Lady Gaga: Queen of the Self Brand

(As of July 17, 2011)

Facebook: 40, 726, 316 likes

Twitter: 11,696, 933 followers

The numbers speak for themselves. Lady Gaga is more than just a pop icon. She’s a branding genius. Named by Forbes Magazine as one of the most powerful women, Gaga has branded herself in the world of Hollywood through her style, her attitude and her success. Although a bit quirky, the young artist is a very smart entertainer. Gaga has leveraged the strength of her image to create a community. She calls her fans “little monsters.” She has also leveraged her power to help put up a fight for gay rights. She is confident in herself and she is determined to reach the top. This is most apparent in her efforts to promote her self-brand.

As defined in the review, “Lady Gaga, Guru,” Gaga has taken the perfect steps to carve her brand into Hollywood. Many marketers can learn from the singer’s actions, as her branding process is identical to the suggested steps in “Reinventing Your Personal Brand,” an article in the Harvard Business Review. If you combine the two lists, you get something like this:

Establish: Lady Gaga knows who she wants to be. She has defined her own role as an eccentric entertainer.

Enhance: Lady Gaga recognizes her strengths. Her image is consistent at every touch point as all successful brands are.  She exploits her image for all that it is worth.

Endorse: Lady Gaga promotes herself consistently in every aspect of business. From her performance to social responsibility, the star has established trust and a strong fan following from the authenticity of her behavior.

Execute: Lady Gaga performs. Meant not to be taken literally, the star successfully carries out her message as a means of establishing relationships with all of her constituents. She comes full circle with her delivery as she maintains these relationships using the tools of social media.

The success of a self-brand does not solely come from a successful promotion. Paired with necessary effective management, brands thrive on consistency, authenticity and perseverance. These values are best supported through social media. As seen with Lady Gaga, a brand can flourish if social media is effectively implemented to promote a consistent message and foster a promising identity. And while social media fosters it, an individual must live it. Just watch Lady Gaga.

Can Justin Timberlake Revive MySpace?

MySpace is in dire need of a social media face lift and Justin Timberlake is just the man to do it.

MySpace, the fallen leader of social media, has just been bought for the second time in less than ten years. Sold for $580 million in 2005, MySpace was just recently sold again to Specific Media for $35 million this year. Proven in numbers, MySpace, like any new fad, has rapidly faded to the back of the line. What was once the most popular social network, according to the 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, is now the least used as compared to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The site, once praised for its networks and customization, has faced the grim reaper of society: age.

According to the article, Social Network Site Changes Over Time, MySpace attracted the demographic of teenagers best through its customizable experience. The article justifies the appeal through the idea that teenagers are an impressionable group because they value identity so highly. The original MySpace interface allowed users to not only tailor their information, but to personalize their graphics, the background and their music. Music, a form of expression and major source of identity for teens, serves as MySpace’s best ally. It may even be what saves it.

One report suggests that MySpace will be one of 12 brands that we will see disappear by 2012. Justin Timberlake thinks otherwise. Part owner of the Specific Media, the popular singer/actor sees a glimpse of potential within the MySpace context. To some this may seem strange, but Timberlake is no stranger to the business trade. As Chairman and CEO of Tennman Records, a musical venture in partnership with Interscope Records, Timberlake has had his hand at finding young talent online. One popular artist is YouTube sensation Esmee Denters. In collaboration with Specific Media, Timberlake plans to implement what he knows best into the reconstruction of their latest purchase.

The Timberlake team recognizes MySpace’s niche market: independent musicians. One popular artist, Colbie Caillat, can attribute her success to the original MySpace. Through the built-in music player feature, the singer/songwriter collected over 22 million plays, the most MySpace has ever seen for an unsigned artist. She didn’t remain unsigned for long.

It was the success of artists like Caillat that inspire the most recent MySpace facelifts. Just last fall in October 2010, MySpace was rebranded as the social entertainment destination. After a very apparent failed launch, Specific Media stepped in. It has been reported that Timberlake hopes to make a talent competition out of the MySpace remains. Could this be what MySpace needs?

