Only a handful of your clients will ever become the staunchest advocates for your business. These “one-percenters” or “customer evangelists” are the ones who will bring more people in the fold for you. Yet so many businesses take these people for granted. Do you have a healthy relationship with yours? This is but one of the many surprising things that business owners can learn from the one and only Lady Gaga. Former drag performer and Little Monster Jackie Huba unpacks this Gaga magic for everyone in her book “Monster Loyalty” and created the term “customer evangelism” to describe the Little Monster phenomenon. In this conversation, she shares with Jesse Cole how that magic can be replicated in any business. Listen in and learn how a pop star’s success can be a game-changing example for your business growth.
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Monster Loyalty: How To Use Your Own Gaga Magic To Create Customer Evangelists For Your Business With Jackie Huba
This episode is a game-changing episode with Jackie Huba the author of Monster Loyalty: How Lady Gaga Turns Followers Into Fanatics. Jackie lays the blueprint on how to create customer evangelists or what she calls the one-percenters. We talk about how businesses can stand out by standing for something, how to create shared symbols with their customers, and how to make their customers feel like rock stars. At the end of the episode, she tells a story of what she’s a 1% of for and it’s an absolute mic drop moment. Buckle up for this episode with the one and only, and the brilliant Jackie Huba.
Jackie, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me.
This may be the first time I’ve ever had a former drag performer and Little Monster on the show. My excitement level is an all-time high. I’ve heard you’ve been leading a Drag Out The Vote. You’ve been in the drag world a little bit. I’d love to know, go back. What lessons did you learn from Lady Gaga as you took on Drag Out The Vote and got into the drag world informed a little bit? Tell me how Lady Gaga inspired you with that?
It’s funny because I had been in marketing for a long time. I’d worked at IBM and I wrote two marketing books. For me, it felt very like marketing as usual. The same old case studies, we’re always looking at Zappos at the time and Southwest Airlines. I remember when Lady Gaga came on the scene, I was so fascinated with what she was doing as a pop star and I’m just following her. I was looking for inspiration at that time to show businesses, what customer loyalty is all about.
The way that she approached her fan loyalty, which for her was intuitive. Honestly, it wasn’t something where she had a business manager and they were like, “This is how it’s going to go.” This is just how she is, creating this cause that people believed in. She was so over the top and word of mouth worthy and everything she did, I got obsessed with it. Later, when I started to get into drag, I realized, “Lady Gaga is a drag queen.” Lady Gaga is a persona that Stefani Germanotta, which is her real name, put on when she needed confidence. I talk about this in my fourth book Fiercely You.
As a young, nineteen-year-old woman who was getting involved in the record industry, very male-dominated, misogynistic, she was not confident at all. She tried being a folk singer, but it was when she created this over the top drag persona. With nine-inch heels, huge hair, and huge shoulder pads. She towered above these guys and all of a sudden, she was powerful and that’s what drag queens do. The word from Gaga who is a drag queen to a drag queen on a bigger scale. I should say, drag artist because anyone can do drag, not just men, anyone. That’s how evolution went.
How did you do some of that over the top? I love the word of mouth. I could get going on that for a while, but how did you use Drag Out The Vote? You’re leading that, did you start trying to think, how can we be larger than life and trying to get the word out?
Yeah. I’ve never been an activist ever. I was someone who voted every four years. In 2016, I was like, “Things changed.” I realized that 100 million people did not vote in 2016. I started to learn a lot about politics and being involved in drag, I’m an LGBTQ ally. I realized that also 1 in 5 LGBTQ people did not or wasn’t registered to vote. I was like, “There’s a lot of people who are not participating.” Democracy is being given to them based on them not having a voice. They’re not choosing to exercise their voice. I’ve been in the drag industry for so many years, in 2019, I was like, “What can I do that is big, that is national, that has never been done before?” That is to give political power to drag artists at a national scale. I know Queens from RuPaul’s drag race who were celebrities. I called one of them, who’s my super good friend and said, “Will you join me in this thing called Drag Out The Vote?” She’s like, “Yes, absolutely.” That’s how it started in 2019.
It’s so powerful because, in your book, Monster Loyalty about Lady Gaga, one whole chapter is about taking a stand for what you believe in. You took a stand and that sometimes can be larger than life venture. The question is, do a lot of businesses, do you know what stand they’re taking and how are they over the top? You talked about this before like, “Do businesses ever come out of their shells?” We’re going to be an over the top type of personality with a stand. Have you seen that happen? It could be very powerful.
It’s funny because I created a marketing talk that was based on what I learned from drag artists. After Monster Loyalty and the Fiercely You came out, I created this talk called How to Build a Fierce Brand. It builds on a lot of stuff I’ve talked about with word of mouth. I feel because of social media, all the noise and so many channels of information, it is so hard to stand out. We are forced to be bold, to be fierce. We’re forced to do things differently in a way that stands out and not just for publicity’s sake but create something that stands out, something that will get people talking. That’s the arbiter, that’s the line that businesses need to think about. If people aren’t talking about you, they don’t know about you, they’re not going to buy from you.
The definition of remarkable. Are you worth talking about, are your people remarking about you?
Seth Godin, when I first started and all this marketing stuff, he was my mentor and that is his line. It’s something that people would remark about. I still think that even now that holds true. Being first at something or doing something slightly different that no one has done before, or that gets people talking is how businesses should think.If people aren't talking about you, they don't know about you and they're not going to buy from you. Click To Tweet
I’m fascinated by this because Jackie, in the book Monster Loyalty, the last chapter you have is to generate something to talk about. However, and what we’ve learned in Lady Gaga, sometimes it almost has to start first. For instance, with us, no one knew who we were. We sold two tickets in our first three months. I had to sell our house, empty out our savings account. We had nothing left until we became the Savannah Bananas. We came up with a senior citizen dance team called the Banana Nanas and the break dancing first base coach and all that, then the noise happened. It was the buzz. With Lady Gaga, it was similar. She had to come over the top. Is that something that businesses need to think about is how do you first generate the attention?
