires a very sharp marketing mind. Gaga has her moves scripted so well, for she knows exactly how to get talked about. Just a great product will not get you noticed. You need to get the tongues wagging. Gaga cares not whether or not you like her, all she cares aboutis the degree of buzz that every act of hers will generate. While she works on her music, she meticulously works on how to make clips that would be lapped up by YouTube, how to dress and what to speak, so that the twitter world will start chattering! Brands too have to ensure that if they want to survive, they must have a strong presence in the cyber world, for the audience of the future is going to be here.

Her every act is a practiced, well prepared and well targeted marketing gimmick, to help build the Lady Gaga Brand. She obsesses about every little detail and it pays. Businesses of tomorrow have to remember, that if their products are not being talked about, they would disappear soon, however good their quality.


To be constantly talked about, you need to keep doing new and different things. Your brand needs to keep innovating all the time to grab that “top-of-the-mind” awareness in the consumer’s mind. Be it Madonna, or Kishore Kumar, or Lady Gaga or Big B. They all kept experimenting, kept changing, kept reinventing themselves and dared to do things others would not. They survived. Probably a lot more talented artists didn’t.

There is no perfect recipe for success. In today’s market place, brands need to move quickly. They need to know what’s cool, what’s new, and change themselves accordingly. At Cannes 2011, in June, Publicis & Contagious introduced a new concept called the “Five Percent Club”. They urged brands to take risks and invest 5 percent of their media spends into something different, something creative, outrageous and not just depend on the mundane, 30 second advertising commercial to build their brands. Heineken found a new way of engaging viewers during a football game. No, they did not just advertise, but introduced an interesting iPhone application, which rewarded viewers with points (that they could redeem later) every time they guessed the winner correctly before the game ended.

To survive, one needs to change their way of thinking. The companies of tomorrow will only be those who are willing to scrap conventional ideas, who are willing to try out new stuff and most importantly, who are willing to fail – just like Gaga who has never been spotted in an ordinary pair of jeans ever. She is always dressed to suit her image, for every second she is doing some different stuff – with just one purpose – to be noticed. Your marketing plan too should be such that every penny spent is for the purpose of making your brandstand distinctly apart from the competitor. Get noticed, you will get customers.

Until now, it was the job of the advertisers and marketers to change the audience. Before 1948, diamond rings were not synonymous with engagement or marriage the world over. Then came a campaign, “A Diamond is Forever,” and changed our thinking forever. Even in India, marriages used to be traditionally associated with gold jewellery, but De Beers, with its intelligent advertising changed that too. By linking the eternity of a diamond (it’s the hardest substance on Earth) to the eternity of a bond, it changed cultures. While everybody in America was manufacturing, marketing and selling long, sleek cars, the VW Beetle changed the people’s perceptions with the help of its “Think Small” ad campaign. Santa Clause used to be depicted as a skinny, stern, and scary figure, until Coca Cola created the chubby, cute and cherry Santa, and changed the perceptions of the world. All sports shoes were more or less similar until Nike changed it all. It is impossible to differentiate vodka on the basis of mere taste, but Absolute differentiated its product on the basis of its unique advertising and created a niche market where none existed. Marketers have changed audiences and their perceptions, but this new generation of customers is different & marketers need to change their ways to adapt to this audience.

Times are changing fast and so are the rules of marketing. Today, you need to stand out, shout out, and look out (for new trends) or else be prepared to be shut out (forgotten) by the consumers. The biggest fear for a brand is if it fails to get attention. Lady Gaga and other shrewd marketers know only one success principle, “Love me or hate me, but you can’t ignore me.”

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