Can celebrities be considered brands? Many researchers and marketers have defined brand and branding as the consumers’ perception of a product, service, or corporation. Brands are, however, not solely limited to these three. According to Gerrie Lim (2005), celebrities can also be considered brands, “there is an intriguing relationship between global celebrity culture and the phenomenon of branding. There is a sense of wonderment in the way certain people have become com-modified into products”. Many celebrities can be considered brands as a result of all the emotions, thoughts, images, history, and gossip that surround them and they way they became internationally known. However, the way that lady gaga rose from obscurity to fame makes her an interesting brand to study. “As far as breakout musicians go, few artists have had quite the zero-awareness to ubiquity time- warp of Lady Gaga. As far as brands go, few marketers of any kind have leveraged social media the way she has to drive sales of their core product – in her case, albums and digital singles”. (Hampp, 2010, p. 42)
So how did Lady Gaga raise her awareness so quickly and how did she leverage her social media? The first fundamental element of her brand is the community that she built. Gaga’s niche was the gay consumers who became the root from which she blew up. If she failed to grow more famous, she still had loyal gay community supporting her with their large income. Despite the fact that she has become very famous now, she still is devoted to her gay fans. Gaga’s message was that it is acceptable to be different and people should be themselves no matter what. This message didn’t only appeal to her first niche, it resonated with nearly everyone.
When it comes to social media, Gaga has the power to make her messages seem personal even though she communicates with millions of people. For instance, she called her fans the “Little Monsters”, and tattooed this nickname on her arm, and then posted the picture with the caption “Look what I did last night. Little monsters forever, on the arm that holds my mic”.
Gaga’s social media strategy is very smart. She tends to understand people’s fears, motivations, and desires and uses this understanding to make her communication more effective and personal. She seems to have tapped into three human needs: having a personal identity and loving oneself, being understood and accepted, and being a part of something bigger than oneself, such as her campaign for gay rights and HIV prevention. These messages are consistent with all her social media outlets and the rest of her brand. Lindstrom posits, “Consistency! Consistency! Consistency! This is the mantra for success”. Last but not the least, her outrageous costumes, the way she portrays herself as a unique artists, and the fact that she puts herself constantly in the news are all features that made her a marketing phenomenon and a master at personal branding.
Lady Gaga’s blend of talent, smartness, and drive has empowered her to shape her brand into what it is today. She is not just book smart; she appears to be clever enough to read society well and sense what matters and appeals to people, and what will make them talk.