Lady Gaga adds COVID to her 50 year career plan

Business Booster 447

Lady Gaga spearheaded an effort to raise funds for WHO. She curated the “One World: Together at Home Concert” which was livestreamed and brought in performances from 100+ stars across generations – think Billie Eilish, Elton John, Rolling Stones – and raised $127 million. For a musician still famous for “Poker Face” that debuted 13 years ago, it keeps her relevant and meaningful to the next generation. She also provided a platform for her fellow artistes to express themselves and speak to their fans – true leadership. Will she still be making music 35 years from now? Let’s see, but so far so good.

Let’s take a look at a band that has managed their 50 year career rather well. The Rolling Stones started singing in 1962. They participated in the One World concert, and have released their first single in 8 years. Titled “Living in a Ghost Town” it has a COVID Context with lyrics like “Life was so beautiful, now we all got locked down/Feel like a ghost, living in a ghost town.“ It was written and recorded last year, but modified to be relevant before release this week.

In last week’s newsletter I talked about Recession Relevance and COVID Context – Here’s a simple deck on how you can figure this out for yourself. This template will explain why Apple and Allen Solly are doing things that are atypical. But more on that in a bit, let’s get back to the 50 year career.

Most of my relatives had steady government jobs and retired at 58 to live on their pensions. They took up hobbies like cooking or gardening, retired to their ’native places” and looked after their grandkids in the summer. This is unlikely to be my future. Plants generally die after knowing me for a week, and with YouTube and Swiggy, cooking is over-rated. Many of my friends are leading fulfilling lives way beyond 58, so I think it is better to plan your career to be at least 50 years long.

The first decade should be when you find your feet and figure out what you’re good at. The next decade is about consolidating that knowledge and monetizing it. The next 10 is about ensuring financial independence – you may need to revisit your lifestyle choices to ensure you are independent. The 4th decade is about being engaged and useful and self actualization. And the 5th decade is about doing things that make you and others happy. A friend of mine (and batchmate), Lakshman “Lux” Narayan did a TED Talk on what we can learn from obituaries, or, a life well lived. In the word clouds created using NYT obituaries, the most common intersection was “help.” In the end, a life worth remembering in death is lived by making a difference and helping others. Useful to keep this thought in mind when you chart out your half-century career plan.

My 11 year old had an online school assignment on “What makes people happy”. I was very happy to use that as a chance to introduce her to “Maslow’s Pyramid of Happiness” and realized that can also be a career map without any timeline attached to it. You first work to ensure that your basic needs are taken care of, then you look at satisfying higher order needs like belonging, esteem and self-actualization. It puts in perspective that at each stage your expectations should be different. For example if you are working for basic needs like mortgage payments it may not be wise to jeopardize that for esteem reasons. Or if you are working to feel fulfilled and have your basic needs already taken care of, then you shouldn’t worry about monetization. It is also ok to go back a level or two – for example a financial downturn or unexpected education expenses, may make you revert to looking for safety. Even Damien Hirst whose artwork sells for millions has made cutbacks as his financial status fluctuated. If you like his stuff this interview makes for very interesting reading.

I know that there’s probably a lot of job anxiety out there as we do not yet know what the post-lockdown future will look like. But if we look at it from the 50 year lens we may be able to have a calmer perspective. Understand that in the short term there will be a demand for those with a COVID Context and Recession Relevance. Right now skills in big spending large format events are not as relevant as someone who talks of doing more with less so you may want to revisit your resume using the template I mentioned earlier.

More with less brings me back to the unusual launch of Apple’s most recent phone – the iPhone SE. For a luxury brand to proclaim “Lots to love, less to spend” is a tad off character. But it does give them Recession Relevance. Luxury products are often hard hit in a downturn so this may not be as brand-shaking as we think. Allen Solly’s launch of face masks for men gives them a COVID Context. Yes it’s opportunistic but at least they have a hook to talk about. Patanjali’s launch of a hand sanitizer is also along the same lines. After last week’s newsletter I had the privilege of bouncing off ideas with a couple of readers on how to map their portfolio on these vectors of COVID-Context and Recession Relevance. Their products seemingly did not tick the boxes but we were able to jointly identify that there were elements in their product mix that could be emphasized to make them contextual.

I don’t know how it is for you, but in my home we’re starting to wonder “what day is it” (and also why our clothes are shrinking even as our cooking skills are taking giant leaps forward). Economies around the world are hoping to open up soon – here is a viewpoint on India reopening by friends of mine (and classmates) Sanjay Srivastava and Manish Agarwal. My thoughts were quoted in this Bangalore Mirror Article and this one in The Hindu Business Line on how COVID-19 has changed our habits and preferences.

If you’d like to have more conversations about what’s happening in marketing do join my CMO India marketing group on Facebook.

And of course if you’d like to bounce of your product portfolio mapping with me please comment on the post. It’s a free half hour session on Zoom.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.