Going Gaga Over GAGA

(Article first published as Going Gaga Over GAGA on Technorati)

Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Grateful Dead, David Bowie, Prince, Madonna – all global music phenomenon in their own time and own way. And now we have Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta – better known as LADY GAGA (yes, it is written all in capitals – see her website).

Love her or hate her, you have to admire the business empire she’s built, notable for both the speed of its creation and the diversity of its platforms.

As a true Purple Cow GAGA stands out from the crowd. Even though she does seem to channel Madonna’s fashion, Prince’s dance moves and Alice Cooper’s shock-rock performances (amongst numerous other fairly obvious influences), she has also done something unprecedented – melding her inspirations with leading edge dance/pop and incredible Web savvy to build a global empire in just 5 short years.

At only 24, GAGA reigns over a brand that spans music (10 million+ albums sold), video (1 billion+ Web views), design (Monster headphones, Polaroid cameras), starring in a comic book series, and marketing (HP, MAC Cosmetics).

And let’s not go past the unbridled and unashamed product placement in those billion-plus video viewings. Paparazzi touted Chanel. Bad Romance featured Monster Headphones, Nemiroff Vodka, and HP’s Envy 15 Beats Limited Edition laptop. And Telephone, the most overt example yet, hawked everything from wonder Bread to Miracle Whip to dating Web site PlentyOfFish.com.

LADY GAGA cultivates her brand with near-military rigor. in 2008, she handpicked several friends to form a creative team that she calls Haus of Gaga. together, they produce look-at-me fashions – a nude, bubble-covered bodysuit, sunglasses made of cigarettes, a flame-shooting metal bustier – that define her concerts and her controversial videos.

And at the moment no other artist commands the kind of attention that GAGA does. If she does something with your brand, you’ll immediately have millions of eyeballs watching. Brand GAGA has built a huge following of loyal fans who follow her every move, facilitated by social media and Web 2.0. for example, she has a real-time tribe of Twitter followers numbering nearly 4 million, as well as 6 million Facebook fans.

Look at the publicity generated for Hermes when LADY GAGA arrived in Tokyo with a defaced Hermes Birkin bag tattooed with Japanese text. perhaps the more appropriate word is customised. GAGA took an iconic fashion accessory (incidentally worth $6,000) and made it her own.

However, lest you think there is no artistic substance behind the hype, think again. Take the recent song Alejandro and its accompanying 9 minute video.

If you haven’t seen it, you can watch the video here: ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=niqrrmev4mA&feature=player_embedded# ).

If you don’t want to see it, just imagine all the following film clips combined into one, and that’s what you’d have – like a Prayer (Madonna) + Spinning Around (Kylie Minogue) + Slave for you and Toxic (Britney Spears) + the dancing of Beyonce, Shakira and Rihanna.

And yet, in my humble opinion, the song is worthy of winning the Eurovision Song Contest. it has a strong beat, better than average lyrics (without the typical profanity), imagery worthy of Cirque du Soleil – and even violins it is catchy, toe-tapping and head nodding.

GAGA is ubiquitous, largely because she deftly exploits the Web. Her persona is built for the online generation – she was the most-Googled image of 2009. And because of this influence she can also have a strong social enterprise influence.

As part of their sponsorship of her U.S. tour, GAGA negotiated with Virgin Mobile to involve her fans and her causes. So Virgin created http://www.ladyvirgin.com and gave show tickets to those who did community service, thus helping generate 30,000 hours nationwide (US only) to help the issue of youth homelessness.

And the lessons for us?

LADY GAGA dares to be different. sure, she borrows greatly from what has already been successful, but she puts her own style and panache on it. And there is a depth of quality to her work – she is no Milli Vanilli (remember them?).

More importantly, LADY GAGA understands her audience and she communicates with them – and lets them communicate with her – in a way with which they are most comfortable. And her product is designed to tap right into the emotional strands of every young person. It’s what they want, available when they want it.

For all businesses the current marketing challenge is now how to shape your business, services and products so that you can engage this emerging youth market and their dependency upon technology and social networking sites.

You just can’t put your head in the sand and ignore it – a recent study revealed that 1 in 3 young women check Facebook before brushing their teeth or going to the toilet in the mornings

The bottom line? to remain commercially viable all businesses will need to learn to work with what their market demands. And this inevitably will mean change. As has been said before – change is the new constant.

Going Gaga Over GAGA

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