The 5 Mind-Blowingly Simple Strategies Any Startup Can Learn from Lady GaGa : Under30CEO The 5 Mind-Blowingly Simple Strategies Any Startup Can Learn from Lady GaGa : Under30CEO
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The 5 Mind-Blowingly Simple Strategies Any Startup Can Learn from Lady GaGa

| October 6, 2010 | 23 Comments

Nobody can deny the power of GaGa.

Since bursting on the scene in late 2008 she’s proven herself to be an adept singer-songwriter, businesswoman, and marketing phenom. So…it’s obvious there’s more than a few things she could teach start-up entrepreneurs.

Why her?


Need I say more?

But like any start-up GaGa’s had her share of adversity, heartbreak, roadblocks, and setbacks; she’s had people who didn’t believe in her and people who told her she couldn’t make it…

…but she did.

And there’s valuable lessons for the start-up willing to listen, namely:

1. Make sure You Stand Out

“In an interview last winter, Lady Gaga recalled her anguish at being ignored as she performed at a bar filled with drunken NYU students. No one paid the slightest attention to her until, fed up, she decided to strip down to her lingerie. ‘I started playing in my underwear at the piano and I remember everyone was all of a sudden like ‘Whoa!’ And I said, ‘Yeah, you’re looking at me now, huh?’” –Forbes, The Business of Lady GaGa

When I sent out a message and asked if there were any suggestions  Matt Wilson (@mattwilsontv) replied on Twitter:

“Be outlandish and get noticed!!! re: @ladygaga”

I thought “Yeah right! That’s so obvious!I mean…EVERYONE knows GaGa stands out…so its OBVIOUS you should stand out in some way!” But then as I thought about all the entrepreneurs that DON’T stand out…it seemed to make more sense.

According to Seth Godin, “remarkable” is a necessity today because people don’t pay top dollar for “ordinary.” It’s on this principle that made Apple one of the world’s most valued companies by market capitalization. It’s simple: Apple makes exceptional products that continually raise the bar making it hard for competitors to catch up.

But standing out is risky?

When Jobs wanted to create a store that would reach out to the masses he did so with a nervous board; as many saw it a risky cash drain. But he wanted to create “an experience” for the Apple user. And that “risk” has paid off in billions!

GaGa KNOWS how to stand out: on interviews she’ll prance around naked, refer to herself in the third person, talk about her previous drug use, her vagina, and so on; and on stage she works so hard to maintain the “illusion” that sometimes she won’t even drink water on stage!

If what you’re offering doesn’t stand out in some way, shape, or form…take it back to the drawing board! Because the foundation of ANY great marketing campaign is an exceptional product or service–because no matter how you dress it up, if it’s garbage…it’s garbage!

2. Make Friends AND Enemies

“I read reviews sometimes and I’m like, ‘Wow, that guy really doesn’t f—ing like me.’ Like, they really don’t get it, but that’s cool. You’ve got to create some kind of stir. You’ve got to say something that’s got to upset some people, and that’s the risk-taking that makes music so fun.”Lady GaGa

Even though she has millions of fans all over the world…she has haters too.

She is a staunch supporter of gay rights…seen recently in her trying to get the law “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” repealed.

This hasn’t always made friends.

The greatest example of that was during a tour date at St. Louis, where she was met by a certain church group who protested  her show and condemned her to hell. Gaga quickly sent out a message asking her fans to ignore the group’s protests. The concert continued with no problem.

Afterward she thanked her fans:

“Tonight love and hate met in St. Louis. And love outnumbered the hate, in poetic thousands. Hate left. But love stayed. + Together, we sang.”


Know that whenever you take a stand on ANYTHING you’re going to have friends AND enemies. But understand that you NEED both. Because whether they’re shouting your praise or condemning you to hell…they’re giving you invaluable advertisement…free advertisement!

3. Make Sure to Take Care of Your Fans

“The turning point for me was the gay community. I’ve got so many gay fans and they’re so loyal to me and they really lifted me up. They’ll always stand by me and I’ll always stand by them. It’s not an easy thing to create a fanbase.–Lady GaGa

If there’s one thing Gaga does well: she knows how to take care of her fans. She’s gotten a tattoo and dedicated it to her “little monsters,” she’s gotten them into sold out concerts, she invites them to have a drink with her, and etc.

Even when they’re crying…she knows how to take care of them:

As start-ups it so easy to go after the “masses” and forget “fans.” But since a true fan is worth 10,000 strangers sometimes it makes sense to turn away from the crowd and treat your fans like royalty. Whether it be exclusive offers, invites to special events, making them a mayor…whatever it takes…show them the great privilege of being a “monster.”

4. Make Adversity a Stepping Stone

“I had a boyfriend who told me I’d never succeed, never be nominated for a Grammy, never have a hit song, and that he hoped I’d fail. I said to him, ‘Someday, when we’re not together, you won’t be able to order a cup of coffee at the f–king deli without hearing or seeing me.’”Lady GaGa

GaGa’s had doors slammed in her face, DJ’s who didn’t want to play her records, and music execs who thought she was nuts…

…but she kept going.