Yes, but I started in the very beginning with things like what is it you believe and what do you stand for. To me, that is longevity. For Gaga, when she first came out, she created music, but her higher calling was to create a community of people who were like her, who had a place to belong. She felt like an outsider. Growing up, she was bullied. She was the weird art kid in high school. With her music, she wanted to create something bigger and that’s what people gravitate to.
The reason why I have at the end, the last one is to create something to talk about it’s because over time though, you need to keep giving people those bits to talk about. You might’ve created something that got initially people talking. When she came out of the gate, it was like, “Who is this crazy woman lighting pianos on fire? Who is this crazy woman at the VMA’s hanging, being killed by the paparazzi, with blood dripping down her outfit?” That got people’s attention. People learned about her and they learned about her message about acceptance. They gravitate toward her, but she kept reinventing herself over and over again. She gave people moments and it’s been since 2008 when she started and we’re still talking about her because there are so many things that she does. You have to keep giving people things to talk about because they might love you, but they’re going to run out of stuff to talk about.
It’s so many companies, everybody has a marketing plan. You have a marketing department, but we said you have an attention plan. Do you have an intention department? It’s a different conversation. You’re looking at Amazon, how many books are there on creating attention, but how many books are on marketing? There are very few attention books versus marketing. It sounds like Lady Gaga. There are more examples. The meat dress, the person vomiting on her, a vomit artist, which I didn’t know a vomit artist included. She had a plan to get in front of attention so people could learn her cause and what she stands for. I’ve been familiar because I’ve been reading and studying it from you, but maybe share a little bit more of how that stands in fits with companies.
For the folks who haven’t read Monster Loyalty, what you’re talking about is especially for her, she got some bad press for being someone who just sought attention for attention’s sake and that’s not ever what she has ever done. There’s always something behind it. Her Little Monsters might know and maybe others don’t, the meat dress was all about standing up for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, trying to get that discriminatory policy revoked. The vomit artist was at South by Southwest when she was singing a song about rape. The media just was like, “She got vomited on.” This was one of the very first times where she had talked about this new song Swine and what it meant. It was very heavy, but no one wrote about that, but the Little Monsters all knew. For companies, I talk in my keynotes about the Alamo Drafthouse. To me and in my keynotes, I love this example for readers who don’t know, Alamo Drafthouse is one of the best theater chains in the country based in Austin, Texas.
They have 30, 35 locations. Probably not open a lot now. They have this crazy thing that they want the experience in the theaters to be amazing. Their rules are very strict. If you talk, text, or pull out your phone while a show is on, you’ll be warned and the second time you’ll be kicked out with no refund. They have amazing marketing that they’re able to leverage because of these rules that they use. The most famous thing that ever happened to them was that woman got kicked out because she was using her phone as a flashlight. She kept leaving it on and she was a little drunk because they serve alcohol at the theaters. She left them a nasty voicemail. I don’t know if you’ve seen this, Jesse, but they took the voicemail and they literally animated it, made it into a YouTube video where she’s talking and she’s so drunk.
She’s funny, but she’s like, “I don’t get it. I’m using my phone as a flashlight. Why are you being an asshole to me?” The video was so funny, they released it and it went viral. It was on 150 news outlets. Anderson Cooper did a piece about it. It was amazing. They weren’t trying to make fun of her. They were trying to say, “We don’t want people like this at our theaters and we will kick them out. That’s how much we love you, our customers, because we will protect your movie-going experience.” You know how annoying it is to have people in a theater typing in with their phones and they do not allow that. It worked because this is what they believe in. They believe in a great theater experience and they will do anything to protect that for their customers. That was a great way that they created a buzz, but it went back to their core beliefs.
I think about it’s almost knowing again who you’re not for. For us, we are not for baseball traditionalist. Everything we do from our players dancing, to wearing kilts, to our male cheerleading team, it’s about fun. While our stand isn’t something maybe as deep or as powerful as Lady Gaga and what she was standing for but the need for people to have fun, be treated the right way, not get nickel and dimed at a ballpark and be able to have all the things that we do to create a new fan experience, that’s a stand. People that are going against it, Major League Baseball, other levels. It’s okay to state that. Is that what you’re saying for a company to create buzz may be going that way?
Yes, absolutely. I love your point about you know who you’re for because you’re creating this thing that people are attracted to. When people talk about your experience to others, people who resonate with that are like, “I want to go to that.” People who were like, “That sounds like I don’t know if I like that,” then they won’t come. You’re attracting the people for whom you’re creating that experience and they will share that with others. You’ll just keep bringing people into the community who understand what you’re doing.
I got to go on one before I would get into the one-percenters, which I’m excited to dive into. We got to go into one thing that she did that I love. Jay Baer, a mutual friend. I listened to you on his show and you inspired us. I’ll tell you about the drink that you inspired with that, but the perfume, it’s another way of looking, “This is a normal way of doing things. Let’s stand out and do it completely differently.” That’s a great model. If you can maybe share that and say some other examples of how businesses can utilize that.
I love the story and the book and in my keynotes because I think a lot of people don’t know the story about her perfume. It was one of those things where all the pop stars have perfumes and she was approached by a perfume manufacturer, Coty, to do a perfume. For Gaga, there’s always a very well thought out, “What do things mean?” She doesn’t put out a perfume and have someone pick up the scents. This was back when right after her album came out, The Fame Monster. She was obsessed with fame. She was a student of Andy Warhol.
