In the beginning there was nothing and then like a comet, there was Lady Gaga. She slammed right into the public eye out of seemingly nowhere and Lady Gaga has a lot going for her.
When I first saw and heard of Lady Gaga it was on the Rove show, an Australian variety/ celebrity talk show in 2008 I suppose. This odd person just BAM came out of nowhere and was now sitting in Roves studio talking about who she was and her music. She had a kooky haircut and spoke slowly and unlike any person off the street. When she performed she put on pretentious sunglasses and shimmied around. My inner tall poppy syndrome Aussie came out and thought “who on earth is this Lady Gaga and why does she think she is so good”.
Now, lets talk how smart she has been. She seemingly came from nowhere with a string of decent, not anything spectacular in my opinion, songs. How has she suddenly become so popular. My friends, the answer is smart imaging and marketing. Her branding is strong.
I recently saw a video of Lady Gaga, aka Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, before she was famous. She looked a bit like Amy Winehouse and Gabriella Cilmi and I had to look very hard to figure out who it actually was. There was this Italian looking girl, beating out on piano and singing and was very talented. Nothing stood out about her to nab my attention. When I found out that the video I was watching was of Lady Gaga pre The Fame, I was staggered.
I grew interested in this sudden transformation and dug deeper into her story. Turns out Stefani (Lady Gaga) had been playing to audiences and releasing albums for many years without too much success. She was signed to Interscope at age 19 and then dropped. She also wrote songs for other artists such as Akon, so obviously she is very talented, but why couldn’t she claim the spotlight sooner?
Now, what suddenly made the change for her to find her own performing feet in the celebrity crowd? Very very clever marketing and submission on her part. Her “Stefani” image was dropped. Her name changed in the style of other highly famous musicians before her, her image dramatically altered and cleverly constructed. She donned a new persona and shut out her old “normal person” to present the world with a larger than life celebrity. Smart Gaga, very smart! A gimmick goes a long way in the celebrity story.
By creating this persona and image, she instantly captured media attention with her odd name and bizzare fashion choices. In my observations of musicians over the years it always seems that the ones who have a larger than life charm, or something totally different to offer take the attention and gather rabid fans. Take the Spice Girls, Madonna, Elvis and Prince for example. If they all dressed in jeans and tshirts and had normal personalities, how boring they would be. Nobody would pay attention. Elvis had his unique hair style, name and signature “rude” hip shakes. Gimmiks create a strong branding presence.
Lets take another case study. Tina Arena. She is a wonderful Australian artist. Yes she found a tremendous amount of fame in Australia in the 80s and 90s, but she is not at cult status and she never made it overseas… well she is big in France… but thats not cool enough for most Aussies to take notice of. If you met her in the street you wouldn’t shake scream and sweat, you’d just say “oh hey, theres Tina Arena”.
This is what I like to refer to as the “droll syndrome”. It’s not that she is not talented, it’s that she is too similar to every other person on the street. 1. she is Australian (and that is a whole other topic on another occurance I have noticed) 2. she looks like anyone off the street 3. she is a nice, down to earth person. All of that = Droll in celebrity stardom land.
Back to the Gaga. I read that she used a LGBT marketing team in America to help her get a foot hold in the market. Whatever they did to her they did a hands down terrific imaging and total make over job and she credits them in her liner notes for her success. Being sucessful in the gay scenes requires more larger than life characters than for general music consumption for lack of a better definition. She got that covered off the bat. Smart. And Lady Gaga’s brand is strong! Quirky, sexy, off beat and mysterious.
Her branding success can be broken up as so:
- Talent (she obviously is very talented as a musician)
- Image (She is larger than life with a completely different persona to who she really is. She wears outlandish clothes that no normal person on the street would wear when they go shopping and she even has her own design team behind her.)
- Confidence (She goes out there with a great amount of confidence and can stand up straight and play her “Lady Gaga” character for the masses which love the intruige of who she is and what she represents to them. And lets be honest. We love celebrities because they are a distraction from our 9-5 mundane lives of buying lunch and using the computer and reading the junk mail to find this weeks specials at the supermarket.)
- People adore these qualities and are intruiged by the character. Love her or hate her, everyone has noticed her.
- There hasn’t been a strong “character” on the music charts for years. There is a spot in the market for that and she has come to fill it and fill it successfully!
What truely successful artist with fanatical fans looks and acts like a normal human being? It’s all about drawing interest and intriuge and lets face it, if “Stefani” had have release the album “The Fame” as herself, it would have only been minimumly sucessful despite the musical content being the same.
To give herself over to her marketing team would have been a big step. To leave her old self behind to forge a life as a psuedo person constantly in character and costume is a huge price to pay to claim The Fame. Consitency is key in marketing and her Gaga brand is locked and checklisted for sure! She is not Gaga at all.
Note to self: Buy a green wig, use a lot of face paint and ALWAYS wear crop tops and bike pants with hiking boots. I will call call myself Miss Amazonia. That would totally catch on!