She’s never attended business school, nor does she have a history of entrepreneurship. While it is easy to question her outlandish costumes, her repetitive child-like lyrics, and her over-the-top media stunts, it is hard to ignore her obvious musical talent and her ability to be at the right place at the right time with the right tune.
Whether you love Lady Gaga or hate her (and 99% of you are definitely in one camp or another), you can’t ignore the tremendous achievements of this branding genius.
Less than 18 months ago, she was virtually unknown – and today she has two platinum selling albums and is the envy of artists that have been in the business for decades.
How did she do it?
Think about it: in an industry cluttered with talented artists and interesting material, somehow she has managed to rise above almost everyone else and command our undivided attention. From her meteoric rise, we can glean seven simple, yet powerful, secrets that any business can use to create raving fans and dominate their market niche.
Secret #1: Be Memorable
Every newspaper, radio station and TV program in the world reported and talked about the “meat dress” that Lady GaGa wore to the 2010 MTV Music awards.
To be frank, it was so bizarre and scandalous, you could not help but notice her.
Business is all about grabbing attention – about creating anticipation, capturing awareness and making customers notice your products and services. The aim is to inspire customers and potential clients stop in their tracks and pay attention to your offer, service, product, or information.
In order to achieve this, you need to ask yourself what it is about your offering (tangible or intangible) that will capture attention?
If you’re not truly memorable in business, it means you will have to work harder to get the sale. And every time you have to work harder, it costs you time and money.
Does anybody even remember (or care) what Miley Cyrus or Britney Spears wore to the MTV awards?
No. That is exactly my point. The first lesson is to be memorable.
Secret #2: Repeat Repeat Repeat
Lady Gaga has got some really interesting songs but when you actually look at the lyrics — they are incredibly child-like and simple. In fact, she often repeats the same words or sounds over and over again.
“Rah, rah, ah, ah, ah
Roma, roma, ma
Gaga, ooh la la
Want your bad romance
I want your ugly, I want your disease
I want your everything as long as it’s free
I want your love
Love, love, love, I want your love”
OK, we get it already, you want our love. And, to her, love is likely to mean huge album sales or money, money, money! After all, didn’t ABBA teach us in the 70s that it’s a rich man’s world?
So we all know that repetition works in music. But why is it so powerful in business?
Each and every day, your target audience is bombarded with hundreds of thousands of marketing messages. In order to cut through and present a clear and coherent brand message, your message has to be the same every single time someone experiences it. To be effective, you cannot afford to be all things to all people. In this case, you actually want to be a broken record – “tell them what you are going to tell them; then, tell them; and finally tell them what you have just told them.”
Once you have determined what your unique message is, the key is to repeat it over and over and over again – in your telephone greeting, brochures, business cards, website, Twitter account, Facebook page, Linkedin profile, press releases, thank you cards, customer feedback surveys, etc.
Rarely will a customer act on your message the first time they see it. If you want to earn their love and their business, you need to ask over and over again.
Secret #3: Cultivate Excellence
If what you do is “just OK”, you might as well forget about being truly successful. Technical competence is the cornerstone of every thriving business.
Even Lady Gaga – as strange as she may seem – is a technical genius in her area. At the age of four she learned to play the piano by ear. By age 14, she’d written her first ballad and played at open mike nights in various New York clubs. At age 20 (long before her own debut album was released) she had already written songs for many other well known artists.
Think about the most successful businesses and brand names in the world – Apple, Microsoft, Toyota, Proctor and Gamble, GE and 3M. They all place a huge emphasis on technical expertise and acumen. When what you do is superior to your competitors in terms of quality, service, aesthetics and durability, customers will flock to your business and price will not be the determining factor in their decision to purchase from you.
Secret #4: Encourage Fanatics
Lady Gaga initially focused on and won over the gay community and turned them into brand evangelists. Her music has now gained mass appeal with people of all ages and all walks of life.
Her strategy mirrored that of another well known brand icon that most people are very familiar with: Apple.
If you think back a few years, Apple was very specific about who they were targeting: graphic designers, technical specialists, the music industry, etc. Few people outside this narrow scope even considered owning one because it was thought to be more difficult than a PC to operate. Now with the domination of other Apple products like the iPhone, iTunes, iPad and the iPod, almost every one of us has bought or used something that Apple produces.
If you want your business to be successful and endure the test of time, you will need to choose your demographic wisely and cultivate their fanaticism vigilantly.
Secret #5: Focus
Are you clear about how your product/service makes life better for your customer?
It’s not enough to focus on being the Number One Provider of this or that or the largest producer of X or Y. Success is less about size and more about companies who put the needs of their customers first. Focus first on what you can be best in the world at doing. Then, second on how you can deliver that world-class product or service to your clients. There’s no point being bigger if what you do just isn’t that great in the first place.
As strange and outlandish as Lady Gaga is, it’s pretty clear what her focus is – delivering catchy dance tunes and simple, memorable melodies. There is no tricky math here – she’s not trying to deliver deeply profound political statements or become the world’s most prolific artist. She’s just trying to do one thing, to be memorable and infectious, and she does that one thing very well.
Secret #6: Package Wisely
I have no idea how much time and effort would be spent producing the tracks that Lady Gaga releases but I would hazard a guess that almost as much is invested in developing her elaborate costumes. We all know that in life, “size matters.”
Likewise, in business, “packaging matters.” In fact, some brands have such distinctive packaging that they have changed the way that the entire industry displays its wares.
Think about how McDonald’s switched from Styrofoam boxes to plain wrap paper back in the early 90s and the rest of the industry followed suit. And what about the clean, vivid, minimalistic and colorful packaging of Apple? Haven’t many electronics competitors tried to mimic that highly compelling look and feel?
When is the last time that you took a step back and really looked at your packaging? Does it present your goods and services in the best light possible? If you changed its fit, shape, size, color, directness or ease of use, could it make it easier for your customers and lift sales?
Secret # 7: Be Relentless
There are very few one-hit wonders in the music industry.
However, the world is littered with businesses that have had initial success with a product/service and then failed to do much of anything else. The advent of the internet and global trading has meant that competition is fierce in most industries and the market is inundated with new products and innovations. In order to be successful, businesses must constantly improve what they do and move forward, not only to thrive, but also to survive. To do this, you need to constantly ask yourself: “What do we need to do today in order to wow our customers and maintain their loyalty?”
Lady Gaga does continuous improvement better than anyone. Just when one of her hits starts to taper off, she is quick to introduce us to another song that we just can’t seem to get out of our heads. In order to keep her name and brand on our minds, she carefully and consistently plans to release a new song every three to four months.
Let’s be frank, I doubt Lady Gaga will ever be invited to lecture at an Ivy League school on business success but these seven secrets – that she does better than almost anyone else – apply to any and all businesses looking to be successful in today’s highly challenging and demanding marketplace.
Rhondalynn Korolak is the founder and Managing Director of Imagineering Unlimited. She is the author of Financial Foreplay, a book that offers guidance to small business owners. A 16-year veteran of sales, marketing and finance, she holds degrees and professional designations in both law and chartered accounting.
Image by Domain Barnyard [Lori Tingey]