Lady Gaga As a Brand

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lady-gaga-paris-hilton1If you know me at all (follow me on Twitter, read my Tumblr blog, etc.), you know that I am unhealthily obsessed with Lady Gaga.  And if you live on the Planet Earth, then you know who the fabulous Gaga is.  Lately, as I’ve been talking to people about her, I’ve heard the same thing over and over- “I really don’t want to like her, but I just can’t help it!”.  This really struck me as interesting because I don’t think I’ve ever heard that about any other artist, past or present.  I decided that I wanted to explore her marketing, personal branding, and public image strategy to see why everyone is falling for Gaga.  And I promised #prbc that this post would be based on real examples, and not just an expression of my sheer infatuation (ok, ok, ok).  Oh why do we all love Lady Gaga so much?

She’s weird but not too weird: With her overall image of uniqueness, artistry, and outright wackiness, you would think that her music would be pretty bizarre (Bjork, anyone?). But the opposite is true – Gaga has publicly declared herself as a pop star.  She writes pop music which is intentionally catchy- thanks to prominent producers such as RedOne – and produces number one hits on the radio.  However, it’s the strangeness that draws us in because she isn’t just another Britney.  Sure, Gaga wears outfits that no one else ever would.  Alexander McQueen runway?  She wears it in real life.  But she looks amazing doing it.  As an audience, instead of being repulsed by her choice of clothing, we want to BE her because she makes it look so effortless (I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t pull off 99% of the things she wears).  Gaga strikes the perfect balance in creating her image and that is one of the things that draws people to her.

She fits herself into the mainstream: This point goes along with my first one but I wanted to expand on it by including some of the things that Gaga does in order to carve herself a niche in the mainstream (because without the mainstream, her success would be incredibly limited).  Gaga doesn’t seclude herself, or portray herself as a tortured artist- she goes out partying with heiress Paris Hilton and writes songs for American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert.  She also constantly references pop culture in her work so that she MAKES herself part of the pop culture she so admires- her latest single “Telephone” features fellow pop-star Beyonce and her song “Dance In The Dark” contains a bridge that’s eerily similar to the one in Madonna’s Vogue.  Instead of shunning the mainstream, like so many other artists that we consider “different” do, Gaga embraces it with open arms.

She appeals to a broad audience: This one speaks for itself: girls want to be her, she fully supports the gay community, and I’ve even met some guys who are impressed by her talent and refusal to lip-sync live.  My 51 year-old mother has even been known to sing “Poker Face”- good thing she doesn’t know what it means.

She’s a hard worker and keeps her personal life private: Lady Gaga may have a Twitter account, but she is no Lindsay Lohan.  In fact, she may be one of the hardest working women in the industry, touring since before her album “The Fame” started climbing up the charts as well as picking all her own outfits and having a major part in the production of her performances.  She also does an incredible job of making sure that her personal life stays out of the tabloids; we see articles about her genius as a music artist, rather than ones talking about her stumbling out of clubs wasted (although that’s fine on occasion, of course).  Her love life is drama free, or at least as far as we know, and any speculation or rumors are answered coyly enough to keep us interested.  Gaga is almost a character- one that never falters and always leaves us mystified.

She values her fans: This one should be a no-brainer for anyone in the public eye, yet it’s surprisingly rare.  Gaga uses her Twitter and Facebook to constantly thank all of the people that support her.  In fact, she even has a nickname for them – her little Monsters. Gaga is sweet, despite all the scariness.

She represents what we don’t want to show: There’s a little bit of Gaga in all of us – drama, sexuality, a desire to be the center of attention, unashamed individuality, etc.  Even though we can’t show that in public, Gaga can and we love it.

Lady Gaga as a brand is actually an incredible thing.  She takes things that are quirky and unpopular and uses them to her advantage. Obviously everything that she has now reached an unprecedented level of popularity within the past year.  But I’m interested in hearing from you guys – what about Gaga’s brand makes YOU love her?

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  • http://www.sheemasiddiqi.com Sheema Siddiqi

    Awesome post! I agree with all your points and I've actually pointed a lot of that out to the people who say “I love her but don't want to.” Lady Gaga has made pop fun again, and as long as she keeps cranking out songs that get stuck in your head all day, she can get away with wearing crazy and risque outfits.

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  • stephmajercik

    I think you hit the nail on the head with this one! I'm definitely one of those people who says “I'm not sure why I love Lady Gaga, but I do.” I especially agree with your point that we like her because she represents what we don't want too – and that's intriguing for many people.

