Customer Experience News & Trends

6 customer loyalty lessons from Lady Gaga

On the surface this sounds irrational: Businesses can learn a lot about customer loyalty from a woman who wears dresses made of meat and is getting sued for allegedly treating an employee badly. But Lady Gaga has the followers to prove she can offer valuable lessons in loyalty.

It’s hard to argue the numbers: Gaga has tens of millions fans — she calls them her “Little Monsters” — around the world. They’ve bought 23 million albums from her and 64 million singles. She grosses more than $30 million — the top moneymaker on Billboard’s list of artists. She has 33.7 million Twitter followers and 55 million fans on Facebook.

How many companies can claim that kind of customer loyalty?

It’s not an accident

Gaga’s loyalty didn’t happen by accident. Sure, she can sing and dance and perform. But her solid business practices created loyalty and fanaticism that most companies can only dream of, according to Jackie Huba, author of Monster Loyalty: How Lady Gaga Turns Followers into Fanatics.

She focuses on growing her fan base by giving them an incredible experience, whether it’s through purchasing her music, attending her concerts or connecting with her in mainstream or social media. Isn’t that the same goal of most businesses — provide exceptional customer experiences through all channels so they become and remain loyal?

Here’s what Lady Gaga — and some real companies in a variety of industries — have done to create loyalty in a short time and what almost any business can take away from their unique approaches:

1. Focus on a small percentage

Surprisingly, Gaga doesn’t try to please the masses. Sure, she tries to appeal to an ever-growing customer base. But her main focus is on the top 1% of her audience. Those are her superfans, the customers who spend the most money and, more importantly, drive word-of-mouth. She even gave them a special name to distinguish them — Little Monsters.

Everyone uses Facebook and Twitter as vehicles to build loyalty and interest in themselves, company or brand. Gaga took it a step further, creating a website for her most loyal customers,, where fans can set up their own profiles, get email addresses to message each other and find links to concert information. And of course, Gaga set up her own profile so she can interact with major fans.

As a more grassroots approach to staying connected with the most loyal, Gaga sometimes stops in the small clubs that took a chance on her when she was an unknown. It continues the relationship and benefits those smaller hotspots when a worldwide celebrity shows up at their places.

What businesses can learn: Know who your top loyal customers are. Do more for them, and they’ll generate your word-of-mouth.

Here are the characteristics of the most loyal customers:

  • They passionately recommend your company to others
  • They believe what the company and its employees tell them
  • They buy your products or services as gifts
  • The give unsolicited praise or suggestions for improvements (because they care)
  • They forgive occasional slips-ups in service
  • They won’t be bought — i.e., they don’t want or expect rewards for referring others to you..
  • They feel like a part of you — i.e., they want to interact with like-minded customers who believe in your company.

When you identify these loyal customers, it’s time to create a community for them — a website for idea sharing, events special to them, special visits, etc.

2. Give them an identity

We’ve talked about Gaga’s Little Monsters. She didn’t plan on giving her loyal fans a name. It was the result of her relationship with them. They inspired her to do better by their desire for more music. She thought of them as little monsters who always wanted more.

They ate it up because it gave them a strong identity within a special group. Gaga’s group. And she feeds that identity. When she wins awards, she tweets or posts that “We won.”

A technical company that helps other companies provide employees access to their corporate networks on personal devices calls its customers “Airheads” — and those customers aren’t offended. Aruba Networks customers are highly skilled engineers whose work is mostly done in the air. They join the Airhead community to share ideas and learn about the industry and products.

What businesses can learn: Customers want to be more than just that. They want to feel like a part of your community. Give your most loyal (and those who want to be) an identity bigger than a customer, client or account number. Once they are part of a special group, give them a platform to communicate with each other.

3. Don’t be afraid to show your values

Gaga showcases what she believes in. Between her music and public appearances, she tells her customers where her values lie. She abhors bullying of any type, taking on causes that try to stop the abuse of any particular group. It has created a greater emotional bond between her and fans.

We’re not saying you need to back any national or local cause and tout your stance. In fact, that can get you in some hot water. Chick-fil-A stirred up controversy when its leader openly opposed same sex marriage.

But people and companies who have values and stand by them tend to have more loyal followings. Customers want to know that companies also work for the good of the community.

What businesses can learn: Share your vision or mission statement with customers on your website and correspondence. Show them how you and your employees live it. Invite them to be part of it, if possible. For instance, some companies that encourage employees to take a day or two off (with pay) to volunteer in the community invite customers to join them.

4. Build a bigger community

It isn’t just Lady Gaga interacting with her loyal customers. The fans are given opportunities to interact with each other, too.

Like we mentioned before, she created a website just for them to share stories, questions and favorite moments about their common interests.

Example: She reached to and worked with the gay community because gay clubs were some of the first to support her music. She also connects with a community of young people who feel they’ve been bullied for being different — something she often talks about in a personal way.

Gaga also likes to call her tours “balls” — e.g., the Born This Way Ball Tour — to create a collective experience for her loyal customers. They didn’t just attend an event; they went to party or ball together.

What businesses can learn: Beyond offering customers a forum to share ideas and help each other in the form of a blog, chat room or social media site, include customers in your success. When your company does well — say by earning an industry award — invite them to celebrate with you. Give them opportunities to be with each other and your employees.

5. Make them feel like rock stars

Gaga may be the pop star, but she tries to shine the light on her most loyal fans, too. She’s been known to send pizza to tired and hungry fans who wait in line overnight for an album signing. She calls a fan during her concerts to compliment them on what they’re wearing and invite them backstage after the show — all while the big screen camera is zoomed in on them.

In social media, she lets loyal fans post art they’ve created. She “likes” some, posts links to others and in at least one case awarded a creative fan with a job.

Many of the Help Desk Institute’s members are the unsung heroes of their industries. They keep systems going, employees producing and customers happy by maintaining and fixing technical issues. So when the industry organization hosts its annual event, it does more than provide dinner and drinks. It makes members feel like rock stars by rolling out a red carpet, hiring paparazzi and screaming fans to greet them as they enter their annual celebration, where they’re treated to praise for their loyalty along with top-of-the-line entertainment.

What businesses can learn: Highlight what your customers do. Include them, their successes and long-term commitment to your company in your newsletters and on social media outlets.

6. Give them something to talk about

Every career and business has its ups and downs. Gaga has to do things to stay word-of-mouth worthy by continually giving her fans positive reasons to talk about her. So when she’s not in the spotlight on stage, shes’ doing something to get fans’ attention. Remember the meat dress at the MTV Video Music Awards or the hatching egg arrival at the Grammy Awards?

Granted, these may be too outlandish for companies to do, but the point is that you want to stay top of mind with customers when they aren’t ordering or calling for help.

An industrial cleaning supply company in Tipton, PA, does something fun each year to stay on customers’ radar screens. New Pig invites customers to help them design t-shirts periodically. Playing with the company’s name is fun for customers. They reconnect with the company and look forward to seeing who wins and eventually getting the promotional t-shirts.

What businesses can learn: Get creative. During your traditionally slower times, ask your most loyal customers to participate in a fun, yet business oriented, activity.

Subscribe Today

Get the latest customer experience news and insights delivered to your inbox.