Saturday, March 5, 2011

Going Gaga Over Your Brand

Lady Gaga came through Chicago last week. I was there. I'll let the music enthusiasts and concert goers blog about the show itself (okay, it was fantastic) while I focus on another important aspect of her performance. The Gaga brand.

We often talk about a brand in the context of an expectation, experience, and effect. Against this criteria, this brand is a huge success. The expectation is clearly visible while walking around the United Center "monster" watching...people dressed in Gaga gear from all walks of life. See, the Gaga brand isn't targeting a certain demographic - it's about a way of life that touches monsters of all ages, genders, orientations, body size, etc. Her fans are branded "monsters" to unify and engage their inspiration and aspiration for the brand. Why monsters? The brand promise is being empowered to live life the way you want no matter who you are, how you look, or what you believe in.

Every brand has a destination. In Gaga terms, it's the Monster Ball. Again, a great way to reinforce the brand promise and create an expectation among your stakeholders of the experience. And here, too, she did not disappoint. The show itself is a true branded experience. From the song titles to the stage design to the way she interacts with her audience (inclusive, personal, empathetic, understanding, and evangelical) it delivers on the promise. At one point a couple women who fit the monster bill broke down in tears as Gaga's comments touched them so deeply. She encourages you to be yourself long after the show ends and her tour bus pulls out of town. That's why, during all the Grammy interviews, she kept saying "this is who I am. This is how I dress. This is what I believe." She is true to herself and her brand lives and breathes the promise.

The result of a strong brand is loyalty and advocacy. Recently, a favorite client monster proclaimed that brand success should be gauged on whether or not customers would "protest" on behalf of your brand. Sort of putting your mouth where your money is. When Border's recently announced the closing of many of its stores, for example, there were actual protests and a mass wave of social media demonstrations. If Lady Gaga asked her monsters to protest, all I can say is get out of the way! Brand effect is also measured in repeat sales and I guarantee when her new CD comes out in May, it will break records. Another side effect of a strong brand is measurable in social media. Well, who is sitting among the top spots of all Facebookers with nearly 30 million friends - you guessed it.

The expectation, experience, and effect of the Lady Gaga brand is about as tightly integrated as any. And while you might roll your eyes or look the other way, there are many lessons to be learned from this self-proclaimed fame monster. Lessons healthcare marketers can put into practice so stakeholders and customers go gaga over your brand.


Les said...

Interesting that you bring this up. She is all about packaging and branding. You can probably trace this back to Madonna, where she basically created a persona (actually, you can probably go back to Alice Cooper, because the real guy was nothing like the stage guy). Maybe even Elvis. The point is, a lot of the success has to do with how the brand is developed and communicated. But then, you have to deliver on the brand promise, and if you don't, you can fail (hello Britney Spears).

Rob Rosenberg said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Les. What struck me most was, unlike Madonna and others, this IS who she is and that true brand essence shines through in every aspect of her operations (PR, performance, retail sales, etc.). Real brand are more than packaging, they are real. That's why they are few and far. Apple is real to the core and is based on the same, simple premise of computing that Jobs and Wozniak dreamed of back in the day in their garage. She's real and I think that's why it's such a great lesson. And why two 50-year old guys are blogging about Lady Gaga.