All posts tagged Lady Gaga

Don’t be a Polaroid.

I still remember the day.

I was wearing Montreal Alouette sneakers, a hand-me-down Adidas T-shirt, short-shorts, and an Expos hat on top of a homemade Lego haircut. It was the mid-70s and my mom gathered us four kids to take a picture. But she wasn’t just using a camera.

She was using a Polaroid.

I know, I know.. many of us consider Polaroid a retro brand who’s claim to fame is inspiring the Instagram format and the odd Outkast lyric.

But before you write it off, think about life BEFORE polaroid.

Your camera was horizontal Tetris piece and the flash was a vertical tower of power that connected to the top. It featured 12 little flint flashes that individually burst into flames when initiated. Then, you had to GET IN YOUR CAR and drop off your film to a pimply faced teen who sat in a Fotomat (fishing hut) in the middle of a mall parking lot. 2 months later, after a lab in russia developed them, you got your photos. 

Then Polaroid showed up.

Talk about a life-changing innovation. It didn’t just make life a little better. It drastically changed consumer behaviour. People no longer had to drive. Labs no longer had to develop. And photos could be enjoyed instantly (well, almost instantly – first you had to shake it, shake it…)

What a wonder! What a truly brilliant innovation! What a company! What a brand!

Polaroid has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Twice.

Sure, they were saved by a private equity group, have adequately licensed their name and currently feature a range of products including everything from sunglasses to printers. Hell, they even hired Lady Gaga as Creative Director. But I think you’ll agree that they literally (and legally) are a shell of their former selves.

There’s an important lesson in there:
It’s one thing to innovate. It’s quite another to keep on innovating.
The hot thing (and the profits that go along with it) may be great today but it can be one line of code away from being replaced by something else that makes consumers’ lives even easier.

It also applies to people.

You may be flying high and on top of your game one day and be obsolete the next simply because you didn’t change, adapt, or learn. People – not just brands – have to continue to innovate.

You may want to be many things. I just hope you don’t want to be a Polaroid.

Yes, I’ll say it: Marketers should become Beliebers.

If you’re like me, you may have relegated Justin Bieber to teeny bopper status as a more successful, solo, Canadian version of Menudo (only with better hair).

Well, I was wrong.

On advice from Guy Kawasaki, I recently checked out the movie Never Say Never. Guy said it was the best marketing movie he had seen. I have to agree. Every brand manager in the country should check it out and become Beliebers. Here’s why:

He started with a great product.
I’ll admit that I assumed Justin fell into the American Idol camp of people who “applied” for celebrity status instead of working for it. He didn’t. He studied, learned, played, and sang. He started playing the drums at 3, had his first public show at 9, and was busking by 11. While he may have had a natural inclination towards fame, he actually worked his butt off to become a skilled musician before fame was ever in the cards. Music was his passion and focusing on the passion created a better product.

He didn’t rush to market.
If Justin Bieber had been a product developed by a publicly traded company, he would have been shipped right after the Youtube Beta to hit forecasted revenue targets. They would have spent more time developing the Facebook page than the musician. They would have negotiated a partnership with Disney, created branded content with First Choice Haircutters and had a duet with Connie Talbot all before he was 10. He didn’t.

Yes, he’s young. But he’s a grizzled veteran who’s probably been singing longer than Pauly D has been DJing.

He created a new category.
Even I know he was discovered by Usher but that was only after every major record label turned him down. The experts thought he needed a platform or gimmick to sell his product because that’s what had worked for Miley, Britney, Justin and others.

He (and admittedly, his advisor Scooter Braun) didn’t want to do be the cute kid on a Nickelodeon show although that would have been tempting at the time. They were willing to create their own category instead of following the “Best Practices” of those who preceded him. Do you really think he would have succeeded musically if he was first introduced as a pre-pubescent male on a spin-off of Hannah Montana? I don’t think so. He did it his way.

He’s social to the core.
We all know that next to Lady Gaga, he’s embraced social media better than anyone. Millions of followers and friends. But what’s lost in the numbers is that those are just the tools he’s used. His real strength is the commitment to being social. He didn’t just hire an agency to create a social media platform, he actually had a willingness to connect with people long before he was tweeting. To quote Scooter Braun, “There isn’t a DJ in this country who hasn’t met Justin Bieber.” A brand that has a willingness to connect in person naturally succeeds when they connect through social media.

