What I learned from Katy Perry

I am a disciple of live music.

I make it a point to attend as many live shows in as many different cultures and cities as possible because it’s important to me to understand how diverse artists captivate and electrify their audience. What techniques are they using to engage their audience? How are they utilizing their skills to add the emotional elements that music such an enthralling experience?

Basically, live music is my R and D studio for business strategy, my advanced schooling for the performances that I give almost a hundred times each year. It’s important to drink life in, to try different tastes, cultures, and experiences.

I was on tour in New Zealand and while I had no real idea what Katy Perry was up to, I soon found out that I was lucky that she was performing to a sold out crowd directly across the street from my hotel in Auckland. I watched the frenzy of teenagers grow as time grew closer to the show and my curiosity grew as well. The sheer volume of people in a line wrapping around the block definitely had my attention.

I rarely go out and see a show the night before I am performing but I had this sense that was important. I did not own any Katy Perry music or know much about her style but the remarkable energy emanating from the growing crowds tipped me that something special was about to take place. I made a last minute call to inquire with my tour sponsor if they could get me in and remarkably they not only got me into the show but generously got me a front row seat and back stage pass.

I walked around the crowd to drink in the ambiance outside of the arena. Her audience was unbelievably engaged, branding themselves in her honor. Dressed in elaborate theatrical outfits, similarly to those Ms. Perry would wear later, they were full accepting of the invitation to become Katy Perry for the evening.

I entered the arena expecting a music concert, yet what I experienced blew my mind.

It was a full scale multi-media theatrical show. Further, it was an interactive 21st century technological experience. It was brilliant. A jumbo-tron and twitter-wall displayed her newly appointed audiences’ every thought via their smartphones. Everyone in the audience had their device in-hand and were tweeting Katy, tweeting friends, and breaking down the wall of performer and audience. It actually created an intimate and authentic experience. From the second Katy took the stage, the audience was whipped into an initial frenzy that engaged deeper and deeper with each song and with each technological interaction.

While the concert was technology rich, it also contained classic elements of a musical. A Disney-esque storyline, costumes, choreography, characters, and her simple, yet tribal, musical rhythms and lyrics.

What I experienced is translated into my business – and any business for that matter. I left asking myself why was this audience so engaged, entertained, and profoundly loyal to her brand? The answer was because she blew them way. She delighted them with an imaginative adventure that removed them from their day-to-day life. I can’t speak to her vocal perfection, original thoughts, or world changing lyrics, but I can speak to her savvy as a business woman and entertainer. Katy Perry gets it and will continue to build her following by engaging fans who become her very best source of marketing. By their own endeavors, they will continue to leverage their social connections to spread her word and share her message.

Find me the most engaged brand in the world, and I’ll top their engagement with what I witnessed Katy Perry doing. What her team is able to pull off should be taught in a course at Harvard Business School because the most sophisticated Fortune 500 companies could learn from her branding and ability to serve her loyal customers.

What can your business start doing today to create a network of raving and socially engaged fans, where they can’t wait to tweet, text, and blog about how you exceeded their expectations and created an A-HA! experience?