How We Can All Learn From Madonna
“I became an overachiever to get approval from the world” – Madonna
At a seminar last week, the question of Madonna popped up. The discussion centred around how this mega star has remained relevant since the 80s, how she brilliantly diversified and managed to keep her brand alive along the way. Of course the scenario was centred around business although in this case, Madonna the brand can more or less be likened to any successful business enterprise.
Madonna was once described by Billboard magazine as “the smartest business woman in show business”. It is not difficult to see why; as the highest ever paid female singer with 30 years of success at the top, she deserves that accolade. Like her or hate her, Madonna is an ultra successful entrepreneur whose strategy must be copied by every entrepreneur who wants to be successful. Below are 5 business strategies applied by Madonna in her successful career.
Differentiation – It is an established fact that in order for a business (small or large) to outperform its competitors it must consider some business strategies and apply at least one of them. Differentiation (making you product different but more attractive) and Cost leadership (offer products or services at the lowest cost in the industry) are some of the conventional business strategies today. It is clear to see that Madonna’s strategy is that of differentiation. In almost every aspect of her career she has applied the differentiation; from her musical style, to her ever-changing target market which oscillates from young to old, heterosexual to homosexual and everything in between. Cost leadership has never been her strategy and that can be seen from her ticket pricing which sometimes start at $100 for a show. By constantly changing her persona and her musical genre, Madonna has made an art of being different from other musicians and this has worked successfully for her brand.
Diversification – No one does it better! Apart from having a successful music career, Madonna has promoted (or been the style icon behind) top brands like Pepsi, Max Factor, Gap, H&M and Louise Vuitton). In addition to that, she has starred in at least 6 major film roleshttp://www.livenation.co.uk as well as become a bestselling children’s author. Her ability ensures that she does not stick to music alone because she has that legendary ‘nose for business’.
Relevance – Since the early 80s Madonna has managed to sustain her reign as the ‘Queen of Pop’. How has she been able to do that? Because she has that uncanny ability to maintain her importance. The secret to this is by constantly renewing her appeal to different types of music lovers, not just her followers. By collaborating with Justin Timberlake and Kanye West, she was able to systematically pull in not only the young audience but urban R&B lovers too. Who says this woman is not smart?
Market Knowledge – Madonna knows what the market wants and time and time again, she gives it to them. In 2009, at a time when the highest earners in music moved from record sales to those with best-selling tours, Madonna’s Sticky and Sweet world tour topped Bill Board’s money makers chart with a revenue of $242 Million which was (at the time) $100 Million more than her nearest competitor Bon Jovi. She managed to do this by recognising that in order to continue to maintain a successful business, you must be willing know your market; she did that by signing a mega deal with Live Nation, the largest concert promotion company in the world while ensuring that she retains 90% of gross touring revenues and 50% of endorsements.
Image/Branding – Madonna’s image was carefully created. Her brand promotes rebellion and she her image promotes controversy, period! In the late 80s she took on the catholic church by releasing a video dressed as a ‘sinner’ kissing a supposed ‘black Jesus’ and smiled to the bank with £41 Million. After taking full control of her image, she published a ‘soft porn’ entitled SEX. Ever wondered why a successful artist like Madonna will even contemplate inviting controversy by publishing porn? She was smart enough to know that ‘sex sells’ and she used her brand to promote that which ‘we are all afraid to do’. All through her career (and up until recently) Madonna has been famous for news generation. I believe this is carefully staged and represents a well-oiled and efficient marketing/promotion machine which she single-handedly created.
At 50 plus, it is easy for Madonna to be discounted as past glory and that will be foolish because over the years she has continually rebranded and made herself relevant. You don’t really need to buy her albums to know that Madonna’s business acumen is legendary and as entrepreneurs we can all learn from her. She is a true Entrepreneur.