When she thought about perfume, she thought, “I want to call it Fame.” Fame is alluring and seductive, but fame is also dark and it can be very evil and mysterious. When she thought about this perfume, it had these special notes of blood and other things that were weird and strange because of the darkness of fame, she wanted the perfume to be black in the bottle and spray on clear, which had never been done before. When she went to Coty, they said, “We can’t do that. Can you come up with another idea?” She’s like, “No. That’s my idea.”
Coty spent six months with their scientists trying to figure it out. They then did finally figure it out. I believe they have a patent for it. It became the first-ever black eau de parfum. It sprays on clear, even though it’s black and it is a little scary when you see it in the bottle and then you go to spray it. It became the fastest-selling perfume after Chanel No. 5 because it had never been done before. It gave people something to talk about. There was a story behind it. There was an eight-minute million-dollar film that she made about it. I show the film in my keynotes and people were like, “This looks like a sci-fi film.” I still like the one-minute trailer for the eight-minute film about this. It’s insane. She’s covered in goo, there are men and it’s crazy. She’s naked. It’s, again, over the top marketing. I’ve never seen an eight-minute sci-fi film for a perfume.
It’s taking that risk. It’s taking that chance and it’s going over the top that people want to talk about it. You got to not be afraid of what people are going to criticize. It’s so interesting. I say, “Whatever’s normal, do the exact opposite.” The normal would be, “I’ll put my name on a perfume. It’ll sell fine.” No, do something that maybe people are afraid to try. The inspiration, Jackie, I’ll tell you. I was listening and I was like, “The Banana blackout drink.” Literally like a freeze drink with Ever3clear, very strong, the strongest drink we have, it’s black slushie and you’re only allowed one per night. You will be stamped. You can only have one.
It’s this forbidden thing and it’ll be on your tongue, like the blue slushies, “You’ve had a blackout.” There are thousands of reasons why we should not do that. Every single form of liability why we shouldn’t. What if we did? What would happen when people said, “You have to try the blackout?” That’s what I’m thinking. It came from that same idea. It doesn’t look appetizing. It doesn’t look good, but it’s forbidding, it’s intriguing. It’s exciting. That’s the inspiration you gave me from that.
The quote that I always share is from Coty and it said that, “What Gaga did by insisting on this black perfume was the biggest innovation that the fragrance industry had ever had in the last twenty years.” For me, it’s about how can you create something that has never been done before, gets people talking or it’s bigger and bolder, like trying to push that envelope? There’s a lot of businesses who look for either they’re regulated and it’s hard to do good marketing or we look at, and I hate this word, best practices. It’s like, “Let’s look at what everyone else is doing and then just copy that.” It’s like, “No.” I love Gaga thinking about how to think differently to stand out and to get people talking. I love her pushing those limits as a role model.
You got to get outside of your industry. I hate best practices too. I said, “Focus on next practices. Not best practices.” You got to look outside. For us, every single ticket, Jackie, in our ballpark is all-inclusive. It includes all your burgers or hot dogs or chicken, everything. You can’t get a ticket without getting all your food included. We didn’t get that from your baseball team. There was no other baseball team who was doing it. We got it from the cruise industry. All your food’s included, your entertainment’s included, why can’t you have it in a baseball experience?
You got to be able to get out and challenge the norms. One of my favorite quotes from you wrote is, “When you try to change the status quo or the industry norm, some people will not like it. These people cannot be converted. Don’t waste energy and time on them. Instead, focus on your cause, what you produce and your customers.” What that saying is like, “If you do something crazy that’s marketable and that creates attention, not everyone’s going to like it.” Lady Gaga said in your book, “If you’re not pissing somebody off, you’re not doing your job.”
Now that we have Twitter, people who are pissed off can come on your social media and tell you about it. You got to have thick skin because people will talk. I don’t listen to them. RuPaul has a great quote that I love about this and he’s like, “Unless they’re paying your bills, pay them bitches no mind.” The customers are paying your bills. If they’re loving it, who cares what other people are saying?
It directly leads to focus on your people and your inner group. You’ve been talking about this for many years before even Lady Gaga. I’d love for you to dive into the one-percenters and why it’s so important for every company to focus on them.
This was something that came out with my coauthor, my second book, Citizen Marketers, where it’s right when social media started. We were looking at the engagement rates for online communities in terms of where are the most engaged people? Over and over again, when we looked at communities like Microsoft and Intuit, all of these, it was always 1% the most engaged, maybe another 10%. These are for online communities. Another 10% would engage with the content created by the one-percenters, but we extrapolated it to mean your core audience. I know that lots of people have different terms for these. My first book was called Creating Customer Evangelists.
I would say the same thing there, but we tried to quantify that a little bit to say, “It isn’t even sometimes 20%. It might be 1%, 3%.” It’s a smaller group than you think. There have been some great studies on social media where they’ve looked at all the social media posts about a company. The majority of those posts were from around 3% to 5% of the entire customer base. All the customer-created content was from a very small amount of people. The question to me is like, “Do you know who these one-percenters are? Do you engage with them? Do you have special relationships with them?” For her, after the first year, she immediately named them.
They were the Little Monsters and she got that because she just threw that out to the crowd one night and it resonated with everybody. I’d been preaching for a long time. One percenters are going to be the first people to buy almost everything you have. They’re going to be the ones who come back over and over again. I hate that chase that so many marketers have, where we have to chase the new customers. We’re chasing. You’ve got to get new customers, give them discounts, get them in when your one one-percenters might be the source of your new customers. They’re telling everyone about you, they’re bringing people into the fold. They will acquire customers for you. I think so many businesses take them for granted, if you will.
Lady Gaga, what does she do well is she named them the Little Monsters. What are the other things? I want to do some parallel thinking here for a company. You get this group, you find out who they are, you name them, then what? What does she do?
