As a student of pop culture, I’m constantly intrigued by how music stars come and go as quickly as the seasons. While many of them catch lighting in a bottle with a catchy song or two, very few have true staying power. The exception, of course, is Lady Gaga. Since the release of her first album in 2008, Lady Gaga has stayed relevant in a business that has no attention span. For those in the world of promotional products, much can be learned from the former Ms. Germanotta:
1. Be bold – In a sea of young female pop singers, Lady Gaga continually makes bold choices that keep her in the forefront in the mind of an ever-fickle audience. I’m not suggesting that anyone in the promotional products industry wear a dress made out of meat (pictured above), but I do recommend taking reasonable and calculated risks in order to differentiate. As Seth Godin says, “You can either fit in or stand out. Not both.” In an industry with 22,000 distributors selling virtually the same merchandise to the same audience, merely fitting in will not grow your business.
2. Learn from others, but make it your own – It’s fairly well documented that Madonna was Lady Gaga’s inspiration. And, while it’s easy to see the similarities between the former’s “Express Yourself” and Gaga’s “Born This Way”, I would argue that Ms. Gaga has transformed into something uniquely her. It’s the same for any individual or company seeking to build a brand – it’s important to take inspiration from others, but to have staying power, you need to find your own unique voice.
3. Confidence – Whether shaving her head completely bald or arriving at the Grammy’s in an egg, Lady Gaga exudes a complete confidence in everything she does. And, because she owns it, the audience tends to take it in stride. Branding is no different: When you truly believe in and take complete ownership of your brand message, your confidence will emanate from you and translate to your audience.
4. Continually evolve – Very few pop stars in the recent past have embraced change more than Lady Gaga. Because she understands that the audience is continually evolving, Lady Gaga chooses to transform herself almost annually. Recently, she beautifully sang a medley from the classic movie, The Sound of Music, at the Oscars. By doing this she shared timeless classics in a whole new way to a brand new audience. In business, it’s important to realize that the tastes of your target audience will shift and you must shift with them.
The lessons from Lady Gaga are simple to understand, but difficult to master. To be different enough to stand out in a competitive marketplace, it takes work – and a lot of it. But the rewards are there for the ones brave enough to chart their own course.