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Monster Loyalty: Savvy Engagement Tips From Lady Gaga

lady gaga bookTo me, the fun fact about famous people is not the TMZ-style stories of who-left-whom-for-who.  It’s the business end. I get a bit fascinated by musicians, and how they attempt to balance artistic statement with being accessible to the public – another way of saying, “Gimme enough sales so I can continue my artistic statements.”

At least that was the thesis for the music business of yore. Without a doubt, the Internet and digitizing the music format has reshaped how music artists garner fans. Witness how YouTube expanded the careers of Justin Bieber or Psy.

Lady Gaga’s success has been outstanding, and she has been named to the Forbes top celebrities list.   A viable business model underscores her fame, a model with tactics that small businesses could adopt on a smaller scale.

Author Jackie Huba (@jackiehuba) examines Gaga’s model in her book Monster Loyalty: How Lady Gaga Turns Followers Into FanaticsI was intrigued by how the book came about – a blog post on Lady Gaga garnered the most replies on the author’s blog.  So I downloaded a NetGalley copy for review.

Lady Gaga’s career history is as extensive as a 27 year old singer’s can be. Despite her first singles having achieved 6 number one hits – a record – Lady Gaga does not have a storied musicianship like, say, the Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson or Madonna, an artist she is regularly compared to.  So those artists may have more material for an author to research and draw business concepts from.

But the context Huba sets for Monster Loyalty is worth the study. Lady Gaga’s success is examined against a social media and digital marketing landscape in which the target audience must be constantly engaged and immersed in an experience.  It is a different audience landscape from the one in the heydays of Madonna, Michael Jackson, the Rolling Stones and others.   Small business owners are more likely to identify with Madonna than Lady Gaga, but reading Monster Loyalty teaches a different spin on the value of social media – one that does not require a discussion about a tweet or like.

Take the first chapter of the book, for example. It examines the value of the “one percenters” – that core audience that responds to your product.  The one percenters are your superfans – the “Little Monsters” as she calls them. Lady Gaga spends nearly all of her effort on this highly engaged fan base.

In other words, your marketing should be on those who are responding the most to your product or service. Huba notes this philosophy against 2011 research by Forrester showing most marketers are focused on new customers, not existing ones, and certainly not on such a tiny group as the one percenters:

“Fifty nice percent of CMOs say acquiring new customers is one of their top priorities…Only 30 percent of CMO respondents say they are focused on retaining customers as a top priority.”

With such a deliberate focus on addressing her fan base, you might conclude that Lady Gaga is a manipulator. But she doesn’t come across that way in the book. Instead she just comes across as someone who knows on which side her bread is buttered. When it comes to her fans, Lady Gaga believes:

“I’m not the beginning anymore. I don’t see myself as the center. They’re at the center. I’m the atmosphere around it…I will continue to become whatever it is [the fans] would like for me to be.”

Lady Gaga’s viewpoint could fit into Gary Vaynerchuk’s The Thank You Economy quite easily.  That is the point of business books written about famous people –  to learn more than leadership from sources seemingly disparate from your own past experiences.

Huba deftly enhances her points with a mix of business data and highlights from Gaga’s career.  For example Lady Gaga understands her one percenters – her devoted fans. The book reveals how Gaga developed her own community network.

“In late 2010 Gaga and her team realized they could create their own private place for the superfans, the Little Monsters. Gaga herself dreamed up the idea after seeing an advanced screening of The Social Network….[her manager Carter] partnered with some of the best in Silicon Valley, and created a firm called Backplane, which would build a niche social-network platform that could be used by other artists and even brands. Gaga invested her own money into the venture.”

The suggestions may seem out of reach for the small business owner.  Yet a small business owner can learn the value of Lady Gaga’s choices.  In Thank You, Vaynerchuk refers to the context of relationship and how your brand “must improvise and be willing to go where the consumer leads you.”  In Monster Gaga demonstrates that improvisation, built on the context before her.  She may have certainly had the money to build a social networking platform of her own, but the structure of the idea can be emulated through similar, affordable platforms that you learn about everyday on Small Business Trends.

Business tools alone do not guarantee success.  It’s how those tools are applied to make a sustainable business model.  If you read Monster Loyalty you will learn the right attitude to apply to the numerous digital marketing strategies touted every day.  It will be the winning attitude that will take your business to the next level.