Loyalty lessons from Lady Gaga: Brand Manage Camp 3

What, if anything, can you learn about brand building from Lady Gaga? Below I look at this question in this 3rd post from Brand Manage Camp 2013, based on a talk from Jackie Hubba.

First up, Jackie is a fab speaker. Enthusiastic, passionate and a lady who really know her stuff. And hats off for taking a new and refreshing angle on brand building by looking at Lady Gaga. Two things you can definitely learn from Gaga are: 1. Be distinctive to get noticed, and 2. Have a clear point-of-view and stick to it, no matter what. 

That said, I suggest most brands need to be really careful about applying learning from Lady Gaga. Here's why.

1. Lady Gaga is a fan-driven brand

Lady Gaga has made great use of social media to grow her fan base, as Jackie showed us: 59 million Facebook fans, and 40 million Twitter followers. Gaga calls her fans "Little Monsters".

But she is a "fan-driven" brand, made for social media. She fits well with the three criteria I use for identifying the brands for whom social media can be the most effective:

– LIFESTYLE brand: Lady Gaga is the sort of thing people will talk about down the pub to their friends. Importantly, she has a stream of exciting news worth talking about, such as new songs, videos, appearances, scandals etc.

– YOUNG: she has fans of all ages, but a big following of younger people who are super social media savvy

– ONLINE: there is a direct link to online commerce with Lady Gaga. See the landing page of her website below, which drives you to download her latest single. There's loads of other stuff she can sell online, such as T-Shirts and concert tickets.

On an interesting note, guess what % of her Facebook fans are actually interacting with her page (commenting, sharing links etc.). 10%? 5%? No, its 1.3%. So, even for such an exciting brand as Lady Gaga, 98.7% of people are there to consume content, not create it.

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2. You are (probably) not a fan-driven brand

Jackie asked us all at Brand Manage Camp, "What are you a 1%-er for?" In other words, what thing are you so passionate about that you would be in the top 1% of fans for that thing. The idea is that by finding and cultivating this 1% of crazy fans you can build your brand.

One lady was a 1%-er for an American Football team. Another was mad about Mini. And another was passionate about a Catholic Church organised marriage guidance service.

Funny, no-one said any of the following categories that I have worked on in my 20 years of consulting:

Toilet tissue, cat food, DIY lubricants, processed cheese, breakfast cereal, instant coffee, yogurt drinks, ham, bacon, sausages, mayonnaise, ketchup, peanut butter, jam, washing detergent, fabric softener, soup, supermarkets, law firms, insurance, banks, mobile networks

None of these were mentioned because, like most product categories, they are not fan driven. They are simple, everyday products and services that can make life a little better. And for this majority of brands, the task is not creating fanship, its overcoming indifference.

3. Pentration drives growth, not loyalty

Regular readers will know that this third point is the most important of all. Growth is driven not by loyalty levels, but rather by penetration. Loyalty levels tend to be the same in a given category, as I posted on here. Bigger brands are bigger because they have more reach, being used by more people at least once a year or so.

Your most loyal fans are in fact not the ones to focus on, as they will buy lots of your brand anyway.The likes of Costco Man below might make a nice story that propagates the myth of brand loyalty (he buys everything from the said supermarket including hearing aids, eye glasses, underwear, socks, vacation home furniture, food and vitamins, Christmas gifts). But its the light and non-users, the floating voters if you like, that you need to worry about more.

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In conclusion, if you are lucky enough to work in marketing on a fan-driven brand like a sports team or Aston Martin, perhaps you could learn something from Lady Gaga. However, for most brands, I suggest to look elsewhere for inspiration at brands who have driven reach and penetration.