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What Lady Gaga Can Teach Us About Marketing

As we step boldly into the New Year, consider how much you really know about your brand image and how closely you manage it.  

Reading some previous issues of Rolling Stone I came across the summer double issue, its cover graced by Lady Gaga in all her skin-showing, soul-bearing, eccentric glory.  Throughout her interview with Neil Strauss, Lady Gaga displays a sharp awareness of her Image and the effect she wants it to have on her fans.  As far as she is concerned, it’s all showbiz, and showbiz is about transporting fans into the fantasy she creates.  For example, she doesn’t drink water onstage because it might make her appear more human.  She won’t speak publicly about traumatic past experiences because the media would gobble it up and spit out some semi-digested and distorted version of events or their ‘apparent’ consequences.  Gaga holds these experiences—and her image—sacred. 

Her brilliant self-marketing will become all the more important with the release of her new album (at midnight New Year’s Day), which will showcase a different and more “bitter” direction for her music.  She will rely on the fame she built from scratch and her millions of adoring fans for success—and they’ll love whatever dish she feeds them because they love her. She had to earn that love, but sadly, she couldn’t have done it without manipulating her image, her ‘brand’: “Now I have a little more of an opportunity to be [intelligent], don’t I?...If I had come out as who I was, no one would be listening. Now people are listening.”

So what does Lady Gaga teach us about marketing?  Image is everything—though of course, the product you sell must appeal as well.  She knows her market and has already captured fans on a global scale, and she caters to them.  Now with her popularity secured, she can morph her image to match the person she’s become over the past few years and her fans will happily follow. 

Like Lady Gaga, businesses need to purposefully create and manage their brand image. This means you must define what it is today, and evaluate how closely this matches the future vision of what you want your brand to become.  You must know what your customers want, and deliver on it. This is your brand promise.

As you develop your marketing plan this year, consider these questions:

  • Have you clearly defined your brand image?
  • Do your customers think about your brand in the same way that you do?
  • If not, where is the gap?
  • How will you bridge that gap?

As you develop your business goals and marketing strategies in the coming year, don’t lose sight of your most important asset, your brand. It’s your reputation. Is there anything more important?

Knowing your market and understanding customer needs is essential to business and in fact, it can often make the difference between success and failure. But even with this in mind, some people still find it a chore. So how can you make market research easier? There’s a saying that a huge and seemingly impossible task can be done if you simply break it into small pieces that are more manageable. Here’s one approach you can take to do this with your research.

First, divide research into two main pieces—the macro and the micro. Macro research is externally-oriented, which means it deals with your business industry, competitive arena, and the macro-environment where your business and target market reacts to financial, economic, technological, social/cultural trends, and legal or political issues.

Micro research on the other hand, is internally oriented, and gives you insights about who your customers are and what motivates them to buy from you. It usually involves analyzing customer information which can be gathered through primary data-gathering methods like surveys and interviews.

To develop an effective research plan, you need to prioritize your list of research topics into the most essential questions you need answers to in order to effectively manage your business and marketing plan. After you develop an initial list of topics, ask yourself, “What are the most essential things I need to know and understand that will make a difference in my marketing strategies and tactics? This will help narrow the number of tasks in your research plan, and increase the likelihood that you will take action with the information you have learned.

For example, a research question in the area of industry trends could be, “What are the fastest growing companies in my industry doing that makes them successful?” What one thing could I learn and apply to my own company that would make a differenc

In the area of competition you might ask, “What are the strategies of the innovative new competitors in my market? From what businesses are they gaining market share and what can I do to protect my customer base?

Your micro research is focused on understanding the wants and needs of your customers, and this can change quite often. Your research questions might include:

  • What is the ultimate benefit and outcome my customers are really buying?
  • What alternative solutions are in the market that potentially pose a threat because customers perceive they get the same value, but at a lower price?

It’s easy to get lost or caught up in an endless research process, but if you limit your research plan to include the topics that will help you make good decisions about your marketing and sales strategy, or your tactics, you will see an immediate benefit from your efforts.

