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Gagged by Gaga and Free to Learn

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Let me start off by saying that I’m not much of a Lady Gaga fan.  I don’t own any of her albums and have watched only a few of her videos. She reminds me a bit of small snippets of Madonna, Kylie Minogue, David Bowie, Billy Idol, Iggy Pop, and Vanilla Ice all rolled up into one.  It’s all okay, but somehow I’m just can’t find any real occasions in which I want to listen to her music.  It might be very different if I were 21, but…

That being said, I’m fascinated by Lady Gaga’s Internet presence and, particularly her social media savvy.  So is everyone else, I know, but there is a lot to be learned from it, even if you’re not particularly interested in the marketing of a not particularly original musical artist.  She is, of course, HUGE on all of the social networks and media: the first artist to reach 1 billion views on YouTube; she beat President Barack Obama to 10 million fans on Facebook ; and most recently, she was first Twitter user to acquire 10 million followers.

Most recently, Lady Gaga took the entire social Web by storm with an interlinked Mega-Promotion of her new album, Born This Way.  The promotion was summarized in detail by Mashable.

“Gaga and her team are some of the best marketers around; they understand the importance of integrating social with traditional media, engaging audiences in real-time, and most of all, telling a story that is relatable and worth spreading,” said Alexa Scordato, a Gaga fan, digital strategist and community manager for MAT@USC.

I agree.  This promotion really solidified Lady Gaga’s position as the most successful social AND traditional media marketer in the world today.

But what is most important about the Lady Gaga story is not about Lady Gaga, it is about the importance of integrating social and traditional media in order to build an audience today – whether or not you are “marketing” anything.  In particular, it is essential to build an effective integration of media if your interest and objective requires the participation of youth and young adults.

Educators, in particular, should be paying attention.

Scordato said. “Every new video or album release is always an event. She and her team recognize that millions of views or album sales don’t come overnight.”

Learning, too, does not come overnight.  Rather, it is a process that has to grow, is compounded, and requires repetition to be successful.  Learning new things, or a series of related things, should be engendered through a series of “launches.”  They do not need to be the media extravaganzas of a Lady Gaga album, but they should contain many of the important elements included in her offerings. 

In the Mashable article, it lists to following as “takeaways”, things that can be learned from the Lady Gaga promotion:

  • You need to build momentum with elements of surprise along the way.
  • Integrate. Make sure all your marketing channels are working together to promote a single brand identity and message.
  • Use your fans as your best marketing asset. Encourage and remind them to tell your story and never forget to thank them along the way.
  • Give people something to love. If you can do that, you’ve won half the battle.

Again, although these are intended as recommendations for anyone trying to sell something online, these contain great nuggets of wisdom for anyone trying to build an audience among young people.

Momentum and surprise are key elements of any good story.  The best stores are ones that can be wonderful despite repetition.  In fact, they are made to be repeatable.  Repetition does not need to be EXACT repetition.  Multiplication tables are important and easy to remember, but most important things to learn aren’t memorized in the same way as these.  But like the classic Aesop tale of the Tortoise and the Hare, it doesn’t have to be perfectly told to be a great story to be learned from.  But it does need the momentum and surprise to be memorable.

Integration isn’t only about brand identities and marketing promotions.  Rather, the messages that we want to deliver as parents, teachers, and responsible adults should be integrated; that is, they need to make sense, work together, and tell a truthful story.  Appearing hypocritical is not an effective way of engendering learning and does not encourage people to be responsible.  Successful integration means that all parts of the process are working together coherently – often the opposite of our political, educational, and social systems.

Your students and children should be your biggest fans.  They should be allies, not adversaries.  They should WANT to do their “homework”; that is, they should be having so much fun learning what they want, doing what they know is important and feeling good about what they are doing, that it is impossible to get them to stop.  The objective is not to get kids to “study”, it is to get kids to become successful, happy, healthy, and responsible adults in a world that keeps getting better.

If we are successful in providing young people with opportunities to do what they love, then the battle is no longer a struggle.  Most young people don’t want to just “slack off.”  They want to contribute, to be part of a successful team, to be valued, to do something that they perceive is valuable.  They aren’t trying to avoid doing anything; they are trying to find something to do that isn’t boring.  They only start to “slack off” when they find that everything IS boring, that they are not valued for what they can contribute, and that there is little that they can do to make things better.

The Lady Gaga marketing campaign isn’t special because of the spectacle it is creating.  It is special because even such a mundane marketing campaign can create such a spectacle.  Imagine the power and value that could be created if we were to use in our schools and communities an integrated story, that treats our young audience with honor and respect, in order to build a peaceful, kind, fair, just, safe, fun, and funny world to live in.  If the story we were telling and showing our children were to reflect these things, that the adults around them shared their responsibility for the future of our youth, gave them a sense of goodness and trust, and that the mindless pursuit of greed, gluttony, and envy will not be tolerated, then – and only then – children would be free to learn.

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