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Lady Gaga Reinvigorates Brands, Social Climbing

Lady Gaga Reinvigorates Brands, Social Climbing

Andrew Hampp / AdAge

As far as breakout musicians go, few artists have had quite the zero-awareness-to-ubiquity time-warp of Lady Gaga. And 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.

Lady Gaga, with her army of nearly 2.8 million Twitter followers and more than 5.2 million Facebook fans, can move product. Since fall 2008, her digital-single sales have exceeded 20 million and her album sales hit 8 million, all at a time when no one under the age of 60 buys CDs anymore (see Susan Boyle breaking the record for highest first-week album sales last year). Now, she’s being courted by marketers to do the same for their products.

Gaga’s rapid ascent to the pop-culture stratosphere is often compared to Madonna’s, right down to their shared beginnings in the downtown New York club scene before their big record deals. But what makes Gaga’s star status, particularly in the marketing community, so uniquely 2010 is that she has achieved as many milestones (if not more) in 18 months than her idol did in nearly a decade. Madonna’s notorious endorsement for Pepsi in 1989 — cut short after her controversial “Like a Prayer” video aired on MTV — came seven years after the debut of her first single in 1982.

Within a year of her out-of-the-box rise to fame in September 2008, Gaga had already lined up Virgin Mobile as a sponsor of her Monster Ball tour; created her own brand of headphones, Hearbeats by Lady Gaga, with record label Interscope; and landed her own (cherry pink) lipstick as a spokeswoman for Mac Cosmetics’ Viva Glam, benefiting Mac’s AIDS fund. And by January, she was tapped by Polaroid to become the brand’s creative director, hired specifically to create new products and inject life into a brand that hasn’t been hip for years — save for maybe a popular reference in Outkast’s “Hey Ya!”

Old School Meets New Media

How did a 23-year-old singer/songwriter achieve so much in so little time? Two words: social media. Sure, Gaga had a fair share of old-school artist development — radio play — to become the first artist to score four consecutive No. 1 singles from a debut album. But she’s also put a new-media spin on her distribution strategy. The November premiere of her video for “Bad Romance,” for example, debuted on LadyGaga.com before MTV or any other outlet could play it — resulting in a Universal Music server crash, a Twitter trending topic that lasted all week and a cumulative 110 million (and counting) views on YouTube to date, more than any viral music video of yore (OK Go, anyone?) could ever claim. Vevo, a music video site co-founded by Universal Music Group, also recently reported a whopping 20% of its traffic came from just Lady Gaga videos — as in 1 in 5 videos streamed on the site was likely to be a song such as “Poker Face,” “Just Dance” or “LoveGame.”

Gaga has already had a similar halo effect on her Mac Viva Glam lipstick. Less than a week into its launch, the lipsticks created by Gaga and her campaign cohort Cyndi Lauper have outsold any launch in Viva Glam’s 16-year history, said Estée Lauder Group President John Demsey, thanks to a groundswell of social-media impressions. The launch day of her Viva Glam lipstick ad campaign alone generated nearly 20 million unique views in traditional media, including print and web buys and an appearance on “The Today Show,” as well as an additional wellspring of social-media hits per Gaga’s tweets to her fans.

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