Cisco Blogs

Going Gaga for Innovation

August 19, 2010 - 4 Comments

What does it take to engage with your audience? If you don’t know the answer to that—or worse, you think you do because you arrived at your answer months or years ago—you’re probably not engaging.

I never thought I’d be saying this, but we should all take a page from Lady Gaga’s playbook. At this past Monday night’s San Jose concert, that woman was on her game. Why? One word: innovation.  

Having attended the show, I can attest to the dazzling array of art, performance, and oh yeah, music. This is a woman who knows that times have changed and it’s not just about holding a tune in today’s entertainment world. As the SFWeekly put it, “Note to all future pop stars: You are (out of luck).”

Technology is driving pop culture trends faster and farther than ever before. And as a reminder, pop culture is a concrete reality in our mainstream lives. Neilsen, the market research firm, predicts smart phones will outpace feature phones before the end of 2011. And no wonder, given the productivity and entertainment values afforded by these devices. The world is increasingly becoming borderless and we expect to be able to do whatever we want from wherever we are.

Lady Gaga knows her audience. Which is why a show performed just a few short months ago doesn’t cut it today. She knows that what might have entertained then isn’t going to hold the attention of today’s “what’s-new” generation. If you’re at all skeptical about the difference between today’s consumers and yesterday’s consumers, consider the fact that for most young adults, email is considered too slow. When I asked our new college hire how he keeps in touch with friends, his answer was writing on the wall (Facebook) or texting. According to a Huffington Post article this week, most college-age kids have never worn watches or used a phone with a cord.  There’s lots more in the article to remind us that life changes quickly these days, but I don’t want to make you feel too old.

And to drive that point home, remember when Prince (another one of my faves) was considered edgy? I hate to say it, but in Fast Company last month, he actually comes across as stodgy next to Lady Gaga. Check out this article, “Prince Claims Internet Is Dead; Lady Gaga Disproves It.” What’s amusing is how Lady Gaga (did I mention she’s an innovator?) has used the Internet to make huge advances with her career that would have taken years for performance artists not too long ago.

So for those of you who are trying to shape and influence in the business world, rethink what you know about your target audience and always remember that by today’s standards, the medium is—more than ever—the message.

In an effort to keep conversations fresh, Cisco Blogs closes comments after 60 days. Please visit the Cisco Blogs hub page for the latest content.


  1. Marie,Thank you for sharing this interesting example of innovation and connecting what I thought was just a guilty pleasure"" of mine (enjoying her music & music videos). I thought my affinity for her was our east coast connection and appreciation for the extra effort, visible in her performance art....but after I checked out her play book per your advice - I found my 3 most favorite pieces of evidence behind her success story: her 1) curiosity, 2) hardwork+persistence and 3) courage to fail-forward...a very common recipe for the most substantial innovations. Here's a quote from her website: “I DID THIS THE WAY YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO. I PLAYED EVERY CLUB IN NEW YORK CITY AND I BOMBED IN EVERY CLUB AND THEN KILLED IT IN EVERY CLUB AND I FOUND MYSELF AS AN ARTIST. I LEARNED HOW TO SURVIVE AS AN ARTIST, GET REAL, AND HOW TO FAIL AND THEN FIGURE OUT WHO I WAS AS SINGER AND PERFORMER. AND, I WORKED HARD.”How's that for rationalizing why I like her? R. Louis Vitón @IAMRAFF"

  2. Wow. I wasn't expecting that good of an article. The problem with our businesses today is that invention takes thought. Thought unfortunately is a commodity these days. I feel like in a completely over-crowded environment is almost impossible to call attention without being edgy"". I agree with most of what you said, however I don't personally enjoy some of Lady Gaga's choices. I think that conservative approaches can also be effective as long as invention is match with innovation. Edgy is fine for some, but innovation is indispensable.ThanksAlex"

  3. You should take a look at her facebook page to get an idea of just how successful she has been with social media. Here are some details taken just 5 minutes ago:1. Her facebook page is a PR 72. She has 16 million fans (the highest on facebook, I believe)3. A comment that she posted 4 hours ago has received over 5000 comments!This 24 year old is clearly doing something right!

  4. Wow great article! You are right, today more then ever the medium is the message. Reminds me of the old stories about how people would gather in throngs in front of the Macy's store windows to see the Christmas displays..If that was all you had now you would be out of business.You need ot reach the people where they are..