Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

How Lady Gaga Uses User-Generated Content In Her Marketing Strategy

It shouldn’t take much to convince you that Lady Gaga knows what she’s doing. [1] Her latest single “Applause” is out, and it’s very interesting to pay attention to her Twitter feed during this time.

I particularly enjoy the fact that she’s been very deliberately sharing covers that other people have been making of her song, like so:

Celebrating user-generated content builds brand legitimacy.

In simple English, that means you look really good when other people are inspired by your work. So you’d want to encourage that as much as possible.

Despite this, not all artists like being covered.

Some artists are very sensitive about having their music being used by others. They might demand that the covers be taken down (how dare other people benefit from my work!), or that they receive some sort of remuneration (I better be paid for this!). This can get pretty complicated legally with royalties and dues and such.

But Gaga doesn’t miss the forest for the trees.

She recognizes that people covering your music is a good thing. It’s a sign that people care about your work, which is something you can’t quite pay for. It legitimizes your work as broader, cultural capital, and it makes you worth talking about. When multiple artists fight amongst themselves to produce the best cover of your song, you’ve won the “authority war”.

This is a lot of what branding is about. Intangible associations and emotional responses. Making people feel that they have a stake. [2]

This earns trust, gratitude and goodwill.

Budding artists today understand that doing good covers of established artists is a great way to get exposure and recognition. Every time a budding artist covers Lady Gaga on YouTube, Lady Gaga becomes more legitimate as a pop icon. This much is clear.

Let’s throw Gaga’s actions into the mix. Her tweeting habits actually shift the incentives for young artists. If you’re a young artist debating whether to do a Gaga cover or a Madonna cover, you now know that a Gaga cover has a better shot of getting you more traction.

This is bound to create a certain amount of reciprocal gratitude.

Robert Cialdini describes this extensively in his book Influence, about the power of Reciprocity. If you cover a Gaga song and she shares it, you can’t help but feel that she must be a nice person. You’re going to talk more nicely about her from now on, and maybe you’ll play her songs more often when you’re doing your weekly gigs at the local bar… all of which help to cement Gaga’s pop authority.

It’s a win for Gaga, it’s a win for her fans, and it’s a win for anybody who’s interested or passionate about that sphere of work. It works out because the emphasis isn’t on Gaga herself, but on her fans. She calls them her Little Monsters.

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Notes:

[1] The Telegraph – Lady Gaga: “I’ve always been famous, you just didn’t know it.” (Lucid, intelligently written piece by the same guy who did U2 by U2. Enjoyed it.)

[2] Observing all of this, I can’t help but be reminded of Oreo’s user-generated content with the #oreopetshow and the #cremethis #cookiethis Instagram artworks. There are some clear parallels to study here- Oreo too celebrates its fans, inviting them to participate in the construction of the brand-as-phenomenon.

[3] See Reciprocity and The Norm Of Reciprocity. We’re social creatures!

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Visakan Veerasamy

Visa is ReferralCandy's Blog Editor. He also co-founded Statement.sg, a fashion ecommerce label selling witty t-shirts. He's been thrice named a Top Writer on Quora. He hopes to enjoy a glass of whiskey onboard a commercial space flight someday.

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