This goes into family you see a lot. You see this a lot in sports. Where you look at traditions or you look at terminology, the things that the community creates. One of the things that became so iconic for Little Monsters was this paw symbol. Little Monsters can acknowledge each other and you know when there’s another Little Monster because you’ll see this. That literally was something she spotted at a concert. She was in Boston for a concert and she was driving down the road. She went past this car and this car is blasting one of her songs on her way to the concert. She sees another car pull up beside it and the person hears it and they rolled down the window and one person goes like this and the other person goes like this. She’s like, “They’re recognizing each other.” It’s like a monster claw. I’ve seen great customer communities for companies where they’ve created the terminology for the community. They’ve named the community. They have terminology or they have iconography with symbols. Certainly, a lot of things you’ve done. I’m sure visually, people know what you’re doing.
The Go Bananas. If anybody sees someone wearing a banana shirt, they say, “Go Bananas.” It’s a term over here. Go bananas, I’ll be in the airport and someone will see me in a yellow tux and just yell, “Go bananas.”Focus on next practices. Not best practices. Click To Tweet
It’s things that people recognize as being part of the community. I talked in the book about the Pittsburgh Steelers and the biggest thing that they have. In fact, the anniversary of the Terrible Towel, which was created back in the ’70s by Myron Cope, who was a broadcaster for the Steelers. He came up with his idea of a towel to rally for the playoff game. I think it was 1979. It’s become the beloved symbol of Steeler Nation.
You’re a big part of Steeler Nation. I know you’ve got a club down in Austin, so do you have a towel?
I have at least ten.
When you go back in the day when you went to the bar and celebrate, would you always bring a towel with you?
Yes and also, one extra for other people.
How does that idea get developed? I’m even trying to think more for our team and direct, but how does a company think of a symbol like that or something that they can do?
Sometimes it is spotted in the wild, like with Gaga. She saw one of her fans using it and I’ve seen in online communities. I’ve been not studying a lot, but I’ve been intrigued by the fan community on Twitch. Anyone on Twitch is a brand and they have followers. A lot of the drag artists I know from Drag Race are doing this. They’re using Twitch and I’m watching them and how they’re creating their fan loyalty. Companies can do this too. They have little emotes or emojis that you create that your fans can buy and use and in the chat. There’s the iconography that’s created. You see people in the chat sharing it, buying it, and people are now associating these visual images with this brand who is a drag artist, but companies do that all the time. You can create something visual.
A special gift or something or a special meme. They start sharing it out. You give them permission to use it.
Now everyone has access to the ability to create things gifts and their own graphics. You might see one of your customers who loves what you’re doing create something on their own and that might spark an idea. You then go with it from there.
You got my mind spinning here trying to think about it because it’s such a unifying thing. That 1%, the great example you make is do Maker’s Mark. Ambassadors, it’s so fascinating. You get this group, that is their 1% and they go all in. Can you share a little bit from your research on that? That’s another example. It’s not just, “You can develop it.” Maker’s Mark developed it. It doesn’t have to necessarily come internally. That’s ideal, but it’s our common externally. If you can develop your own loyalty program that’s different than everyone else.
Maker’s Mark is one of the best case studies I have ever researched and ever talked about. I love them so much. My co-author and I, at the time, did a podcast with the son of the founder of Maker’s Mark, Bill Samuels Jr. He talks a lot about the history of Maker’s Mark. For them, they started out as a tiny distillery selling bourbon in Kentucky to their friends. It was a New York Times article that exploded them. All of a sudden, they weren’t selling to their friends anymore. The son of the Founder, Bill Samuels Jr. was a marketing guy. He was like, “We don’t know who we’re selling to anymore. I want to create this community.”
This was back in the late ’80, early ’90s? There were no social media. There was no way to create a community. He did it through direct mail. It was insane. He got people to sign up, somehow give their addresses and they started mailing these ambassadors, little membership cards with their name on them. They got a barrel in the distillery in Kentucky with a barrel number. There were 6, 8 or 10 people per barrel that had a plate on the barrel with that person’s name on it. All of a sudden, you were part of this community, and then every holiday, every Christmas, they would send you a holiday gift. That was a Maker’s Mark gift.
It wasn’t just something dumb. They would have Christmas sweaters that you put on the bottles. With social media, obviously, then it exploded because everyone could see what they were sending. They would send those red rubber, circular ice cubes that you would use for bourbon. They would send notes. They would send a Maker’s Mark gift wrapping paper. Over the years, they always send something different or ornaments. It’s always something to talk about and then they would have a reunion every year when you come to distillery for these horse races that were nearby. People would just come to be part of this community who love bourbon and loved this brand. It’s one of the most brilliant. I call it a loyalty program, but for people who know loyalty programs and they think it’s a frequent purchase rewards program, that’s not what it is at all.
I went to it and you have to answer all these questions to become an ambassador. I was like, “I’m not even close to figuring out all this. I’m not an ambassador,” but once you get in, do you have to pay?
No, not all.
That’s separate. They are putting this expense to give to their people without asking for anything. They are asking to spread the word, but that is the big win there.
As I said, it’s not a rewards program. It’s not like you buy so many and you get anything. I know people call those loyalty programs like your airline points program. That’s a frequent purchase program. That is an incentive program. A loyalty program to me is something that engenders loyalty, just like you would engender loyalty with your friend. There’s no transactional nature with your friend if they’re not going to refer people to you, you’re not going to pay them, “Now, refer a friend.” That’s not a loyalty program.
You’ll pay your family to show up for dinner as you reference in the book.
They’ve done the research and they know that ambassadors will be investors for them. They will talk about Maker’s Mark. They will buy Maker’s Mark as gifts for friends. In the very beginning, they would say, “If your local bar does not stock it, let us know. Tell them they should and then let us know. We’ll follow up.” They were ambassadors who would literally go out and sell into establishments and venues for them.
