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6 Things Your Brand (and Logo Design) Can Learn from Lady Gaga



Lady Gaga Lessons on Branding and Logo DesignLove her or hate her, there’s no arguing with the fact that Lady Gaga knows how to get attention. Lots of it. Her Monster Ball Tour played to more than two and a half million fans and grossed close to a quarter billion dollars. She’s had three #1 hits on the Billboard Charts—her song, “Born This Way” debuted at #1 and stayed there for six weeks (something only four other artists have managed to do). In 2011, she claimed the top spot on the Forbes Celebrity 100 list (replacing Oprah).

When it comes to getting noticed, Lady Gaga is doing a lot of things right.

But this is a blog about logo design and small business. So why the stuff about Lady Gaga? Well, chances are that you’ve got a company or product that needs to be noticed. Wouldn’t it be great to some “Gaga-like” attention for your brand and logo?

So we wrapped our minds around what it is that makes Gaga so successful at creating attention for herself And we discovered a few things that might apply to your logo and brand.

Here are six things Lady Gaga does that you can apply to your logo and brand to start getting more attention, more fans, and make a real impression with your customers:

#1. Get Noticed.
There are literally tens of thousands of bands playing in clubs and venues around the world. But only about 50-70 of them have hits on the Billboard Charts or songs playing on the radio at any given time. And you think your competition is tough.

Most of those bands play the same songs as other bands. Or they play songs that sound like the hits on today’s charts. They write and play music that sounds like the stuff they hear on the radio. They’re trying to break out by doing the same thing as everyone else. Which generally doesn’t work.

Then there’s Lady Gaga.

She writes her own music and creates her own (wild) outfits. She sees every appearance in public as an opportunity to make an impression. She is always doing something new and shocking (that’s her brand). And she does it brilliantly.

Now, how can you apply that to your logo design or brand? Think about the ways you stand out from your competitors. What makes you different? Now take that difference and use it to get attention. Do you offer a guarantee that your competitors can’t match? Does your product have a feature that no one else offers? Do you solve a problem in a unique way? Use the things that make your brand different to get attention.

Wait, you say. My brand isn’t wild and shocking. And I’m not different from my competition. We provide the same service. Even our prices are about the same. How does this apply to me?

If that’s truly the case, then you need to do the hard work of creating a difference (even if it’s just a perceived difference, and not real). Plenty of other companies with boring products do it. A few stand out because they make the effort to stand out. Like Gaga.

Want an example? Check out the English Cut, a custom suit maker on Saville Row. To stand out from their competitors—all of whom offer the same product and many of whom have been around for a hundred years or more—they started a blog. Can you think of anything duller to write about than fabric and hemming techniques? Surprisingly, they’ve found interesting things to say for nearly a decade. Is your industry really any more boring that theirs?

You may not be able to wear crazy costumes or count on photographers following you to the grocery store, but you can find ways to get noticed.

Lady Gaga Find an Audience for Your Brand and Logo2. Find an Audience and Create Fans.
Lady Gaga didn’t start out with millions of fans. After she launched her first album, she went on the road, playing small gay clubs in New York and doing out-of-the-way shows in Europe. She jumped at the chance to open for a reunion tour of New Kids on The Block—not exactly a gig the hot artists were looking for at the time.

Lady Gaga has credited many of those early fans for her phenomenal success. What’s more, she connected with them on MySpace, Twitter, and Facebook. She posted exclusive videos and interviews on her social pages to reward her fans, and they responded to the attention by buying her records and spreading the word.

Well, that’s great for Gaga. But what about your business?

Once you start getting attention from a few customers, you need to connect with them. For small businesses in a retail setting, this may mean getting to know them, offering solutions that are customized to their needs, and simply being friendly. For a business online, that means being available by email, on Twitter, Google Plus, and Facebook. It means creating new content on your blog and posting interesting stuff (related to your business) for your fans to read and respond to. It means giving them something extra that your competitors don’t do.

When Pete and Laura Wakeman started opening Great Harvest bakeries across the western United States, they had the idea of offering a free slice of bread to every customer who came through the door. Giving customers a thick, warm slice of bread smeared with butter or jam, created a host of fans of the company and helped the company grow. Today, there are hundreds of bakeries in the towns where Great Harvest has stores, but only one of them is known by their fans for offering a free slice of bread.

Without fans, a pop artist is a nobody. The same is true for your business.

Lessons from Lady Gaga Make an Impression3. Make a Memorable Impression.
One thing is for sure, when you see a Lady Gaga show, you can’t easily forget the spectacle. If you haven’t seen her, jump over to Youtube and watch one of her videos. We’ll wait.

So what did you think? Pretty wild right? For some of us over 45, it’s more than wild, it’s a bit weird. Like Madonna on steroids, then turned up to eleven.

It’s a big show of costumes, lights, smoke, dancers, amazing stage design, and music.

And it’s hard to forget.