MySpace was hurt most by what it does best. Because it can be so tailored, users caked on their own personalities and in turn, branded MySpace. While the decline of the MySpace fad can be attributed to age, Facebook is also held responsible as a driving force in the shift. With its simple and clean interface, Facebook’s design is more as functional and timeless as compared to MySpace. MySpace allowed its users to paint its own face. The amount of control users’ had became a volatile risk and in the end, it was the kiss of death. Facebook simply had the stronger brand.

In my opinion, if done correctly, this rebrand will work as it plans to tap into its niche market of unsigned music artists. Because of the size of this audience, we will never see MySpace grow to the size of Facebook, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see it succeed. It is the idea of the long tail. It will work because it serves a small, niche market that can be satisfied with more tailored approach.  Justin Timberlake is a smart man.

Having Cake And Eating It Too: Tumblr vs. Twitter

Why pick sides when you can have both? In 2010, Singer/Songwriter John Mayer vocally announced that he was dumping Twitter for Tumblr. A fan of the artist myself and as an advocate for social media, I was intrigued as to how he justified his switch. A few questions came to mind as I continued reading.

What is the difference between Tumblr and Twitter?

Tumblr is like a giant swap meet. I personally like to think of it as an art blog. With over 22 million blogs, Tumblr is defined by its variety of content which ranges from audio and video to text and images. It is predominately visual with no text or character limit. Users can follow one another. Once you follow a blog, you will receive its updates in your homepage feed. Conversation comes in the form of asking questions and in sharing (or in Tumblr terms “reblogging”). It functions much like Facebook’s sharing or Twitter’s retweeting.

Twitter is a microblog. In 140 characters, users can share and send informative messages to his or her group of followers. Tweeting is the act of posting a status. It can be sent @somebody or it can go unaddressed. Users can read the tweets of whomever they are following. Like a blog, the tweets scroll down in a giant newsfeed, only at a much faster pace. Twitter also functions as an intermediary. With shortened link effect, users can include URLs to redirect readers to other sources.

Who might choose one over the other?

Tumblr, according to The Social Landscape, is a social-networking site, but I have to disagree. Social networking sites are only valuable through the visible networks. On Tumblr, you cannot necessarily see your followees’ (who you’re following) feeds. Only until items are reblogged do you see the original source and the makings of his or her network. Tumblr is a platform for expression. It’s best for individuals who have something to say (in more than 140 characters) and who like to share ideas.

Twitter, as a microblog, is a more information friendly venue. It is a text-oriented platform that is used primarily as a referral. Twitter itself does not allow other media to be shared on its platform. That is what the shortened link is for. For many this may be a perk. For some, it may be inconvenient.  Twitter is ideal for people on the go who may only be interested in key points of information. While Twitter is still a means of expression, it is a limited means of expression.

As a musician, is one outlet a more effective means of promotion?

According to the social landscape, Tumblr is a prime platform for creating brand awareness. Because Tumblr offers the option to upload multimedia directly onto the blog, it acts as the ideal forum for artists. Twitter, on the otherhand, does not allow users to directly post music onto their page.

For a branding perspective, the two complement each other. Tumblr gives the option for bloggers to send automatic tweets whenever something new is posted. This is a great way to direct traffic to a more personal site. Who wouldn’t take advantage of both of these free sites?

Does John Mayer really know what he is talking about?

It is ignorant to think that Twitter isn’t useful. I Tweet Honestly, an article written July 7th, 2010, reports that Mayer, before he deleted his account, had over 1 million followers while only following 47. He left Twitter with 3.7 million followers. From first glances, it looks like Mayer was unaware of how to properly use Twitter to its fullest potential. Mayer would be smart to engage his large Twitter network directly to not only create brand awareness, but to maintain the relationship between him and his number on constituent: his fans.