She to was signed to Def Jam but then was dropped after 3 months

…but she kept going.

She schmoozed with execs and saw nothing come out of it…

…but she kept going.

Adversity is inevitable.

Sometimes people won’t buy into your dream, doors will shut in your face, business will be lost, delays will be had, and ideas will not work. But know that whatever adversity is in your way will always become a stepping stone if you keep going. If you analyze what works, what doesn’t work, why it doesn’t, and how you can fix it to make it work.

Gaga saw what didn’t work, changed it to make it work, and worked it till she became a household name!

5. Make Money

“I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man! Let me handle my business, damn!” –Jay Z, Diamonds from Sierra Leone

Lady GaGa’s also a business…in fact she’s a new business model! She’s one of the first major artists to be launched under the new “360 deal.” This is where labels invest 100% up front for a cut of revenues from every aspect of the artist’s business.

In addition to that she has two production companies, deals with Virgin Mobile and Polaroid, her own headphones, her own lipstick, and a new perfume line about to be released.

Oh…and let’s not forget the condom line she endorses.

The lesson: at the end of the day cash flow is king!

Most business get founded with dreams but they are funded with money–and a high click through rate,  heavy traffic, impressions, great “buzz”, and good marketing mean NOTHING if a profit isn’t made.

Is there anything I missed?

What do you think?

Now here’s my bio: Michael Holmes is an author, speaker, and internet entrepreneur. When he’s not eating Chipotle’s chicken burritos or shouting at fighting matches he can be found teaching Biblical Strategies for Startups on his blog.

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Category: Startup Advice

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  • LaTara Ham-Ying

    This is a great post Mike! Lady GaGa has intrigued me for quite sometime now and after reading your post I see why. She is a marketing MAVEN :)

    I wonder how many entrepreneurs really pay attention to these points because what most of them of do is take the focus off of self and puts it where it belongs…solely on your market!

    LOVE IT!!! Thanks for sharing such great insight!

  • Mike Holmes

    Thanks La-Tara!

    I gotta be honest: I wasn’t a big GaGa fan prior to this. But when I really researched the strategies she used to get to where she is…I was beyond amazed. She is a successful startup–hands down!

    I’m glad you enjoyed the post! :)

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  • Michelle

    Lady Ga Ga is living proof that all those quotes you read in the “how to succeed” type books on the market nowadays really are true. I think a little bit of failure along the way makes you want to succeed even more.

  • Rod

    Like you, Mike, I was never a Lady Ga Ga fan, but I definitely admire her rise to stardom. Love this post man, I loved this, “Most business get founded with dreams but they are funded with money–and a high click through rate, heavy traffic, impressions, great “buzz”, and good marketing mean NOTHING if a profit isn’t made.”

    Entrepreneurs (especially in this social era of marketing we’re in) don’t get that social media marketing isn’t anything if you’re not bringing in profit. You can have thousands of twitter friends, fans, and the like, but if you’re not getting anything out of it then you’re working for nothing!

    Great advice, Mike. Oh, and the “manfan video” made me chuckle like a little school girl. Good stuff!

  • Mike Holmes

    I love what Robert Kiyosaki said in one of his books…it escapes me right now…”if you want to succeed fail faster.” I love that because it goes against the conventional model of don’t fail…but you have to fail in order to get to success.

    When I was researching this piece I found out that GaGa’s failure to success ratio was (in my estimate) was 4:1. Meaning that for every time she succeeded she failed 4 times…but she kept going,

  • Mike Holmes

    Thanks Rod!

    I’m glad you enjoyed it. i tried to keep it in story form as people relate to stories more.

    And you’re right about the profit thing..I mean we’re here to help and so on…but at the end of the day we’re here to make money too :)

    The “manfan” video was funny…but I was really impressed with how she handled it

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  • Felecia Hatcher

    Awesome Mike!

  • Zack Shapiro

    #6 Wear Meat.

    Outfitting your startup completely in meat will get you noticed by TechCrunch, Peta, and your neighbors who will tell you to take a shower :)

    Read my blog.

  • Mike Holmes

    Thanks Felecia! I’m glad you liked it… :)

  • Mike Holmes

    Never thought of that. I can see that building buzz lol!

  • OutMaturity

    Really enjoyed the post. I think the message really is “be true to yourself and success will follow”.

    Thanks for posting, this will be one that I refer to over and over!


  • Mike Holmes

    Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed…

  • K.D

    Great one – I really enjoyed it !!!!

  • Mike Holmes

    Thanks K.D. :)

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  • T.W. Anderson

    Entrepreneur kicks from Lada Gaga. Who would have thought?

    But to be fair it’s her marketing team, not necessarily herself, who is to thank for her rise to the top. She may be an artist, but it’s the PR team who handles the publicity, not a single individual.