Your brand (and logo) need to be just as memorable. When customers come to your website or your store, you need to create an experience for them that is unforgettable.

When Robert Stevens started his company Geek Squad, there were literally thousands of other companies providing computer support. So to make his company more memorable he did a few things that his competitors didn’t. His employees wore a “geek” uniform complete with white socks and black shoes (an idea inspired by the real-world 60s-era geeks in the movie Apollo 13). He put them in uniquely painted VW beetles (an idea inspired by the Batmobile)—all to help them make a memorable impression.

In fact, Stevens never thought of his company as a technology company, but rather as a hospitality business. And everything he did in building the business was aimed at creating an impression customers wouldn’t forget.

Now what about you? Are there parts of your customer experience that you can turn into an experience? Are there things you can do for your customers that will surprise and delight them?

Branding Advice from Lady Gaga: Be authentic4. Don’t fake it.
At first, this one may not make sense. After all, what is Lady Gaga without all of the media created sensationalism? Or without the crazy fashion shows and hoopla?

Well, actually she’s a very talented, classically trained pianist. After graduating from high school, she attended CAP21 (Collaborative Arts Project 21)—a musical arts training conservatory. She was one of 20 students granted early entry. She writes her own songs. What’s more, she reportedly practices the piano every day.

Even though the stage persona she has created is contrived, she is, underneath it all an authentically good musician.

This is the most important lesson you can learn from Lady Gaga. No matter what you do to get noticed and make an impression, be authentic. Deliver on the promise of your brand.

If you’re a solo-entrepreneur, don’t pretend to be a bigger company. Don’t promise services or products that you can’t deliver. Don’t make claims that aren’t true.

Be the real thing.

5. Have a Message.
One of the things Lady Gaga’s fans love most about her is her message to them that it’s okay to be different, to be freaks. Little monsters, as she calls them. After all, no one is more freaky than Lady Gaga. Here’s what she said about this in an interview:

“…some friends of mine from New York, they all came out to see my show in New York. And they all said to me, ‘Gaga your fans are all of the misfits. They are all of the kids in school that everybody makes fun of. All of the weird kids, the artistic kids, all the bad ones. ’ And I love that, because that’s who I was. We’re all together and they get it. It’s our own little world. Whether I’ve got a #1 record or nobody knows who the hell I am, I’m going to still make music.”

She built on that theme in a speech at the SXSW conference:

“Any person that has a talent that they believe in, no matter how crazy the idea is, you never know where that crazy idea might lead you,” she said. “Sometimes things that are really, really strange and feel really wrong can really change the world.”

Last year she used her fame to publicize her struggles with weight gain—posting unflattering photos of herself and urging her fans to do the same. Her purpose was to help fans overcome their insecurities, to “inspire bravery” and create a little compassion for people who struggle with similar issues.

The effect was an even deeper connection between Gaga and some of her fans.

Like Lady Gaga, once you have the attention of your fans, you need to have a message. Great brands do this really well. Think of any brand: Nike, Disney, CNN, … What’s the message they communicate?

Nike: Athletic accomplishment
Disney: Magical experiences
CNN: The news where ever it’s happening
Old Navy: Trendy clothing at a low price

And what about a small business. Does this work for them?

Take Logomaker as an example of a small business: we do one thing pretty well—provide easy-to-use software that helps small business owners make their own logos. That’s it. All the other stuff we do (from our weekly logo news updates to our posts on Twitter) is designed to inspire those small business owners to take their new logos and succeed at their dreams.

What’s the message you communicate with your brand and logo design?

Branding Advice from Lady Gaga The Work Is Never Done6. The work is never done.
Lady Gaga started working on her brand way back in 2005, when she left her music conservatory. She performed in nearly empty clubs and venues in underground New York developing her act. She worked with other musicians and learned from them.

And now that she’s rich, famous, and one of the most powerful women in music, she still gets up every day to practice the piano. She understands that every time she steps out in public is another opportunity to get noticed, liked, and remembered. When asked by Rolling Stone magazine about the days she is tired and just wants to take a little time to herself, she said she tells herself, “Bitch, you’re Lady Gaga, you get up and walk the walk today.”

Lesson for your small business? Tell yourself the same thing. Every day you get up and walk the walk. Get noticed. Create memorable experiences. Share your message with your fans and be authentic.

The work is never over.

Note: astute readers will notice that most of this advice is more about creating a brand, than creating a logo design. True enough.

But your logo is the visual entry point to your brand. The feelings and experiences you create with your customers are very closely associated with your logo (as opposed to the look of your waiting room or your Contact Us page. When customers think of you, what they are generally picturing in their minds is your logo.

Of course, many of these messages can apply directly to your logo—choose a design and font that stands out and gets noticed. Use it consistently over time to create a memorable experience for your customers. Always use your logo as an identifier when you communicate anything. And when it comes to making your logo work for you, the work is never done.

Can you think of other lessons from the life of your favorite celebrity that applies to your logo or brand? Tell us about it.