Why Rebecca Black Could Use a Publicist

The saying goes, “Any publicity is good publicity,” but is that necessarily true?

Just ask 14-year-old YouTube sensation Rebecca Black. Black is the pop singer in the viral video, “Friday.” Spring 2011, the video had a crashing effect on the world of social media. Obtaining over 160 million views, the teen singer was instantly introduced to stardom. Sadly, it wasn’t the kind of notoriety most would prefer. Black and her infamous music video were labeled by most as… for lack of better words, terrible.

Publicity can be defined as public awareness. This includes taking the good with the bad.  Because of the immediacy of Web 2.0. and the engaging format of social media, Rebecca Black now is a household name. The impact of the video made its way to other social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Black currently holds the top position as the most tweeted topic for the first half of this year. Unfortunately, the bulk of the young star’s success can be attributed to the influence of negative comments.

According to the study, “Following The Fashionable Friend,” the generation of publicity through blogs versus online magazines, researchers concluded that blogs (a representation of social media) have a greater effectiveness of gaining publicity versus the online magazines (a representation of traditional media). This conclusion was supported by the idea that blogs foster para-social interaction, the social media version of word of mouth. While we cannot completely compare this study to the Rebecca Black  (due to the difference of mediums), we can find similarities and relevant suggestions in the study’s findings.

Social media warrants a certain level of personal interaction. According to the “The Social Landscape,” an infographic by CMO.com, on the social landscape scale, YouTube is a great medium to facilitate a brand, next to Facebook. It is also a good platform for encouraging communication. ARK Music Factory was smart in considering YouTube as an effective venue, but unless used to its fullest potential, YouTube will act like a TV channel (one-way communication). Rebecca Black shouldn’t be blamed for the poor management of communication from her party. The finger should be pointed at whoever choose YouTube as the platform and at whoever failed to maintain the page.

YouTube is a great forum to generate communication, but in order for communication to transpire, both a sender and a receiver need to be present. While viewers bombarded Black’s video with negative and nasty comments, Black’s representation remained nearly invisible on the site. Black herself responded to tweets, but there was never a direct hit on the real source of negativity. It was up until mid June that the original video was taken down.

This video is not the original. It is the correct music video.

This is where a publicist would have come in handy. These conversations were happening and because nobody hit the direct source of negative publicity, the bad press became almost uncontrollable. While much of the bad publicity does come from para-social interaction, we mustn’t discredit the video. The song was poorly written and unfortunately, the real victim is Black who was only responsible for singing the track.

The study highlights that because blogs work best for gaining publicity, transparency is more important than ever in gaining credibility. Social media platforms, because they can be so personal, run higher risks in establishing credibility. As a result, the return of investment is more than likely always worth it. Maybe if Black had established herself as a credible online presence first, she would’ve had a strong foundation of followers to defend her on online forums. There would’ve been more to lose, but on the other hand, much more to gain.

Perez for President

Hard work pays off. Just look at celebrity blogger, Perez Hilton. Named by Forbes Magazine as the #1 Web Celeb for 2007, 2008 and 2009, Hilton is one of the most relevant examples of how social media, if used for what it’s worth, fosters effective personal branding. Hilton’s social media use has generated enough exposure for himself that he not only does he have a full time job, but he is also frequently presented with several other job opportunities as well.

Hilton’s claim to fame comes from his bold, scandalous Hollywood gossip blog. His vibrant personality paired with his outspoken nature has created a following, a community, around himself and his work. His apparent success has networks like Oxygen and E! calling to offer positions such as reality show host and fashion commentator. Perez is being paid to just be him, the goal of any self-brander.

Like any smart social media guru, Hilton recognizes the many communities in which he thrives. Last fall, devastating news rocked the gay community after the world learned of consecutive gay teen suicides that were prompted by peer bullying. Hilton, a homosexual himself, chose to stand at the forefront. The celeb blogger, emotionally moved by the tragic events, vowed to stop bullying himself. The vow was attention grabbing amongst the blogging community for Hilton’s trademark was his cutthroat analyzing. The change of attitude did not slow Hilton down in his devotion to the cause online.

