Orabrush: WSJ – What Aspiring Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Lady Gaga (and Orabrush)

Despite her atypical look and wild antics, Lady Gaga represents a business success story that just about any aspiring entrepreneur can learn from.

The 25-year-old five-time Grammy winner earned $62 million last year, making her the seventh highest-paid musician in the world, estimates Forbes magazine. Her latest record, “Born This Way,” sold 1.11 million copies its first week in North America after launching on May 23, giving the pop singer the largest sales week since 2005. She boasts a range of products, including camera sunglasses for Polaroid and headphones for Dr. Dre, and she’s developed lucrative partnerships with companies like Amazon and Zynga.

Suffice to say, Lady Gaga has demonstrated in just a handful of years the kind of business growth that few entrepreneurs have been able to claim over a lifetime. Here are three tips that can be gleamed from her rise to stardom:

1. It doesn’t take a silver spoon to succeed at a young age.

Like many a first-time entrepreneur, Lady Gaga, whose real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, worked her way into the public mainstream from humble beginnings. She wasn’t born into a wealthy family, nor did she have connections to the professional music world. She rose to stardom the old-fashioned way — studying music and dance, performing at small venues and battling rejection. (She was dropped from a record deal with Def Jam Records.) For more, please read “Lady Gaga Inc.”

2. You don’t have to spend money to promote yourself online.

Lady Gaga has amassed an army of fans on Facebook and Twitter, even more than President Obama – all without paying a dime. They also didn’t arrive overnight. The “Fame Monster” initially posted videos to YouTube, becoming the first artist to score more than one billion views on the video-sharing site. While the average entrepreneur may not generate as much buzz with an online song and dance routine, it is possible to build a following with a creative video and without spending much.

Orabrush Inc., a two-year-old Provo, Utah, company did this after a pricey infomercial failed to generate significant sales. The start-up began producing weekly videos about a life-size human tongue to market its tongue-cleaning product, and has since generated more than $1 million in online sales, says Jeff Davis, chief executive officer. What’s more, retailers like a Wal-Mart in Utah and London Drugs Ltd., a Canadian drugstore chain, have started carrying Orabrush. “Consumers started going into retail outlets asking for our product,” Davis says.

3. Supporting a popular cause can make you popular, too.

Lady Gaga has forged deep ties with the gay community by openly protesting the government’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy banning gays from the U.S. military. For example, last year she began campaigning with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network to repeal the law with a YouTube video plea and postings on her website. Though it’s unclear how such acts of advocacy might drive sales, experts in cause marketing say even if consumers aren’t big fans of your product or service, they may be inclined to buy from your business if it’s aligned with a cause that’s meaningful to them. In fact, 80% of 1,057 U.S. adults surveyed last July said they’d favor a brand that’s associated with a good cause over another that’s similar in price and quality, according to Cone LLC, a strategy and communications agency in Boston.

Link to article online:  http://blogs.wsj.com/in-charge/2011/06/02/what-aspiring-entrepreneurs-can-learn-from-lady-gaga.