Building Your Brand: Small Business Lessons from Lady Gaga : Under30CEO Building Your Brand: Small Business Lessons from Lady Gaga : Under30CEO
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Building Your Brand: Small Business Lessons from Lady Gaga

| April 1, 2012 | 10 Comments

In roughly four short years, Lady Gaga, the eccentric pop star phenom has become a household name by building an iconic brand that has resulted in earnings of nearly one hundred million dollars last year. Although she came from a fairly well off family residing in New York, as a teen she throw it all away despite her parents’ wishes and decided to pursue her passion of music and singing.

A young Gaga, (born Stefani Germanotta) moved out of her parent’s house, promised herself she would not ask for any financial support from her parents, and spent her teenage years singing, waitressing, hustling and grinding in cabaret clubs trying to find her niche. She eventually signed a record deal with Def Jam Records, but was later dropped. Later, she finally obtained a deal with Interscope Records, who released her best-selling album, The Fame in 2008, and the rest is music history.

What can small business owners learn from Lady Gaga’s business journey? We can learn that your brand is not just about your logo, products and services, it’s the personality of your business. Think of your business as a person and how it would think, feel and interact with customers.

Here are the Lady Gaga lessons that small business owners can use to build a powerful brand and spark gigantic growth:

Be Touchable

Your business must not only be online, but you must now have a mobile presence as well. Bill Gates said “that by the end of 2002, there will be only two kinds of businesses: those with an Internet presence, and those with no business at all.” But you can’t just be online communicating your products and services, you must be connecting with existing and potential customers. Lady Gaga posts to facebook and tweets to her fans about five times daily. She interacts with fans by not just announcing her products, but sharing her personality, photos, inspiring them to support causes, and most of all thanking her fans who she calls her “little monsters” for their continued support. It is no surprise that she has more twitter followers (over 20 million) than anyone on twitter.

Stand for Something

Small businesses should focus not only on selling their products or services, but story-selling. Story-selling is when a business shares in a compelling way its purpose, vision, and reasons for being in business. You must touch your customer’s hearts before you touch their pockets. Think of companies who built their businesses around powerful causes like TOM’s Shoes (shoes for needy children), Ben & Jerry’s (promoting philanthropy with profits) Kenneth Cole (AIDS Awareness). When your business stands for something, customers will feel good about supporting your business because it touches their hearts. Gaga has been a vocal supporter of bullying, gay rights, particularly she was a huge advocate for the end of the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding gay recruits. Gaga has successfully created a cult-like following from her fans because they feel like she is one of them. Fans (her customers) can identify with her story of having been bullied as a youth, kids called her ugly and made fun of her big nose. Gaga constantly sings to her fans believe in yourself, be who you are, and they embrace it with every song purchase.

Create a Community

Small business owners must replace the word “marketing” with “engaging.” Engaging is what a business does before, during and after the sale. Effective engaging means staying on your customer’s mind in a way that’s not annoying. Use social media tools (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin) to offer customers tips, videos and articles that are helpful. Online shoe retailer,, who was recently bought by Amazon for $1.2 billion, increased shoe sales by 10% simply using online videos to showcase and describe their shoes. Lady Gaga interacts with her “little monsters” daily by announcing new songs, videos, products and social causes she supports. Her fans view her actions not as marketing or selling, but engaging or helping them believe in themselves and stand up for social issues.

Be Authentic

Small Businesses need not rely on product gimmicks, or short term sales tactics, but instead should focus on long term brand authenticity. Customers may fall for gimmicks and purchase products, but eventually gimmicks become stale and the business who relies on them will not have a loyal following once the hype burns out. One of the reasons Gaga has a consistent loyal following is because fans know she is real and authentic. Fans believe she does not go home and take off her costume and become a totally different person. Gaga in her own words stated, “Gaga’s always been who I am. Me and my hair bow, we go to bed together. She sleeps where I sleep.”

Grind for Greatness!

James Bird Guess is a speaker, author and trainer on top performance, leadership and small business growth. He is also the best-selling author of the book, How I Made a Quarter Million Dollar$ From the Trunk of My Car, and founder of JBG International Success Academy, a performance training and research company. He can be reached on

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Category: Startup Advice

  • Zia


    I think you are trying to leverage off lady gaga to get people to read your article. I only read it to see what link you could genuinely create between the pop star and business. I honestly think that she’s a pathetic business model even to learn from. I do not deny her monetary success or following, but if you are also advocating that businesses eventually tweet about how Satan is molesting them, this is a poor business article. Furthermore I doubt you would want your daughter to end up grinding like lady gaga, so why would you want your business having a similar persona?

    Its about time people built businesses and behaved in socially uplifting and beautiful ways and not just for shock and awe and fame.


  • Wdayrapco

    Hi Zia, you missed the point of the article….probably because you are too busy hating Gaga.

  • Lauryn Doll

    Incredible case study on Gaga and her business and branding habits. More and more we’re seeing the importance of someone’s real character needing to reflect in all aspects of their brand as opposed to simply putting on and off a mask when it suits them. 

  • Amanda

    Hi Zia,

    Oh where to begin, ummm…. everything is business. Musicians and artists ARE small businesses. Everybody knows it, and this artice is not one-of-a-kind, but follows along with what I’ve read over and over about branding.

    You’re off the mark. Completely.  But thanks for playing.  :)

  • James Bird Guess

    Hi Zia,

    I respect your honesty and comment. When I write articles, my only purpose is to try to provide some value for others. I wish I could have delivered more for you. As a speaker and trainer, I know my purpose is to inspire others to Grind for their greatest potential in life.

    And while I would not want my daughter to have to do similar things as Lady Gaga on the route to success, I would not judge her, despise her and stop loving her if she did, because when I was homeless I was involved in drugs, alcohol and even committed crimes that I am not proud of, but all those things MADE me and positioned me. GOD had to allow me to go through those things to mature into a person who could inspire others to put in ridiculous hours of hustle and work, which I call Grinding!

    One thing I learned in life is that you can learn something from everybody, it does not matter if they are a homeless person, a drug dealer, a mmillionaireor priest. And thats what I do. Instead of ccriticizingpeople, I try to determine why people do what they do and listen to them first. I know I cant please everybody, but I pay attention to comments like yours because I want to keep getting better as a writer and inspiration for others. Thank you for having the guts to speak your mind.  

    Sincerely, one of GOD’s hustlers,
    Grind for Greatness!


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  • Meredith Wood

    I think the link is an effective choice. Gaga has done some incredible things, especially in regards to her community!


  • Jake Salvatore

    Was just about to reply to Zia when I read your comment – so incredibly well put =)

    Great article by the way!

  • 123norio

    What a fake, from “talent” to “genuinety”. It’s all a pop brainwashing strategy to keep music and people off.

  • Rosieteapot

    Great advice – although I must admit I see “Authentic” & “Lady Gaga” as an oxymoron…!