Digital Marketing with Lady Gaga

In “Digital Marketing for Everyone“, I teach my students that social media is not a place to sell.  Instead, it is a place to get your fans together as a community and bring them inside your process.  My friend and colleague Martin Kupp, professor for Entrepreneurship at ESCP (European business school) has written a post that explores how to do both of those things from the perspective of an international music sensation. Welcome Martin!


Typically when discussing digital marketing strategies, I look at great companies or MBA educated executives or daring entrepreneurs steering their organizations towards continuous growth and profitability. But sometimes a look someplace less conventional might be just as rewarding. Consider the following:

In 2010 this person was named the artist of the year by Billboard, just one year after she earned the title of top new artist, and had been voted by Time Magazine as one of the most influential people of the year.  More than one million fans saw her Born This Way Tour up to the end of Oct. 2012, grossing more than 124 million dollars with more than 50 concerts still to come. Her album of the same title was the best selling in the world. By the end of 2011 she had nine consecutive songs that reached the two million mark in paid downloads in the United States; the only artist that had managed to achieve this feat. The estimated sale of her recordings was twenty-three million albums and sixty-four million singles worldwide by the end of 2011. This person: Lady Gaga.

Lady Gaga has demonstrated a deep understanding of the opportunities of digital marketing to connect with customers, and her approach to achieving “mass-intimacy” through social media platforms can be summarized as the 4Es:

  1. Emotions
  2. Experiences
  3. Engagement
  4. Exclusivity

These dimensions have allowed Lady Gaga to clearly position her brand in the mind of her target group.

Emotions – Establish a personal connection

She is an expert on building emotional ties to her audience, certainly through her music but also through her digital marketing. She is very open with her feelings when she tweets with her fan base. While sometimes factual, she frequently tweets with great emotion about the things she likes (mostly her fans but also colleagues), dislikes (less often) and even her friends and family (for example when tweeting how much she is looking forward to going home). She tweets about how nervous she is during the preparation for a concert, how exhausted she is directly after the concert and even during her concert (for example she tweets to her audiences so that people in cheaper seats still feel like they are receiving a personal interaction). She consistently tells a very emotional story about herself, about being the weird girl during her high school time, which creates a strong emotional bond by stating that it is okay to be weird. She has gone so far as tattooing her pet name for her fans, “Little Monsters,” on her arm.

Lady Gaga tattoo

How you can use Emotions

While music is a very emotional product in itself, I truly believe that it is very important to create an emotional tie between you and your customers. Often companies – big or small – overly focus their digital marketing strategy on the product, the product benefits and the user experience. But digital marketing instruments like Twitter and Facebook allow you to tell your personal story, things like why and how you came up with your idea, why this product or service is important to you personally, who you thought about when designing your product, and the like. This will help you to tell your customers why you care about the product and your customers and will ultimately make your customers care about you and last but not least your product or service.

Experiences – Consider all the ways your audience will remember you

With specially designed clothes, sometimes haute couture (sometimes no clothes), dance and art, Lady Gaga gives her fans inspiring and unique performances, experiences that they remember. Many of Lady Gaga’s music videos appear custom-made for the online world, having extended introductions that extend the complete clip to eight or nine minutes in duration, compared to the typical four minute clips produced for radio and television. This four minute ‘standard’ is based upon the duration of music that could be cut on a vinyl record single, but has remained unchanged for decades. All of Lady Gaga’s videos clips are free to view or download on her own website and YouTube (but if fans want to buy her tracks as audio files they are directed to online music stores such as Amazon or Apple’s iTunes).  Critical to her continuing success has been a deep understanding of the ingredients for sustaining popular appeal. The frequent reinvention of her style and sound has reflected an acute awareness of changing styles, social norms and attitudes in a fast clock-speed industry.

How you can use Experiences

As a start-up you have to think about the experiences you want to create for your potential customers. Focus on more than just your product by looking at the whole interaction with your customer, like your website, your communication tools, your physical store, your personal contact with the customer and also the way your customers buy, open, use your product for the first time and ongoing. Make it easy for customers to experience you and your product and make the experience a special one. Take for example “La belle assiette”, a start-up in Paris that offers customers the opportunity to have a professional chef cook dinner in their home. Key for “La belle assiette” was to create special experiences for customers, even before they would engage a cook for a whole evening. One way was to let customers learn about the cooks on the website through photos and personal stories. They also rented a kitchen in Paris, invited four cooks and made them cook a special menu that you could order online. So while hiring a cook to come to your home for a whole evening might be perceived as too big of an investment and also too risky, ordering a couple of menus for yourself and some friends is a fun, affordable and safe experience.

Engagement – Give people something to talk about

Lady Gaga often begins to spread her personal “myths” through social media.  This engages fans all over the world in two-way conversations and storytelling, promoting the lady and her music, and reaching new fans (see also this TEDxTalk about Lady Gaga, Ghandi and the art of followership). She changes her clothes several times a day, often sporting a different outfit arriving at an airport and then boarding a flight; she changes costumes up to twenty times during a typical concert. She often carries around a purple teacup and saucer for drinking her signature ginger tea. The teacup and saucer just by themselves get plenty of media attention.

How you can use Engagement

The beauty and fundamental advantage of digital marketing instruments is their ability to engage your customers. But all too often they are using to send only. Research has shown that simply by adding “please RT” (please retweet) to your tweet increases retweets by up to 15%. While this is already engagement as you ask your customer to do something (retweet your message), you can go further and ask for their opinions, ideas, personal stories and the like. In this TEDx talk I am thinking about ways to engage students in the learning process.

Exclusivity – Be one of a kind

Above all else, Lady Gaga is about breaking boundaries, being interesting, standing out and distinguishing herself from other artists. Thus, she is exclusive. Some industry insiders believed that Gaga’s close and ‘exclusive’ interaction with her fans explained her significant sales through services such as iTunes, even though many of her audio tracks were quickly pirated and could be dowloaded illegally. Said one industry expert: “Maybe Gaga points a way to the future – to make your fans your trusted friends. After all, who steals from their friends?” She typically announces her new singles and albums directly to her fans – even before the media is informed. But most importantly she involves her fans into the creative process. She does not use digital marketing to market a finished product but she opens her creative process up to her fans, giving them the opportunity to take part all along the way and thereby experiencing exclusivity.

How you can use Exclusivity

Digital marketing gives you the opportunity to create this exclusivity and therefore avoid a pure product (and price) comparison. Every information, every experience, every emotion, and every interaction with your customers creates exclusivity in the sense that all of this forms a package that is a lot harder to compare with another offer than the plain product. So for example if you are a designer you might want to think about involving your customers into the design process early on. Give your customers the opportunity for an exclusive experience. When comparing your product to another somehow anonymous product this might be the decisive difference.

Emotions, experiences, engagement, and exclusivity increase the chance to get your fans together as a community and bring them inside your process (and ultimately buy your products and services). If you have examples or more ideas on the topic, we would love to hear about them and learn from you. Get engaged!


Martin Kupp

Associate Professor for Entrepreneurship, ESCPEurope


Martin likes to look beyond the obvious. In 2011 he published the book “The fine art of success” in which he describes various artists like Picasso, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons of Joseph Beuys and what managers can learn from them.




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Posted in Digital Marketing for Everyone, Guest Blog, Marketing, Social Media, Startup
One comment on “Digital Marketing with Lady Gaga
  1. Martin Kupp says:

    My Lady Gaga endeavor continues. On Tuesday I will visit Coty, in charge of Lady Gaga fragnance to learn about their marketing strategy – and how much the Lady is involved…

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