The following guest post is provided by Owen McDonald, VP Client Strategy, Demand Creation Specialists. Owen summarizes the most critical factors that drive business growth outlined in my new book, Real-Time Marketing for Business Growth: How to Use Social Media, Measure Marketing, and Create a Culture of Execution (FT Press/Pearson).

If you would like to learn more about these concepts, we invite you to join us for a webinar on October 20 at 12 noon EST How Content Builds your Brand, Creates Alignment, and Drives Real-Time Marketing.

Maverick ideas that corral the sacred cows of business planning appeal to me. One such redirection of time-honored business practice is found in the new book, Real-Time Marketing for Business Growth: How to Use Social Media, Measure Marketing and Create a Culture of Execution. The brain behind the book is author, educator, speaker and marketing strategist, Monique Reece. Her book challenges core business beliefs – annual strategic planning being a biggy – arguing that in this boundless new business climate, annual planning is an outdated practice disconnected from market realities.

By Reece’s definition, real-time marketing is literally that: abandoning robotic execution of static annual plans for plans that constantly shift to address market conditions. Still, her method is anchored by a core set of internal corporate values and external behaviors. The book is a treatise on not just keeping pace with change, but outpacing it with new approaches to strategy, execution and measurement. On October 20 at 12pm EDT, Reece will personally share these concepts and more in the webinar, Content's Role in Real-Time Marketing. I strongly urge you to register.

Meanwhile, consider the following tidbits and factoids that preview Reece’s upcoming webinar, tantalize as to why companies need Real-Time Marketing – and the content marketing strategy to support it – when navigating treacherous new competitive waters:

  • Reece says research proves 90% of employees don’t understand their company’s strategy. Content as internal communication is the key driver to change this.
  • There are lots of “secret weapons” in the world of marketing theory. Reece’s own is expressed as her P.R.A.I.S.E. methodology – Purpose, Research, Analyze, Implement, Strategize, Evaluate/Execute – and content has a role at each phase.
  • Reece says content drives the integration of planning and execution. It’s the glue binding the two, and the vehicle by which strategies becomes field tactics.
  • A central tenet of Real-Time Marketing is the idea that many businesses market to the wrong people. The webinar will convey what Reece calls “simple and proven processes” to define a company's ideal customer, as well as the pivotal role of content in identifying this target internally, and conversing with them externally.
  • Reece is a major proponent of social media, and the role different kinds of content play to drive communication and execution of a strong social media strategy.
  • No single marketing theorist can claim ownership of customer-centricity, but Reece’s approach is heavily weighted towards how content can be used to establish and maintain a customer-centric corporate culture that wins business.
  • Content marketing drives the innovation process necessary for growth, she says. The book and webinar support this, again, from internal and external viewpoints.

Reece’s six-step P.R.A.I.S.E. process for planning and execution is also ably laid out in her recent DemandGen Report interview. This article is also required reading for managers and marketers seeking better paths to growth in a jungle of new media and messaging.

Join us for the free webinar on October 20, 2010 at 12 noon EST and learn How Content Builds your Brand, Creates Alignment, and Drives Real-Time Marketing. Click here to register.

To read the original blog post and learn more about Demand Creation Specialists, visit

Upon arriving in Izmir, Turkey, it appeared the fastest way to travel across the city and surrounding area was to hire a taxi and driver for the day. Negotiation involved not simply the fare, but the customer experience: Is this someone with whom you wish to spend the day?

Turkish MarketAfter an insane one hour drive to Ephesus at 160-170 km per hour, and another hour back (best to close your eyes or have a shot of something strong), we asked to go to the Bazaar in the city. Whether you have been to the huge Bazaar in Izmir or not, it is exactly as you might imagine—a complete cacophony of every type of vendor you can possibly imagine.

What I did not expect was how unremarkable one vendor was from the next. Vendor after vendor was selling the same thing as another. If dozens of vendors sell exactly the same thing, how do customers decide from whom they should buy?

