Kim Kardashian and Lady Gaga are both master marketers. Both women have carried out strategies to build their brands into empires.  Forget about what you might think about either and stay with me on the marketing.

Kardashian has built a following of Kim Kardasian. Her marketing preceded her product offering! Do you know what she does? Have you purchased a Kim Kardashian product? Likely not. Still, she has created sufficient buzz to generate a lot of wealth. She does audacious things and plays a “simple girl” role. Apparently we like the glitz.

Lady Gaga has different strategy. She has a marketable talent. Lady Gaga has music to sell. Lady Gaga is also audacious. She has worn some pretty outlandish outfits. Certainly she knows how to get attention.

And now we come to where the Kardashian-Gaga marketing road forks.

Lady Gaga, as over the top as her appearance may be, seems sincerely genuine and honest with her fan base. She has a rationale behind the bizarre. She has always been a little different according to every interview I’ve ever seen. She is now able to express her “true self” even if that means wearing a dress made of meat. She’s making a statement and it’s her own unique statement. No matter how far out her appearance, her core message remains anchored to a solid point: I’m being me.

Kim Kardashian has built a house of cards with her self-promotion. That’s okay. I would just be expressing envy to say otherwise. She has no other talent except for an extraordinary ability to self-promote. And that’s a real talent in itself. So, good for her.

Now we have this marriage fiasco. A magazine reportedly paid $2 million for exclusive wedding pictures. The happy couple landed on the front page of the tabloids. Her brand value soared.

But there’s talk that the wedding was merely more of Kim’s self-promotion. Ms. Kardashian has made statements extolling her reverence for the institution of marriage. She claims that she would never marry for money, or to make money or however profiting from marriage should be stated. She’s playing the part of the simple girl carried away by her prince. Do you believe her?

The answer to that question, whether we trust her sincerity, is crucial to the survival of the brand.

I’ll come to the point. Great marketing is honest marketing. Great marketing is transparent as well. Make your claims and show the warts. (The popularity of transparent product reviews clearly demonstrates that being less than perfect actually enhances your credibility.) If your ‘fan’ base, we all have fan bases thanks to Facebook, believes they are being manipulated, they flee.

The lesson from all this pop culture silliness is:

  • Your marketing message must be unique
  • Being outlandish to the extreme, done correctly, will not hurt your brand; it could help.
  • Transparency and honesty matter. You can’t just be outlandish. You must back it up with talent.
  • Dupe your fans and you will end up the loser.

Chris Reich