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Please read the case below titled “Strategy and success: Lady Gaga and Jeff Bezos” and post your 250 word answer online onto Canvas in the Assignment link to the following questions:
Please note that your answer to the questions must be around 250 words in full sentences with proper spelling, punctuation, and grammar. No abbreviations, such as those used in instant-messaging, will be acceptable. Short answers of one or two sentences will receive lower points.
Opening Case: Strategy and success: Lady Gaga and Jeff Bezos
Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, better known as Lady Gaga, is the most successful popular entertainer to emerge in the 21st century. Her three albums,The Fame, released August 2008, Born This Way, released May 2011, and Artpop, released November 2013, sold a total of 26 million copies by the end of 2013. Her Monster Ball completed a 2009 concert world tour that grossed $227.4 million (the highest for any debut artist). She has earned five Grammy music awards and 13 MTV video music awards and places on Forbes’ listings of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women (though some way behind German Chancellor Angela Merkel).
Since dropping out of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2005, she has shown total commitment to advancing her career as an entertainer and developing her Lady Gaga persona. Gaga’s music is an appealing pastiche of Seventies glam, Eighties disco and Nineties Europop. One music critic, Simon Reynolds, described it as, ‘ruthlessly catchy, noughties pop glazed with Auto-Tune and undergirded with R&B-ish beats’.1 (Links to an external site.) Her songs embody themes of stardom, love, religion, money, identity, liberation, sexuality and individualism.
However, music is only one element in the Lady Gaga phenomenon – her achievement is based less upon her abilities as a singer or songwriter and more upon her establishing a persona which transcends pop music. Like David Bowie and Madonna before her, Lady Gaga is famous for being Lady Gaga. The Gaga persona comprises a multimedia, multifaceted offering built from an integrated array of components that include her music, her stunning visual appearance, newsworthy events, distinctive social attitudes, her personality and a set of clearly communicated values. Key among these is visual impact and theatricality. Lady Gaga’s outfits have set new standards in eccentricity and innovation. Her dresses – including her plastic bubble dress, meat dress and ‘decapitated-corpse dress’ – together with weird hairdos, extravagant hats and extreme footwear (she met President Obama in 16-inch heels) – are as well-known as her hit songs, and her music is promoted through visually stunning videos that combine fantasy, sex, sadism and science fiction. The variety of visual images she projects is such that her every appearance creates a buzz of anticipation as to her latest incarnation.
Lady Gaga has established a business model that recognizes the realities of the post-digital world of entertainment. Like Web 2.0 pioneers such as Facebook and Twitter, Gaga has followed the dictum ‘first build market presence then monetize that presence’. She builds market presence through a range of online channels: her website, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. With 2.8 billion YouTube views, 64 million Facebook fans and 41 million Twitter followers, she is outranked in online presence only by Justin Bieber and Katy Perry. Her emphasis on visual imagery reflects the ways in which her fame is converted into revenue. Music royalties are dwarfed by her concert earnings. Her other revenue sources – merchandizing deals, endorsements and product placements – are also linked to her market presence.
A distinctive feature of Gaga’s market development is the emphasis she places on building relations with her fans. The devotion of her fans – her ‘Little Monsters’ – is based less on their desire to emulate her look as upon empathy with her values and attitudes. They recognize Gaga’s images more as social statements of non-conformity than as fashion statements. In communicating her experiences of alienation and bullying at school and her values of individuality, sexual freedom and acceptance of differences – reinforced through her involvement in charities and gay rights events – she has built a global fan base that is unusual in its loyalty and commitment. As ‘Mother Monster’, Gaga is spokesperson and guru for this community, which is reinforced by her ‘Monster Claw’ greeting and the ‘Manifesto of Little Monsters’.2 (Links to an external site.) To support her own talents as a singer, musician and songwriter, designer and showman, she created the Haus of Gaga as a creative workshop. Modelled on Andy Warhol’s ‘Factory’, it includes choreographers, fashion designers, hair stylists, photographers, makeup artists, publicists, marketing professionals and is led by a creative director.3 (Links to an external site.)
