I was so excited to hear that Jackie Huba’s new book, Monster Loyalty would be coming out soon after TLAR. For the last decade, Jackie has been teaching us all about the value of embracing and empowering our fans. With Monster Loyalty, she looks at how one of the most successful rock stars of all time creates and empower fans: Lady Gaga. Here’s Jackie telling us more about why you should buy Monster Loyalty(I’ve already pre-ordered my copy!).
Q: You’re a customer loyalty guru who has written two previous books on the subject already – Creating Customer Evangelists and Citizen Marketers – what prompted you to add this book to the list? Why Lady Gaga?
A: I’ve been intrigued with Lady Gaga as an artist since she burst on to the music scene in 2009. In studying her in-depth for four years, I began to see that Lady Gaga is doing something casual observers and many business professionals may not really comprehend. While creating a buzz with her wild outfits and crazy performance art, she is methodically building a grassroots base of passionate fans for the long term. The more I observed, the more I began to realize that there is a lot she could teach the business world about how to generate customer loyalty.
Q: Lady Gaga has such a specific brand and audience; can the average business and businessperson really learn from her?
A: Gaga’s business of show business may be very different from the “average” business, but her focus on growing through devoted customer loyalty is a universal business objective. Research has long shown that it’s five times cheaper to keep a customer than to get new ones. Gaga gets the math. It’s her overarching philosophy to focus on her core advocates, the superfans, the Little Monsters. These advocates will ultimately be evangelists who bring in new customers on their own. This customer philosophy is one that businesses would do well to learn from Gaga.
Q. She is undeniably an eccentric icon. How do more practical companies partake in her business philosophies without going over the top?
A: The best ideas sometimes come from the unlikeliest sources, and this is how innovation happens. Gaga has blazed new trails in creating fan loyalty and setting the foundation for long-term success in her industry. Whether you love her or hate her, you can’t ignore her what she has accomplished. I think it’s important to study what she does, how she does it, and why, because there are ways to replicate her success in more traditional business settings. In every lesson from Gaga in the book, I highlight how traditional companies – from Whole Foods to MINI – are applying her methods to their customer base, and without wearing any meat dresses.
Q: In the book you explain that Gaga focuses on her “One Percenters,” a term that you and previous co-author, Ben McConnell, coined. Can you explain this concept?
A: The idea of the One Percenters is based on research that my co-author Ben McConnell and I did for our 2007 book, Citizen Marketers. In the early days of online community and social media, we looked at online communities and tracked what percentage of members in those communities created content. In other words, who was most engaged. We found it amounted to just 1 percent of the total community members. This was surprising. The amount of super-engaged community members did not follow the usual 80/20 rule (aka the Pareto principle) which states that 80 percent of value comes from 20 percent of participants. Our research was showing the volume of content creators was much smaller, at just 1 percent. One percent is a very small part of the community, and yet this disproportionate number was creating most of the value for the entire community. Our thesis is that these One Percenters are businesses’ most die-hard customers who love the company, buy new products as soon as they released, give them as gifts, and evangelize the company to everyone they know.
Q: One of the seven loyalty lessons is “Give Fans a Name.” It’s well known that Lady Gaga calls her fans her “Little Monsters.” Can you give an example of a business applying this lesson?
A: One of the best examples of a brand naming their fans is Maker’s Mark, the premium bourbon company out of Loretto, Kentucky. In 2000, Bill Samuels, Jr., son of the founder, was looking for a way to better connect with the brand’s fanatical customers and created the Maker’s Mark Ambassador program. Ambassadors are those brand evangelists who volunteered to tell others about the product and also encouraged bars that didn’t carry the brand at the time to do so. Today, there are hundreds of thousand of Makers Mark Ambassadors who receive custom business cards from the brand, fun holiday gifts and gather for events at the history distillery in Loretto each year.
Q: Whether it’s about Lady Gaga, customers, loyalty or even yourself – what’s the most surprising thing you learned while writing this book?
A: Lady Gaga’s business sense impresses me, but her passion for changing the world for the better through any means possible is what truly inspired me to study her. She is influencing an entire generation of young people to stand up for each other, to be more tolerant of differences, and to be brave in the face of difficulty. I have spent hours and hours reading fan comments about how she has changed lives for the better. I have cried watching YouTube videos of kids saying they thought about hurting themselves or ending their lives, but that her belief in them, a woman they don’t even know, kept them from doing it. They listen to her music, especially “Born This Way,” and they feel better about themselves. Part of why I wanted to write the book is that I am compelled to share all of the things she is doing, not just her business acumen. I believe that if there was ever a candidate to continue Oprah’s legacy of inspiring people to live their best lives, it’s this five-foot-one, twenty-six-year- old in a studded bikini.