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Friday, June 3, 2011

Lady Gaga Book Marketing Tips

I am always amazed but never surprised at how far people or companies will go to sell themselves. Case in point: Lady Gaga

She is said to have over 10 million followers on Twitter and 35 million Facebook fans.  Her record label is advertising her like crazy.  She is on a media tour and a concert tour.  HBO played her concert over and over.  Amazon ran a 99-cent special on her new album, Born This Way, incurring a multi-million-dollar loss in hopes of gaining market share and free publicity. Lady Gaga it seems, is everywhere.

Then she shows up on a subway car and I had to ask:  Why?

Why would she need to pay for what she seems to get for free?  The subway car is cool looking, but unnecessary.  Or so I thought.

It obviously made an impression on me and I’m writing about her because of it, so her marketing effort has legs.  The subway car is a one-stop shuttle that runs between Grand Central Station and Times Square.  It sticks out because other subway cars don’t get decorated the way that lines’ cars do.  Inside and out, the train was covered in stunning images and visuals – posters, a video screen, and photos revealing the young talent who is just as good a marketer as she is a performer.

The best music marketer of the past 25 years is probably Madonna. She launched one controversial video and song after another in the 80’s and 90’s. The press would buzz over her and you had controversy.  She pushed buttons and dared people to think a little differently.  Her music was pretty good too.

So what lessons can we draw for the book marketing world?  The money is way different.  Musicians can go on tour, sell memorabilia, and build up huge, rabid fan bases.  They make millions – sometimes over a hundred million in one year.  Most writers make peanuts by comparison.

Maybe authors need to be more like musicians. They should go on tour, like a comedian, and charge big admission fees for a presentation.  They should develop an author persona, as Lady Gaga has, and sell memorabilia.  Or copy professional sports and come out with your own set of trading cards!

Ok, so most people won’t buy a poster of the guy in a suit and tie next to the cover of his personal finance book, but it is time authors market themselves differently.  Maybe one problem is authors aren’t seen as the focus but rather the content is– the information or story plot is what is promoted.  But in music, the music is secondary.  The personality or the look of the musical artist is what’s sold to the public.
Another setback for authors is too many are older or out of shape or not attractive.  Most successful musicians would not survive if their look didn’t appeal to young people.  Does this mean a hot 24-year-old writer should have racy shots in a thong splashed across her Web site?  Should the author of a book on relationships make videos showing sexual positions with her boyfriend?  Some authors may try to cash in on their looks or youth or energy, but by far, most authors could never market themselves like musicians.

But Lady Gaga has taught us one lesson or maybe several:  You can never promote enough; sell your image over content; look provocative; copy Madonna live on stage; and be where people don’t expect to see you.

Perhaps, as her album title suggests, she is “Born This Way.”  Few get to be where she’s been and yet, it seems she was a nobody from nowhere.  I like her music but I am a fan of hers rooting for her, because as a marketer, I appreciate how she can saturate the marketplace and cash-in.

Maybe I’ll see her advertise on a pizza pie next or across someone’s bare chest or on school buildings.  I’m sure her marketing team is exploring offers as you read this.

On the other hand, maybe Lady Gaga is not a great marketing role model.  The media reported on May 31 that her 2009 Monster Ball Tour, which grossed $125 million, left her $3, million in the hole.  Maybe it was just Hollywood-like creative accounting but somehow she lost money on a 200-show tour to promote an album with five No. 1 songs.  Apparently she spends a lot on set-design and elaborate wardrobes, but still, come on!

So, authors, start marketing like a rock star.  You might just sell a few books! But you may likely go broke trying.

Brian Feinblum can be reached at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @theprexpert.

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