Now, I’m putting a stamp on the ground. I’m holding myself accountable to do something for them. We have Bananas Insiders group, but we have some other things, but they’re paying for it. It’s not this extra above and beyond. It’s we have to have the courage to say, “We’re going to invest these dollars to do the right thing for our right people.” I think every business should. You’ve inspired me again and cost me a lot of money, Jackie. We’ve got to go around, but we’ve talked about obviously generating buzz. We’ve talked about focused on the one-percenters and then this other one, which I love, similar and the same, make them feel like rock stars. Those are the three that stood out to me in the book. Maker’s Mark is doing that but going to a little bit about Lady Gaga because there are some real parallels that we can think about. How did she make her people feel like rock stars?
In the early days, this is where she experimented with it. When she got big, it got hard to do. In the very beginning, on the first tour, she did the Fame Monster tour. This was insane. She partnered with a wireless company. I think it was a Verizon or something. What she would do is they would draw somebody from the tickets and know where they are in the stands. They would give this person a cell phone and Gaga, during the concert, would bring it down. She would come to the piano and she was like, “I’m going to call a Little Monster,” and she would pull out this phone.
She would call and the stadium would know where to spotlight and they would spotlight that fan who’s freaking out now because the person who had just run up to them and given them a phone and now that person is talking to Lady Gaga. You can imagine everyone in this entire 20,000-person arena is like, “She’s speaking to one of us.” It would have this conversation about themselves and make them put them up on the big screen. Everyone could see and then she would invite that person to come to have a drink with her after the concert. It was her way to thank the fans.
It was her way to reach out individually to highlight people. That was one of the first things I ever saw her do. I want to say it was for the Born This Way tour, the first ten people in line at every concert got to meet Gaga. It was her one-percenters who would sleep out for a week. The very first person in line, she had this key made and they would get the key to the concert and it was a signed key. She called them the key holders and she would pose with them with the key. The Born This Way album was all about creating a kinder, braver society. When she came onto the egg at the Grammy’s, it was about birthing this new grace. She has these crazy ideas. It was the key to unlock kindness and all of that. There’s one in the book of this kid standing there with his key, it’s a big key. It was such a thing to talk about and rewarding her one percenters because they’re the only ones who would be doing that, which will be standing in line to meet her.
It’s easy for a sports team. I immediately think we have people that show up in line at 2:00 every game and it’s something. It’s 100 degrees and the game has started 6:30 and there are people just sitting there at 2:00 I’m like, “Four and a half hours, what are you doing?” We should find ways to reward them. Even in restaurants, the people that line in there first before they open at 11:00, they are early. There are ways, “Come in early.” I think about Disney World. Typhoon Lagoon used to do The Big Kahuna. I was a kid when I was eight years old and they would pick you as a kid and get to go into the theme park before everyone. Everybody has an opportunity to do it if you’re willing to invest the time and energy into doing it. Lady Gaga saw that as hugely valuable.
This idea of making people feel like rock stars and people remember how you make them feel. She would highlight some members of the Little Monster family, all Little Monsters felt like, “She’s recognizing one of us.” She has this team of people around her called the Haus of Gaga and they’re her creative team. Her hairstylist, creative director, costume person, makeup person, and all these people, and there was a fan who was this amazing artist who started doing illustrations of her. Helen Green was her name. She inducted her into the house. People lost it. I think people think pop stars up here, they’re just untouchable. From the very beginning, she was like, “No, we’re all together. I’m like one of you. I’m going to take this person over here and she’s going to be our official illustrator of me, portraits and art.” I love how she took this person, made her feel like a rock star, but also showed the rest of the community like, “I’m part of this. I’m not untouchable as a pop star.”
It’s so good and it’s easy for me because I’m immediately thinking we had some fans getting uniforms. We had just had fans who are going to become our coach. We can do all that stuff easily. Other companies, I run a cleaning company. I run a cleaning service. I run an HVAC company, but you did give an example about the celeb for a day and how there are ways to do that. Maybe share that because it’s like, “It’s easy for you guys, easy for a rock star.” There are ways to make your customers feel like rock stars. Maybe just give one example, maybe the slug for a day or something else that you think could fit.Make your customers feel like rock stars. They will never forget how you made them feel. Click To Tweet
The Celeb for a Day, I’m trying to remember that story. It was a consulting company I worked at and we had a client who came in. It just so happened in Austin, you could rent a paparazzi. When he was coming down the escalators at the Austin Airport, all of a sudden, these photographers ran up with the flashes and it’s like, “Mr. Smith, what are you doing here in Austin?” They took these photos and made them like a cover of a magazine with his photo. It was one cute way and a great impression we wanted to make with one of our best clients.
eBay did this too. In the early days, these top sellers on eBay were its one percenters. I believe there’s a story in the book about they used to have these conferences where if you were an eBay seller, you would go to these conferences to learn how to be a better eBay seller put on by eBay. They would do these red carpet things where there’d be a giant red carpet and all the eBay employees would be in light blue polos. There’d be a big screen and they would applaud the sellers walking into the conference and then you’re up on the big screen. It’s like, “This company values us. They’re making us feel like we’re rock stars by physically showing us that they care,” but it was a fun way to do it. I thought that was amazing.
You make them the hero. It’s so amazing. In 2018, we had a hometown tryout team. We had a few guys get the opportunity to play a few games. These young two kids. After the end of the game, there was players, nineteen years old. Two kids came up to him, probably a 5-year-old and 7-year-old, and said, “Can we have your autograph?” He said, “Only if I can have yours.” He dropped down to a knee and he had them sign his hat. For the rest of the season, he got kids to sign his hat. I watched the rest of the team. They started getting their sleeve signed on their BP stuff and they all had autographs from kids. I was like, “That’s such an easy thing.” When someone says, “Can we get a picture with you?” If I see they’re going to picture, I say, “Can I get my picture with you?” It’s reframing the question that anybody can do. I watched these players and I learned so much from them that I teach everyone like, “You get autographs from kids. We will give autographs too, but we also get them from kids.”