Jeff Bezos and Amazon
In 1994, at the age of 30, Jeff Bezos left the investment firm D. E. Shaw & Company and travelled from New York to Seattle in order to set up an e-commerce business that a year later became Amazon. Since he was a child, Bezos had been obsessed with science and technology and while researching investment opportunities at D. E. Shaw he had become convinced that the Internet would offer a once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity.
On 3rd April 1995, Amazon made its first book sale through a primitive website which linked to a catalogue drawn from Books in Print. Amazon then ordered the book from a local book distributor and dispatched the book from its office, a converted garage, using the US Postal Service. The customer received the book within two weeks.
However, Bezos’s goal was not to create an online bookselling business. His vision was the potential to use the Internet as an intermediary between manufacturers and customers, thereby offering an unprecedented range of products supported by information that could allow these products to be tailored to each customer’s needs – what Bezos referred to as the ‘everything store’. Books would be Bezos’s first product: their durability, transportability and huge variety made them suitable for the online venture that Bezos envisaged.
Amazon was not the first online bookstore: books.com (Links to an external site.) and Abacis preceded it – nor was it alone in its market space: by 1998 a host of new start-ups and established booksellers had established online businesses, including Borders and Barnes & Noble. However, what distinguished Amazon was Bezos’s uncompromising ambition, its obsessive frugality and its unshakable belief in the potential of technology to transform the customer experience through augmented services and unprecedented efficiency.
Amazon’s strategy was dominated by a single objective: growth. According to Bezos: ‘This is a scale business … fixed costs are very high and the variable costs of doing this business are extremely low. As a result our major strategic objective has always been GBF – Get Big Fast.’ Achieving growth meant offering customers the cheapest deal possible, irrespective of its impact on profitability. Amazon’s price cutting and offers of free delivery meant that as business grew so did Amazon’s losses: not until the final quarter of 2001 did Amazon finally turn a profit. Achieving growth also meant continually augmenting customers’buying experience: designing the website to make customers’ shopping experience quick, easy and interesting; allowing customers to review and rate books; offering personalized book recommendations; and constantly seeking new opportunities to surprise and delight customers.
Bezos viewed Amazon as, first and foremost, a technology company. Its mission ‘to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online and that endeavours to offer its customers the lowest possible prices,’ was to be achieved primarily through information technology. However, this also required the company to build leading logistical and merchandising capabilities which involved hiring executives from leaders in marketing and physical distribution companies such as Walmart, Coca-Cola, Allied Signal and the US Army. Amazon’s basis in technology, its mission and its array of marketing, logistical and customer service capabilities meant that books were merely a starting point in fulfilling its growth ambitions: its online business system could be transferred to other products and replicated in other countries. In 1998, Amazon diversified into audio CDs and DVDs and expanded into the UK and Germany. By the end of 2001, Amazon was offering a vast range of products that included computers and electronic products, software and video games, tools, toys and housewares. In addition, it was also hosting products from third-party suppliers – a move that further reinforced its identity as a technology platform rather than an online retailer.
Amazon’s second decade (2005–2014) saw further diversification that proclaimed its credentials as one of the world’s leading technology companies. Initiatives included: 2005 Mechanical Turk – crowdsourcing Internet marketplace where ‘requesters’ post tasks and ‘responders’ bid to do the work. 2006 Amazon Web Services – online services for other websites and client-side applications; by 2010, Amazon Web Services had established itself as the world’s leading provider of cloud computing services. 2007 Kindle – Amazon’s e-book reader was launched a year after the Sony Reader but soon dominated the market for dedicated e-book readers. 2014 Amazon Instant Video – Amazon’s entry into streaming movies and TV shows began with Amazon Unbox in 2006 and was built through the acquisition of UK-based LoveFilm in 2011.
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