Startup founders hardly look to pop culture for business advice. We attend networking functions. We seek out experienced business mentors. We even watch shows like Shark Tank. But rarely do we think of pop culture as a business resource. As a founder of a startup focused on pop culture (Punch Street) and as a Gen Y New Yorker heavily influenced by the pop and urban community personally, I like to share pop culture themed business lessons from time to time.
What business professionals generally overlook is that new millenium pop stars represent some of the brightest business minds that we have ever seen. From Lady Gaga to Taylor Swift to Rihanna, I like to call these young stars “hustlapreneurs” because they mix everyday hustle and grind with entrepreneurship for a powerful one-two punch. Thus, we young entrepreneurs shouldn’t just sing along to a tune – we should take notes.
Let’s look at today’s case in point – Lady Gaga.
Lady Gaga and Brand Loyalty
In business, we always hear about the importance of branding. Branding is so important that it can be the sole reason customers differentiate between companies with identical products or services. With top notch branding, customers don’t just want any product; they only want your product. For this reason, it is vital that we brand and generate customer loyalty.
Now, as startup founders, often times we are the face of the company and so the brand starts with us. So, how does one begin to brand her/himself?
Enter Lady Gaga.
Make no mistake about it: Lady Gaga is a branding genius. To the credit of her clever grass roots approach, Lady Gaga’s mark seeps itself into every aspect of her persona. And the rewards are millions upon millions of adoring fans that advocate, defend, and align with Lady Gaga.
A closer look
First, Lady Gaga has a well defined branding message. Lady Gaga’s message is centered around liberating and bravely embracing the deemed “misfits” of society.
Next, how does Lady Gaga go about reinforcing her brand? Now, although there are countless examples that I can think of, I will focus on my top 3 things that Lady Gaga does particularly well when it comes to execution.
1.) The Creation of an Exclusive Group or Community
The surest way to make people feel like they belong is to give everyone nicknames. Lady Gaga used this age old trick and sparked a modern day phenom of fan based nicknames; in this case, the ever popular nickname “little monsters.” She then gave herself the name, “mother monster,” as leader of the monster community. This nickname system works particularly well because the name itself reinforces a familial-esque relationship between mother and child and is consistent with the misfit liberation brand. (Even other pop stars smartly followed suit, now calling their fan bases things like Barbz (Nicki Minaj), Navy (Rihanna), and Beehives (Beyonce), to name a few.)
The icing on the cake came recently when Lady Gaga launched her own social media platform, adeptly titled littlemonsters.com for fans to connect with each other and with her in their own little monstrous online world.
2.) A Unique User Experience Tailored to Your Audience
Lady Gaga knows her audience very well and creates a unique user experience specifically tailored to them. For this point, I’ll use Lady Gaga’s concerts as a reference. If you have ever attended a Lady Gaga concert you find that you are attending a wildly expressive ball where little monsters everywhere are called upon to love and celebrate themselves. To date all of Lady Gaga’s concerts are referred to as a “Ball” (Monster Ball, Born This Way Ball) with clothing and on stage antics that drive home grand creative expression.
During her concerts Lady Gaga will call upon her fans to put their “paws up” – which fans passionately do in mass unison as they curl their fingers to emulate a monster paw grip – further sealing the monster like experience and unity. In between songs, Lady Gaga sprinkles words of encouragement to begin bravely embracing a tolerant and brave world of monster misfits. In total, a comprehensive night of little monster loving uniquely tailored to her audience.
3.) Alignment with Complimentary Social Causes
Lady Gaga also aligns herself with complimentary social causes and foundations. For example, Lady Gaga is known as a prominent voice for change in anti-bullying and LGTB legislation, among other causes. In 2011, she founded the Born This Way Foundation whose mission is “to foster a more accepting society, where differences are embraced and individuality is celebrated.” When a fan committed suicide as a result of bullying Lady Gaga promised her twitter fans that she would meet with President Obama and said in wake of the teenager’s death that bullying should be made illegal. Lady Gaga made good on her promise when she attended a fundraising event and read a fan written letter to President Obama concerning the suicide.
In all, Lady Gaga can teach us a lot about branding. To recap, here is how we can make our mark like a Lady Gaga:
- Have a well defined brand
- Create a community or group feel- begin by possibly giving your customers a unique moniker
- Clearly define your audience and create a unique user experience tailored to them. You can do this by starting with your website and its features
- Align with a nonprofit focused on a similar mission
Can you think of anymore? Drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org
Keisha L. DePaz is founder & CEO of PunchStreet.com – a greeting company inspired by young adult life. Previously, a practicing attorney in Manhattan, New York, Keisha enjoys discussing and writing about various topics of interest to the twenty and thirty somethings of the world.
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