That’s a brilliant execution of that idea. That kid will never forget that. The parents will never forget that either. They will never forget how that made them feel.
An eight-year-old says, “Dad, I gave an autograph to a Banana player today.” It’s just a different conversation. I got to remember because it keeps coming back to that. I want to have fun with little games to finish up here. I want to do a Lady Gaga lesson showdown. Here we go. I’m going to name a type of industry and then maybe some type of lesson from Lady Gaga that they could implement into their business. A realtor.
You want me to give you an idea?
Yes. If you want to throw one at me, we can do a little showdown that you can throw in industry, but some lesson. If you’re a realtor, what is something that you can do from some, make them feel like rock stars, the one percenters, generate buzz, symbols, any of the things that you share? A realtor, what’s something that they could do?
I’ve seen people do this before. For realtors, it can be very transactional, but I’ve also seen realtors who will have special get-togethers for their top clients who refer them. It’s not just the people who you’ve got a great big commission from, but every year, having some reason to come back and be connected to those folks by hosting some get together to thank them for all the referrals that they’ve done. I’ve seen lots of businesses do this, that’s a super easy thing to do.
You’re one percenter, do something over the top for them and what are you doing for your top group? Do you want to throw one at me? I grilled you. I felt bad.
This one’s I think a little bit hard because I’ve gotten this before. I’ve worked at this industry before and they’re hard. Financial advisers.
It’s because of the regulation.
They act in a very standard way too. I feel like there’s a lot of innovation that could happen, but they also can’t think outside their box. They’re regulated but it’s hard for them to think differently.
The two easiest are the one percenters and also think about how to make them feel like rock stars. Think about Maker’s Mark, what do they do? How can you send these special things tailored? How do you make them feel like they’re a part of something? That is tough.
One of the things that it’s hard for them, but I’m like, “What are you selling?” The whole like, “What do you stand for? What are you selling them?” You’re selling them not just financial stability. It’s an easing of their mind that they’re going to be okay, that it’s all going to work out. It’s freedom, maybe.
A lot of this they’re able to have a family and home because of their financial. They’re able to spend time doing what they love.
I think so many people in the financial industry, it’s more like, “What returns am I getting for you?” That’s not what you’re selling. It’s what’s that bigger thing. What’s that emotional thing that would keep somebody emotionally connected? I talk a lot in Monster Loyalty and the other books about this emotional connection that has to do with what you stand for and what you believe in.
What business are you in? As a financial advisor, to figure out your one-percenter and how you can serve a cause, ask more questions. Maybe you keep going and saying, “Why are you trying to do this?” They then realize, “This is what’s most important to me. It’s my family. It’s my home.” Try to then hit on that. Get past the surface.
In the book, I love the model from Simon Sinek, which is Start with Why. You have the, what, the how, and the why. Asking that question and trying to figure out, why you do what you do and why people are attracted to you and asking that question and getting to that core of it. With Lady Gaga, I broke it down for people like, “The why is she wanted to change the world and create a bravery place.” She does that through her music. She does it through her movies, she does it through a Little Monster community. That’s the how and the what. She’s a pop star. Sure she writes music, but the why is so much bigger than everything else.
It’s okay to create a tension that doesn’t directly fit like the meat dress at all. There are ties, but some things like the egg, they have ties, but you can create big attention to get people asking, “What’s this all about?” Getting then their curiosity. Sports team, Jackie, you’re running the Pittsburgh Steelers but they’re not the Pittsburgh Steelers. You’re just starting out a brand new team. They’re going to be the Pittsburgh Steelers. What would you do from the lessons that you’ve learned in marketing Lady Gaga, etc.?
Number one, focus on besides the talent of the team. It’s what you guys have done, you got to focus on the fan experience. In my very first book, Creating Customer Evangelists, we interviewed Mark Cuban a couple of years after he bought the Dallas Mavericks. It was amazing all the things that he did and he focused on the fan experience. The fans who would paint their faces, he created a special place for them in the arena. He was like, again, one-percenter. He came up with all these fun things that people could be a part of. It’s similar to what you guys have done. Regardless of how the team performed, he knew that you needed to create that fan experience to keep people coming back and keep people having fun. That’s exactly what he did.
Give people something that they can’t get anywhere else. My dad used to talk about when he used to go to Yankee stadium, they let him walk on the field and see the monuments back in the day. No one can walk in fields anymore. Why? That’s part of our whole plan to walk on the field and get to sign in the fan’s wall. Fans to sign the name and get their name on the wall. Give them those experiences. That’s exactly what Mark Cuban’s talking about. What’s forbidden in sports? What can you not do in sports? How can you let your fans do that? That’s probably some of the things that Lady Gaga has done things like get your fans to go backstage and be a part of it. You talked about Bruce, you bring them onstage. It’s special that a lot of times you can’t get that indicate. You’ve inspired me. You’ve gone for a long while. Flip the script. You’re the host. You get to ask me one question, anything. I told you I bounce around. This isn’t your normal show.
Here’s a good question. I think because now we’re all digital, how do you think we can create this buzz and this attention? Everything’s online, so there are no physical experiences anymore. How do we, as businesses, evolve and innovate into creating something that can bring people together and people will talk about?
Only from personal experience, when we had a shutdown, we became all entertainers. What we did, we said, “Our fans are going to now be involved in this.” The first thing we did is we did a music video with all of our staff, dancing by myself, to Billy Idol. We sent that out and showed permission, “We’re having fun here. You can have fun too.” We then sent out Hey Baby, which is our song at the stadium, our tradition, everyone goes, “Hey, hey baby ooh, ah.” We sent it to our entire fan base and said, “We want you to be in our next music video.”