    I also think that while she wears the crazy clothes and makes the weirdest/coolest videos (Bad Romance) she really hasn't done anything über shocking to turn us off to her.

  • http://twitter.com/ChristaMarzan Christa Marzan

    Why wouldn't you want to like her? She's talented, beautiful, and different but in a good way. Who else EXPLODED onto the music scene so fast? Not too many. I think she's a genius, and she went to NYU's Tisch school which is even more impressive. Long live Gaga!! Great post Jess :)

  • http://matthewhurst.com MattHurst

    Thank you for boiling this down to the branding essentials. It explains her phenomenon better than many articles I've read before…

  • http://www.sheemasiddiqi.com Sheema Siddiqi

    Awesome post! I agree with all your points and I've actually pointed a lot of that out to the people who say “I love her but don't want to.” Lady Gaga has made pop fun again, and as long as she keeps cranking out songs that get stuck in your head all day, she can get away with wearing crazy and risque outfits.

  • stephmajercik

    I think you hit the nail on the head with this one! I'm definitely one of those people who says “I'm not sure why I love Lady Gaga, but I do.” I especially agree with your point that we like her because she represents what we don't want too – and that's intriguing for many people.

    I also think that while she wears the crazy clothes and makes the weirdest/coolest videos (Bad Romance) she really hasn't done anything über shocking to turn us off to her.

  • http://twitter.com/ChristaMarzan Christa Marzan

    Why wouldn't you want to like her? She's talented, beautiful, and different but in a good way. Who else EXPLODED onto the music scene so fast? Not too many. I think she's a genius, and she went to NYU's Tisch school which is even more impressive. Long live Gaga!! Great post Jess :)

  • http://matthewhurst.com MattHurst

    Thank you for boiling this down to the branding essentials. It explains her phenomenon better than many articles I've read before…

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  • TheDuck

    I love lady gaga and I noticed you said she's weird but not too weird. After going to one of her concerts, I think she's really weird, but takes pride in being the outcast from everyone's common moral. She also encourages her fans to show their true selves, for all those who have been look down upon and teased for being who they are. i love her for that. well that's one reason me and my friends love her. We can relate way more than you could imagine.

  • FavouriteAves

    She doesn't spend her time talking shit on other people…that makes her seem genuine and confident. She's focused on Gaga, her work, music, and “brand”, not on speaking ill of others

  • http://thomcollins.com ThomCollins

    I love all you have researched and said however speaking as a Mid Life Monster one who has witnessed first hand the evolution of Madonna it is very hard to discuss your comment aka “guilty pleasure”. I am a die hard Madonna fan from the start of her presence when I would overdose on all things Madge. Nobody EVER could take her place then Britney came along and up until then I never swayed from Mrs. Ritchie, but secretly I would listen too and adore Miss Spears. I think my reaction was strong with her because I am a dancer and she CAN DANCE. With my 43 years of gay love making to these two beautiful women it was not until Lady GaGa played for the first time and video soon followed I was forever changed and literally GOo GOo for Ga GA! Madonna who? Britney what? Seriously I consider myself to be somewhat of a hold it together queen if you will, but if BAD Romance is within hearing distance my body actually tingles and my happy feet take over. She is unique, She is Talented, She already is an ICON, and only 23! Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta to many years rocking all our worlds……

  • Manuel Meister

    Lady Gaga is famous because of her brillant music, like the songs “pokerface” and “paparazzi”. Her Personality and the way she acts in public and on stage, like the costums and hairstyle, are for sure also a part of her success. But without some good songs (which she wrote on herself) nobody can achieve something in this biz.

  • darcy

    i hate lady ga ga i can't believe how trashy she looks

  • Anon

    You are a complete and utter failure at the Tubes.

  • saireayn

    You missed a huge reason. Many images in Lady Gaga's music videos are reminiscent of issues and concepts that you just don't see with other mainstream artists, like sex trafficking (the scene where she is forced to dance surrounded by men bidding on her mirrors a similar scene in the movie Taken) and Princess Diana's death (the dead women to the lyrics of Paparazzi). She earns respect among people who don't ordinarily think very highly pop music. She's creative.

  • MB

    54 year old gay guy here. Love her! Why? Her talent plain and simple.

    She has an amazing voice – someone who can really sing, writes great music and is an incredible performer.

