UPDATE [12/15/12]: My upcoming book called Monster Loyalty: How Lady Gaga Turns Followers Into Fanaticsa, based on some of the concepts outlined in this post, will be released in May 2013. Click here to get more information.
There’s a lot marketers can learn from artist and musician Lady Gaga.
At age 23, Lady Gaga has rocketed to global fame in less than two years. Playing piano at age 4 and New York nightclubs at 14, she recently broke Billboard’s record as the first artist to have her first five six singles reach number one. She’s won two Grammys, and has sold 8 million albums and 15 million singles digitally worldwide. While her performance art-style stage shows and bizarre outfits have garnered much buzz, it’s her loyalty marketing that may sustain her for years. Gaga is dedicated to her fans and clearly knows the elements of cultivating a community of evangelistic fans.
With that, here are my 5 lessons about building brand loyalty, Lady Gaga-style:
1. Give fans a name. Gaga doesn’t like the word “fan” so she calls them her “Little Monsters,” named after her album “The Fame Monster.” She even tattooed “Little Monsters” on her arm and tweeted the pic to fans professing love for them. Now fans are getting their own Little Monster tattoos. By giving the group a formal name, it gives fans a way to refer to each other. Fans feel like they are joining a special club. (Related business examples: Maker’s Mark Ambassadors and Fiskar’s Fiskateers.)
2. Make it about something bigger than you. During her concert tour, Gaga recites a “Manifesto of Little Monsters” (text) (video). Although a bit cryptic, most Little Monsters see it as a dedication to them, that her fans have the power to make or break her. (Related business examples: Smoque BBQ (pdf).)
3. Develop shared symbols. The official Little Monster greeting is the outstretched “monster claw” hand. As all Little Monsters know, the clawed hand is part of the choreography in the video of her song “Bad Romance.” Gaga tells the story of watching a fan in Boston greet another fan with the claw hand and that’s when she knew this was the Little Monster symbol. Even Oprah knows the Little Monster greeting. Shared symbols allow fans to identify each other and connect. (Related business example: LIVESTRONG yellow wristbands.)
4. Make your customers feel like rock stars. One staple of Gaga’s “Monster Ball” tour is to call a fan in the audience during the show. She dials the number onstage, the fan screams out, is located and they are put up on a big screen. While the rest of audience goes bananas, she invites the fan to have a drink with her after the show. (Related business example: eBay Live Conference where attendees walk through a gauntlet of applauding eBay staff as they enter the closing gala)
5. Leverage social media. Gaga has the requisite Facebook fan page (over 5 million fans) and Twitter ID (almost 3 million followers) but it’s how she uses them that drives loyalty. On Twitter, she tells fans what she is doing, such as tweeting them before she opened the Grammy Awards. She also tweeted to fans that she was buying them pizza for waiting overnight at an album signing.
Some artists are very protective of their image and prohibit recording devices during performances. Gaga doesn’t allow professional photographers into her concerts but is ok with fans recording and putting videos on YouTube.
Whether Gaga will have staying power remains to be seen. But she is making waves in the music business and teaching plenty of people the power of fandom.
Wouldn’t you like to have fans like these?
UPDATE: To further illustrate Gaga loyalty, watch this fan-created created video card montage of Little Monsters from around the world for Gaga’s 24th birthday. Many of the fans get emotional talking about how Gaga has inspired them to be themselves, and not care about what others think.