Using his resources as a popular blogger, he has helped promote the campaign, “It Gets Better.” The campaign is a viral effort to help raise awareness and help stop suicide among homosexual teens. Hilton’s role in the campaign not only displays his values, but it also reveals a multidimensional layer to the blogger. This level of personality helps audiences emotionally connect better with the brand (in this case, the brand being Hilton). It is the idea of connectedness. It is through this connection that Hilton is able to engage his audience in order to distribute information and provoke organic arousal of the subject. More specifically, it could be in the form of a retweet on Twitter or a shared video on Facebook.

Video plays a huge role in the success of this campaign. The emotional appeal granted by the combined elements of sound and sight truly triggers a sense of obligation within the viewer. This ripple effect, facilitated by YouTube, had famous figures such as President Barack Obama, Anne Hathaway, Ellen DeGeneres and the staffs of Google and Facebook (just to name a few) making their own videos to support the cause. The response is extraordinary and the exposure of the cause is phenomenal. Before the birth of YouTube, would this even have been possible?

Hilton is the perfect example of a self-branded professional in the 21st century. It is undeniable to admit that Hilton could not have done what he has done without the capabilities of Web 2.0. Through his blog, YouTube channel, Twitter and Facebook page, Hilton is able to leave an effective and frequent impression on his audience, something that was not guaranteed with traditional media. Thanks to two-way conversation and online interaction, Hilton is able to cause a stir and get people talking.

A Branding Situation

Social media has indisputably acted as the driving catalyst in the success of MTV’s reality show, “The Jersey Shore.” “The Jersey Shore” revolutionized reality television with its comical play on the New Jersey stereotype and it’s ability to capture promiscuous behavior and excessive partying on camera. The showed debuted at the end of 2009— right into the rush of Web 2.0. Television, the primary channel for the show, is most responsible for giving life to the program while social media is responsible for giving, what appears to be, the gift of immortality. In other words, social media provides a longer shelf life. For example, when the allotted 60 minutes are up, sites like Facebook and Twitter allow the entertainment to carry on in a more personalized setting.

To get a better grasp on the impact, here is a fun fact: according to an infographic on Mashable, on the night of season two’s premiere, the Jersey Shore topic was tweeted up to 16,000 times within one hour.

With a cast full of ridiculous personalities, it is hard not to watch. One particular cast member, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino is the big brother of the group. Mike has easily branded himself with his signature chiseled abs and charming demeanor while his nickname “The Situation” consistently proves to be his biggest trademark. It began in season one as Mike constantly talked in third person and always cracked silly puns off his name. He was ignorantly unaware of the self-brand he was creating until the cast learned of the show’s success.

His Facebook page is a marketing nucleus. It reeks of poor promotions and contact information overload. His Twitter page isn’t much better. His default image is a head-on shot of his Adonis abs and the wallpaper background is a picture of his quirky smile and flashy jewelry. Surprise, surprise. Although you do have to hand it to the guy. Behind the thick layer of his “Situation” act, Mike is a smart man. He recognized early the conversations that were trending.  He joined these conversations and has now engaged his community of followers. He has labeled his following, “The Situation Nation,” a term constantly promoted on Twitter by a hash tag.

Whether Mike has recognized it or not, he has tapped into these communities through the idea of connectedness. According to a study called “The Appeal of Reality Television to Teen and Pre-Teen Audiences” in the Journal of Advertising Research, it was observed that young people who valued popularity and good looks felt more connected to shows like “The Jersey Shore.” These connected individuals were the ones most likely to move their interests to an online discussion on social networking sites. This discovery truly encompasses the role of communities and the idea of connectedness.

“The Situation” is making the most of his 15 minutes, but who can blame him? #SituationNation