Our whole fan base started sending tons of videos to OneDrive and we made a music video and put them all in it. They were all at home digital and then that music video went out and it got thousands of views and they became superstars, rock stars. Everyone has a phone, a camera, everyone’s their own entertainer now. How can you get them a part of an experience with you? That’s what we tried to do. I think moving forward, again, making them feel like rock stars, everything you’ve taught, but trying to get them to feel part of the digital experience and showcasing it. That’s what we try to do is showcase them. That’s something we did.
That was great. It was a sense of community that you created and made them feel like rock stars and kept them engaged. That’s brilliant. That’s awesome.
The name of our company is Fans First. We let our fans this 2020 dictate who would play in games like, “Pitch online. Who’s got a pitch in the game? What are we going to do this promotion?” Our fans have a say what’s going to happen in games. They’re at home, but can they still feel ownership in what they’re doing? I’ll ask you. Do you want better answers in business? You got to ask better questions. You just asked a great question. What are some other questions you’re asking businesses now or fascinated by now?Create the best fan club you can possibly make. Click To Tweet
To me, I think the question is, “How are you innovating?” We were all forced to be in such a different world and some businesses are adopting and some aren’t. It’s funny because I work with all these drag artists and I’m watching them evolve. These are similar to you, like in-person entertainment, and how do you adapt? It’s amazing to see the innovation that that is happening. One of the drag artists that I’m working with now was on RuPaul’s Drag Race. She was a host in New York. She would host six shows a week. She loves bringing people together. She loves being at the club. There are go-go boys. There are drag performances. There’s a toast. She loves that.
Finally, after eight months in lockdown, she was like, “I’m dying.” I think people miss being together, especially in the queer community, those spaces. She created this party called Unfiltered. Her name is Brita Filter and she is creating this Zoom experience that I’ve never seen before. I’m working with her on it. We have go-go boys. We have drag performers. We’re putting these traditions in where there’s a walk-off like, there’s a theme. Last time it was silver and gold and everybody dressed in silver and gold. You can spot nine people. If it was in the club, you would have a runway, people would walk down. The host would be like, “You look fierce girl. Look at that outfit. That’s amazing.”
They would comment. Now, we have a digital, walk-off where we highlight everyone. The two hosts will comment on the people who have gone full out. They put the silver and golden background. They might have silver and gold on and she’s creating the club experience over Zoom, which is very hard to do. We have the chat going, everybody’s cameras are on. You see everyone. It’s not like a passive thing. It’s very interactive. We have a meet and greet. There’s an add-on ticket, meet and greet. If the queens were at the club, you would have a meet and greet line and there’ll be me and greet you take a photo, we take a Zoom photo. We send it to you. We brand it. We did the first one and people loved it. They danced in their house, not just sitting, watching a Zoom. You get up and you dance. We have one of the top DJs from New York who DJs the entire time between the performances and it’s a party. She’s trying to create something different but bringing that club. We’ve not seen anyone do this.
It’s making them feel like they’re a part of something, making them feel good when they walk away, they felt like it wasn’t just talking to a camera. They were in it. They were getting compliments, acknowledgment and all that.
For her, she’s had to innovate in doing what she did before and try to figure out how to do that online. We’re going to be in here for a while. She’s like, “I need something and I know people need it too.” That’s what we’re trying to bring on.
Always asking, “What are you doing to innovate now?” Maybe that’s a great question because a lot of people, there’s a lot of spectators now just waiting and how do you get in the arena and start playing? I think it sounds like you’re in a community that’s very creative now.
These drag artists have no way to make a living. To be quite honest, some of this innovation is literally being forced to because what are you going to do? They have to find a way. It’s challenging now, as you know. For anything that was in person that relied on being in person, how do you innovate that and bring it online?
The last two here and I think about everything you’ve talked about the evangelists, there’s marketing, your first few books here. Everything you talk about is why I resonate so much. The name of our company is Fans First Entertainment. Our mission in Fans First, everything is Fans First. I love to know maybe something that stands out for you, maybe something you’ve done or something that’s happened in your life that was fans first that treated you like a fan or you did it to someone, maybe someone in an audience at a speech, something that stood out.
It’s interesting to think about. One of the things I started doing in my keynotes and this is something I tried to do. I used my own principles. It’s at the Pittsburgh Steeler Fan Club. We started this in 2008. I moved to Austin in 2007 and I saw this bar that opened and they wanted to be a “Steeler bar.” That was great marketing because they could draw the Steeler fans in, but it wasn’t an experience. It was just like, “The TVs will be on and the sound will be on.” I was like, “This isn’t that fun though.” I went to the owner I was like, “How can we make this fun though? How can we make it like a party?” We started to put all of these things in place that made it feel like you were in Pittsburgh. Everything we could do.
Every single time we score a touchdown, we played the Steeler fight song, Here We Go. In the stadium, in the third quarter when there’s a defensive stand, they play Renegade from Styx and they twirled Terrible Towels. We started doing that. We started looking at like, “How do we recreate the fan experience?” In Austin, not everybody’s from Pittsburgh. Lots of fans are just fans because their dad was or who knows why they’re fans? They’re a lot of Texans, a lot of people from all over the country, they never have maybe been to the stadium, but we were creating the traditions that are done in Pittsburgh here. We have a squares game.
It’s fun. You do have a number with a score that you can win $100 at the end of every quarter. There’s always something fun happening all the time. We have a photo booth with all these amazing Steeler things that you can do. We have a game-day DJ, so you never hear the commercials. We have grown this little thing. We get over to 150, 200 people every single game. It’s a giant party. People drive 1 or 2 hours in Texas to come to this party every single week. You’re in the middle of Texas and to find your tribe is tough. There are lots of Steeler bars around the country, but I think we’re probably one of the biggest fan clubs that there is.
