Picture this. When Polaroid announced its new relationship with pop diva Lady Gaga, it rocked the CES haus and nearly brought down Twitter. The former Stefani Germanotta, looking wonderfully preposterous in a hat made of her own hair, was shakin’ it as the brand’s Creative Director. She even showed off her new business card.
Okay, the pairing might be a stretch. At least on its face. What’s a nostalgia-inducing instant camera brand got to do with a bi-friendly, 23-year-old pop star known for bizarre costumes, explicit lyrics, and over-the-top theatrics? And, the reaction among media and bloggers has been mixed. But who cares? When’s the last time you thought about Polaroid? Exactly. The brand has nailed the first rule of relevance in our celebrity-saturated, paparazzi-loving, “instant” culture. It has everyone talking.
Polaroid has struggled through two bankruptcies and changed ownership twice over the last seven years, so it’s exciting to see it take center stage. And, it pulled off the PR announcement with real flair, creating a reasonable context for the Gaga relationship, leveraging CES to the hilt, and virtually stealing the show. It’s a far cry from James Garner and Mariette Hartley.
But, techies wonder, why not just invest in R&D instead of renting a celebrity? In my view, that’s missing the point. The Gaga hook-up is about positioning the Polaroid brand for the younger crowd, the digital natives, the fashion-forward. For me, it’s also about aligning it with creativity and pure fun. And the 2010 new product lineup seems to be right in the same frame.
Personally, I think Gaga’s an inspired choice. She’s a very visual entertainer who’s all about image, but with real talent under her eccentric get-ups. And, her sexualized, androgynous, no-holds-barred style puts it all out there, so there’s little risk of a nasty surprise, a la Tiger Woods. The only bombshell here is Gaga herself.
But by giving her a lofty title and taking pains to describe the relationship as a true partnership, Polaroid is pushing limits, including those of credibility. It begs the question of what, exactly, her role will be. It would no doubt have been easier – and maybe more authentic – to announce a conventional brand-sponsor endorsement deal. Polaroid would still have the benefit of Gaga’s creativity, fashion iconography, and monster fan base, but without straining plausibility.
But, I’m willing to wait and see. The bigger picture won’t be clear until we see the kinds of specialty products designed under the Gaga imprimatur, and whether the Polaroid gig is actually integrated into her music, fashion, and artistry. It’s a bold move, but at the very least, one thing is certain. We’ll all be watching to see what develops.