    Didn't know who she was until about 2 months ago -but I was blown away once I did. And if you've seen her in interviews – she is smart!

  • ciara legg

    hey i love lady gaga i buy all her cd's and i even got tickets to see her in belfast !! love you GAGA!! even though she is really weird and comes up the most coolest costumes …….she's a babe!!and comes up with the most weirdest videos and songs but everyone loves them !!!! love her soo much

  • ciara legg

    i reckon lady gaga will finally come out with a really cool song that willl be in the charts for years !! and will become as big as pink and madona and kylie malouge and all them sort of celebs !! she just keeps getting madder and madder by the day !! it's unbeivible !!! but she will keep going and going!! i love her soo much!!!

  • http://twitter.com/jessicagreco Jess Greco

    Yeah she definitely stays out of the gossip arena as much as she can, which is always a positive thing!

  • http://twitter.com/jessicagreco Jess Greco

    Agreed! You're talking to one of the biggest fans of her songs. However, her image and brand is what gets her the ENORMOUS amount of attention that she does receive. It's a fantastic combination.

  • http://twitter.com/jessicagreco Jess Greco

    Absolutely! She's very smart and socially aware. She's not afraid to take pop music to another level. She's great at showing that pop music doesn't always have to be superficial.

  • http://twitter.com/jessicagreco Jess Greco

    She's the whole package! Beautiful, talented, intelligent and enormously creative. Love it :)

  • http://twitter.com/jessicagreco Jess Greco

    I love her just as much :)

  • Adrienne

    I tried not to like her but……. shes pure genius.
    Fabulous!!!!

  • greeeekcu

    I love Lady Gaga and i know why, becouse she is goddness, she is Aphrodite!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/gailigator Gail

    First, i too think i may have an unhealthy obsession with Lady Gaga! lol. Also, to attest to how broad her reach is; i haven't purchased a pop album since Janet Jackson's “Rhythm Nation” in the second grade….I now have the Deluxe edition of “The Fame Monster”. In an attempt to figure her out, i have watched many interviews, and I think my main attraction to her is her clear artistic intent and flawless execution. Because she is the intelligent and creative mind behind all that is Lady Gaga, somehow the shocking and dazzling runs parallel with a smooth and polished vibe.
    I've been a traditional artist (printmaking,sculpture,drawing etc.) my whole life, and i have never been inspired by another artist as much as i have by Lady Gaga.I am inspired to be myself, to make art with intent, and to be gracious and applaud all parts of the art community. Go Gaga!!

  • Merel

    great story!
    I love lady gaga!

  • Nicole

    Lady Gaga is my cousin<3

  • Nicole

    shes my cousin<3
    love you gaga bug<3

  • SoHappyICouldDie

    Shes Your Cousin?!!
    No Way!!
    Thats Like The Best Thing Ever!

  • http://bonspielcreation.com bonspiel

    Thanks for the thoughtful commentary–right up my alley. I finally took a look at her videos last night, been avoiding her 'cause I figured she was just another flavor of the week, but she's bigger than that. And a very talented singer.

  • basti

    dzaaan magrad minda sheni gacnoba da dzaaan gtxov vari ar mitxraa!!!!GEORGIA thank you

  • Gagalover

    Wow i love lady gaga's music so so much. i didnt know she had a facebook account…. but i love her sense of uniqueness and quality. she has potential that almost none of us have had in years, and she shows it to the world–also what none of us would do. gaga truly is a legendary pop queen.

  • WhipsNChains

    Paris?? stop leachin off the Beautiful and talented Lady Gaga! Git ur own gf… SHES WAYYYYYYY beyond your league.. shes true to herself and who she is.. she dont need designer things to make herself important.. her performance on the Today show knocked that OUTTA THE PARK!.. Paris?? move ova.. your history gf! Lady G? Your wonderful hunni.. I could be your mother…. but my daughter would have WORSHIPED YOU… had she lived to this day.. she passed away in 06 at 25.. i know shes looking down at you and dancin in heaven hun… lovesssss ya :-)

  • WhipsNChains

    When I hear Lady Gaga I also think of the artist Lady Soverign..shes edgy, young and absolutely wonderful… Id love to see her and G git together… :-) They would make ONE hella HIT!

  • Poetreearborist

    I recognize in Lady Gaga the soul of an artist. Even though I generally dislike pop music, she works across multiple media to craft her statements – which have meaning and depth for our time.

  • Apu

    she is so fuckin sexylicous i need to fuck her