I have to say as someone who studies fan loyalty, to take all these things and be like, “My little experiment.” How can we put it into this fan club and make the best fan club we can possibly make it? We have a Facebook group. People are always chatting and talking. We have a cheer squad. We have a guy with a giant horn. We have a guy in the mic who leads the cheers. Every time there’s a first down, we say, “That’s a Pittsburgh Steeler first down.” Everyone knows the cheer. We’ve created this community of people who are one-percenters. They come all the time. We celebrate birthdays. It is what you’re doing, but you’re applying it to this little fan club. What has happened over the years, it’s like a family of people and we love it.
I don’t know if there’s a better way ever that’s ended an episode of this. You covered every single thing and something that you guys have created, finding your tribe, creating the belonging and the shared savvy, everything. I’m from New England. Don’t hold it against me. I’m from Boston. I want to go to that party. Whenever that opens up that party again, I want to be there because you created such a feeling of you belong to something. I think that’s what you’ve done, what Lady Gaga has done. Jackie, that was a mic drop to finish this entire episode. There are so many other things I would go on, but I’m finishing right there. I want to thank you because I hope everyone could read to say, “How can we create something like that with our people to build something truly special that makes a difference?” That’s what you’ve done. You’ve made an impact on us. Thank you.
I love everything that you’ve done in doing the research and learning about you and how you’ve created this experience for people. I love it so much and you’ve taken full leaps. You’re not afraid to try things and do amazing things. Congratulations on all the things that you all are doing there.
Thank you, Jackie. I appreciate it. This was awesome. You are a rock star. Thank you. That was such a good fit. I am picturing it. Do you tell that story in your speeches?
You talk about the fan club in the Steelers.
When I talk about the one-percenters, I talk about Gaga one-percenters and then I talk about what I’m a one-percenter for. That bit is like a whole bit that I do on the Steeler fan club. There’s more to it. I have a Steeler tattoo. I don’t go into all the details I just did, but I want people to understand what one-percenters are. Someone who starts a fan club is a one-percenter. I want people to understand the craziness that people will go. The amount of work that me and my leadership team spend every year on this. It’s a leadership team.
There’s so much and we spent time and businesses have customers like that too that’ll volunteer, that’ll help. They’ll do things. That’ll do whatever they can to help the business have that great Southwest story. That’s in Creating Customer Evangelist about 9/11. I want to show people the extreme of like, “What is the holy grail of what customers will do to be part of your community.” I like to tell the story of one of the one-percenters. I always find the Steelers fans in the audience. It’s great. I’m like, “There’s my Steeler fans.” I had one guy who literally whipped out his towel. The whole audience is like, “That’s not a plan. Sir, why do you have your towel?” He’s like, “The game’s on right after this,” because it was an afternoon thing. I was like, “You’re right. The game is on after this.” He’s like, “That’s why I brought it to go to the bar.” It was these moments that I love. Also, I’ve been booed because I’ll speak in Boston or I’ll speak like in Baltimore or something like a Steelers fan. I’ve gotten booed.
In the title of your book, you put fanatics too. That word is not talked about enough in a positive way. I’m so intrigued by the word fanatics. You’re a fanatic and that’s okay. It’s okay to be a fanatic. That’s good. Jackie, this was awesome. I’m literally now thinking how do we do that? All our games fortunately have sold out and they sell out how do we do that at a local bar and bring our pep band over there maybe at one point and put on a show there. It starts forming internally. That’d be cool. This was great. This was wonderful and I thank you. It’s such good stuff, Jackie.
It’s so great, by the way, to connect with like-minded folks. I love talking to you about these same concepts and seeing what you guys are doing. It’s great. Thank you for having me.
It was awesome. Jay Baer has been on my show, but we’ve connected a lot. I heard I was like, “This is amazing, this perfume story. I love it. Banana Blackout. I got to read the book.” That’s how it worked out.
We’ll give him a shout-out. Thanks a lot, Jackie. I appreciate you.
- Monster Loyalty: How Lady Gaga Turns Followers Into Fanatics
- Jackie Huba
- Fiercely You
- Monster Loyalty
- Citizen Marketers
- Creating Customer Evangelists
- Start with Why
- Jay Baer – Previous episode
About Jackie Huba
Jackie Huba is a dynamic keynote speaker, bestselling author and expert on customer loyalty and evangelism. She also knows a thing or two about drag queens. Read on for why companies like Disney, American Express, Whirlpool and SAP hire Jackie to inspire their teams.
Jackie Huba is the author of four best-selling books, including three on customer loyalty. Her book Monster Loyalty: How Lady Gaga Turns Followers into Fanatics was hailed by Publishers Weekly as “a thought-provoking, well-executed look at one of the biggest music sensations of this generation” that “deconstructs Gaga’s strategies and offers advice on how to Gaga-ize any business.” Jackie coined the term “customer evangelism” with her first book Creating Customer Evangelists: How Loyal Customers Become a Volunteer Sales Force. Her research on highly engaged customers led to the theory of the “One Percenters,” a small but very influential part of one’s customer base, outlined in her book Citizen Marketers: When People are the Message. Her latest book, which helps people with self-confidence issues, is Fiercely You: Be Fabulous and Confident by Thinking Like A Drag Queen, which was endorsed by none other than the top drag queen in the world, RuPaul. Jackie is also a Forbes.com contributor, writing about customer loyalty and word of mouth marketing. A sought after keynote and TEDx speaker, her work has frequently been featured in the media, such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Fast Company. She is a sought after keynote and TEDx speaker, speaking around the world for clients such as Disney, American Airlines, Marriott and Oracle.
Jackie is also the Founder and Executive Director of Drag Out The Vote, a national, nonpartisan nonprofit whose mission is to register, educate and turn out voters with the art and activism of drag.
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