In a recent study by web-based software company Vocus and digital analyst Brian Solis, the criteria for being an online “influencer” was tested and measured. 237 open-ended comments from respondents indicated that the respondents perceived the difference between influence and popularity as such: “Influence drives, motivates, is steadfast, and causes people to take action, while popularity is hip, perhaps amusing and wanes easily amid a fickle audience.” From very early in her career, Lady Gaga built an impregnable brand by choosing a set of values that she continues to stand for today. For example, she strongly believes in positivity and demonstrates this often to her fans by rejecting negative questions or connotations by the media. She also stands strong against bullying, a problem that she herself faced early in her life (this personal relationship with an issue adds strength and sincerity to her brand image). Though her fashion sense is quite eccentric, her clothing choices are powerful not just because of their strangeness but because of what they represent: being your truest self, and being proud to show everyone exactly who you are.
When asked a question at a Google seminar about her new song about this very subject, “Born This Way,” Lady Gaga said that, “Born this way is about saying this is who I am. This is who the fuck I am.” She went on to say that, “More importantly, the song Born This Way is this, like, gateway drug for the album and trying to say in the most literal and honest way that when I go to the monster ball, I see something so fearless and so special in my fans, but I also see something afraid, something that I was, something that was unsure. I really encourage people to look into the darkness and look into places that you would not normally look to find uniqueness and specialness because that’s where the diamonds are hiding.” These sound like the words of an influencer, not simply someone who is popular. She is fighting for her values, and fighting for her fans.
If you know exactly what your values are and you remain strong in the quest to portray them, chances are that many others will share similar values. This is where Gaga’s fame truly comes from. Just as the Grateful Dead created a culture and community of Deadheads, Gaga has created her massive community of “little monsters.” On the surface, little monsters appear to simply be crazy Lady Gaga fanatics that love her music. But they are so much more. The little monsters aren’t all that different from some infamous radical political groups, like the Nazis or the Soviet Union. They are a large group of people that radically believe in a similar set of values, and in this case, Lady Gaga has set those values in stone.
This is a road to fame that many artists have yet to take. However, it is arguable that Lady Gaga’s path to fame is really no different than anyone’s path to fame throughout history. Most artists who are still remembered today are known not simply because of their art, but because they represent something larger than their art—a system of beliefs, something to stand for. They were leaders of a community like the Grateful Dead, or they were leaders of a generation of political and moral thought like Bob Dylan was in the 60’s.
Gaga is no different. She simply has used different tools to achieve her fame, like the internet—Facebook, Twitter, social networking. And she’s lucky. She now has the power to mobilize her followers whenever and however she wants. Her little monsters network (www.littlemonsters.com) is essentially a gigantic home for anyone who believes in what the little monsters represent. According to cbsnews.com, Lady Gaga will be releasing singles from her new album, “Born This Way,” through the online game “FarmVille.” Cbsnews.com also specified that roughly 46 million people worldwide play FarmVille every month, which “might be a social media jackpot for Gaga.” While Kennedy used TV to spread his message, Gaga will use littlemonsters.com. Brilliant.
In the end, it’s not about Lady Gaga. It’s not about Lady Gaga’s music. Lady Gaga has simply turned herself into a leader of a pack, a vehicle for a message, a speaker for her community. She is the president of the little monsters. She is Mother Monster. If we all work diligently to establish our own value system and spread the message as part of our brand, maybe someday we can all become leaders who change the world through with our art.