Customer service that surprises and delights.
In every city he performs in, his team distributes free tickets to unsuspecting fans (cue the shrills of excitement from gaping mouths filled with braces). When he sings Lonely Girl – apparently, a song of his – he calls someone on stage, gives them flowers and serenades them.

“Little things go a very, very long way. And the moment we forget that I think it’s over.” (Scooter Braun)

As a Canadian, I’m proud of his success and hope he doesn’t become the MySpace of the music industry. He’ll have to innovate to stay ahead of the competition. He’ll have to continue to listen to and connect with his customers. And he’ll have to simply keep working. Only 45 more years to retirement!

Want to have a laugh at Justin’s expense? Check out Gordon Pinsent reading from JB’s memoirs.

Update: Since I wrote this, I realized that Guy Kawasaki also wrote about this subject for OPEN Forum. It can be found here

Going gaga for Gaga.

Lady GaGa concert

Image via Wikipedia

What brands can learn from the Queen of Marketing.

The last time I saw someone emerge from an egg, Robin Williams was morking his way into our Nanu-Nanus. Well, 24-year-old Lady Gaga’s Grammy entrance trumped the Orkian tradition with more glitz, more glam, and more of something a little less expected:

Business smarts.

Yup, pay attention pointy-haired CEOs: The best marketing case study may not be in the Harvard Business Review after all. It’s on your kid’s iPod. Welcome to the School of Gaga. Here’s what business and brands can learn.

 1. She stands for something.

 At the core of the Lady Gaga brand isn’t a committee-written mission statement. It’s a belief.  And everything Gaga does ties back to that one mantra: People should be free to be themselves.

It drives her music. It inspires her outfits. It dictates her performances. How many brands have a belief that influences product development, packaging, social responsibility, customer service and more? Sadly, as many brands’ campaigns change, so do their beliefs.

2. She’s open, honest and genuine.

“What artists do wrong is they lie. And I don’t lie. I’m not a liar. I built good will with my fans. They know who I am.”

Above all else, consumers want honesty. Lady Gaga delivers. Whether it’s being open about her background (real name: Stephanie), her drug use (smokes pot) or even her insecurities, Gaga is honest. Some may think she’s just one big marketing machine but she’s even open about that:

“One of my greatest artworks is the Art of Fame. I’m a master of the Art of Fame.”

 Her honesty brings credibility to everything she does. Are you listening big business?

3. She puts her customers first.

Gaga doesn’t just call her fans, “Little Monsters”. She actually has those words tattooed on her leg. And I don’t think it’s one of those lick-the-back-and-press-really-hard tattoos, either. How many of us are THAT dedicated to the people who put bread on our table? Not many.Lady Gaga’s customers are not a necessary evil. They inspire her. They’re at the centre of everything she does. She listens to them. She communicates with them. And she shares her success with them.

4. It’s about her but it’s not about her.

 Obviously, one person could not do this alone. Gaga is surrounded by a team of stylists, musicians, choreographers, publicists, and creatives that keep her and her music fresh.

Instead of calling them her suppliers or partners or whatever the latest version of “self-directed work teams” is, she simply includes them in the collective family unit, “House of Gaga”. There may be a Lady in the House but the brand requires a gaggle of Gagas. She acknowledges and celebrates that in a real and genuine way. As she explained to Jay Leno recently,

“I don’t want the band and dancers to feel like a band and dancers behind me because the performance of Born This Way is nothing without them.”

 It’s simple. Instead of creating policies on improving morale and retention, she treats her people with respect. I wish more would.

5. She keeps us interested.

 What will she do next? We never know. What we DO know is that simply talking about personal freedom and expression could get really boring after a while. To keep us engaged, she keeps us entertained. Provocative videos. Original attire. Unique performances. Grand entrances. Perfectly timed sneak peeks and releases. Constant media exposure. New partnerships (Beyonce, Elton John and others). Consistent communication. She does it all to keep us coming back for more. And it’s ALWAYS interesting.

6. She understands social media

  • 8 million followers on Twitter (the most)
  • 28 million + Facebook fans
  • 1 billion + views on Youtube.

At the end of her Leno interview, Jay was gushing from his chin as he wrapped up:

Leno: I think you’re really great… I do appreciate all the effort. Your people get here early. And you look great. And people can’t wait to see you. And you have wonderful taste and everything. And I thought you were just fantastic.

Gaga: Well, this is what I do.

What is it you do?