The scene reminded me of the unremarkable ways some companies choose to sell commodity products in the U.S. Some choose to compete on low price, others on their distribution system or relationship strategy, and others focus their strategy on the select few customers that will pay the most. It doesn’t take long to surmise the majority of vendors focused on the first strategy, low price: put your wares out there for sale and hope for the best.

The experience I had that day with our trusted driver relied on a combination of the later two strategies: focus on high paying customers and relationship selling similar to affiliate marketing. Here’s how it works. During the hour-long drive to Ephesus, the driver would occasionally stop at a few selected retail shops—some just looked like warehouses. “Just stop for minute. Special place,” the driver assured us. The first was a warehouse filled with ridiculously over-priced ceramics. I had years of training in retail early in my career, but any “professional” shopper” should have been able to see all the red flags in an environment like this. I didn’t buy anything but the French couple I was traveling with dropped several hundred Euros on ceramic plates and vases. As we drove off, the cab driver asked how much they spent, then smiled at their response.

Next stop, another warehouse where we were led into a large room with a long platform and chairs around it where we are instructed to sit down. The lights go out completely and my imagination kicks into extreme gear. After an awkward few minutes, the lights go on and the music starts. Two beautiful young women and two handsome men begin to parade leather coats down the runway. After 10 minutes, the show stops as abruptly as it started and a well-dressed Turkish man opens a side door and asked us to enter. It is a beautiful showroom of leather coats and jackets. He follows us around and insists we feel the leather and try on the coats. You have to do it or he will not leave you alone. Again, we walk out without spending anything and the French couple spends several hundred more Euros. The cab driver asks how much, and smiles.

There is no question the cab driver gets a cut of the action from customers he brings to the remote retail stores. In essence, he is an affiliate partner who has made deals with the merchants. He is a master at relationship selling and to maximize his profit, he takes his visitors only to the vendors who will charge the most, thus maximizing his commission. The vendors rely on the taxi driver, aka affiliate partner, to bring them high paying customers. If the customers don’t buy, they just wait for the next one who is willing to pay the highest price for the commodity goods. Unremarkable products sell day in and day out; it’s the marketing and sales strategy that helps these vendors sell more than the other commodity vendors in the bazaar.

It is always better to sell a remarkable product or service that differentiates it in the market. However, if you sell a commodity product, how will you implement a strategy to make it remarkable? Is it your marketing strategy, price or distribution strategy, or sales strategy? Or is your strategy hope?

If you sell a commodity, it might be a good time to step back and evaluate how your strategy can become remarkable, even if your product is not.

People have profiles, brands have pages. This is just one word of advice from the research presented at the Science of Facebook webinar hosted by Social Media Scientist, Dan Zarella, and Hubspot, an Internet marketing firm.  I learned a few new facts about Facebook, and other statistics solidified trends in areas like demographics. Here are just a few of the facts Zarella shared:

  • Video is more popular on Facebook than Twitter. Create a gadget people can easily share so they can express their affinity for a brand and customize their own experience. And of course the cooler you make users look, the more your brand message will spread.
  • The correlation between age and how people use Facebook is interesting. 20 year olds use Facebook to be social while those a decade older like to focus on interests. Adjust your use and content to your target audience.
  • Facebook already does a good job of providing demographic data (which is why we know users skew female and females make more posts—no new news here. But as Facebook grows in popularity, new software firms are cropping up to help you measure metrics and demographic information. Quantcast (a tool I haven’t used yet) is a free service and will help you understand the demographics of your audience. 
  • This one surprised me: Don’t use buzz words, especially words like SEO, optimization, productivity and branding. Do you agree? I would love to hear your thoughts on this one. No one likes jargon, but for people in some businesses, especially those in social media, it’s hard to avoid.
  • People like facts and specific numbers, therefore information and articles with numbers is shared more often. 
  • The best day to share content is Saturday. Why Saturday? Because people have more free time to connect with family and friends on weekends.
  • Social proof spreads viral messages. The more people “like” your content, the more they recommend and share, which fosters greater trust in you and your brand.
  • Regarding the all important issue of content, on Facebook, the friendlier the better. People expect more of a conversation on Facebook than other social networks. 

Click here to download the slideshow and learn more.

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