Lady Gaga: Marketing to a Core Audience

Earlier this year, Jackie Huba of the Church of the Customer blog wrote an insightful post on “Loyalty Lessons from Lady Gaga,” outlining the ways the 24-year-old pop star has built a devoted audience using branding techniques.

Savvy marketers know that building an audience and a brand is just part of the process. The next step is to leverage that audience to sell to them, repeatedly. As Bob Hoffman of The Ad Contrarian often points out in his e-book and on his blog, the most effective way to generate sales is by focusing on your heaviest users, i.e. your fans.

In Gaga-speak, her loyal, devoted fans are called her Little Monsters. Both my colleague Lisa King and I learned this past week in separate episodes how Gaga speaks to this audience to maintain that loyalty–and how you can use the same techniques to turn your customers into fans, too.

On Sept. 8, Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball Tour stopped at the Verizon Center here in DC to a sellout crowd, including Lisa. During the show, Lisa says, Lady Gaga repeatedly addressed the audience, exhorting them to feel special by their association with her and with each other. “People ask me if I’m trying to get new fans with my new album,” she said. “I don’t need new fans. I just need you.”

She took pains to emphasize that her success was entirely due to their support, creating a world where she is equal to her fans. At the same time, she makes it clear that she loves her fans exactly as they are, especially those who feel different or left out or ignored. “I don’t want you to leave here tonight loving me more,” she said at the end of the show. “I want you to leave here loving you more.”

Gaga’s sense of solidarity with her core audience was on display again at Sunday night’s MTV Video Music Awards, when she accepted the Best Female Video award and first thanked her fans, adding, “Tonight, Little Monsters, we’re the cool kids at the party.”

Her words ring true for her fans because they know she backs them up with actions, such as using her online store to solicit donations for Haitian earthquake relief, or committing to donating $25,000 to Virgin’s RE*Generation program to assist homeless youth.

It’s no wonder fans were willing to spend upwards of $100 a ticket for her show. And you can bet Gaga’s army of Little Monsters will buy her upcoming album the day it’s released. That’s fan loyalty you can take to the bank.

You can appeal to your audience, too, by using the same techniques in your marketing messages. After all, Gaga hasn’t invented a new way of reaching her fans. She’s relying on these classic emotional triggers:

Solidarity:

Everyone wants to feel like they belong; no-one wants to feel alone. By joining together, your customers can be part of a group of others “just like them.” To choose another musical example, think of the Grateful Dead’s Deadheads—or Jimmy Buffet’s Parrotheads.

Exclusivity:

Not only are fans part of a group, they’re part of an exclusive group that not just anyone can belong to. Credit card companies have used this strategy for years, first with gold cards, then platinum cards and now every precious metal you can think of. What do you offer customers that no-one else does, or can?

Flattery:

Complementary to the notion of exclusivity is flattery of individuals by telling them how special and unique they are for being part of this group. Did your customers choose your product because they are more intelligent or more discerning than ordinary consumers?

Your Turn

  • Do you have customers—or do you have loyal fans?
  • What techniques do you use to inspire loyalty in your clients and customers?
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