Madonna, branding genius
Stefan Engeseth wrote about pop star Madonna and her ability to connect with her audiences at his Detective Marketing blog today. But a lot of Madonna’s genius is down to rebranding, more effectively than any organization can, as I wrote in response:
Madonna’s reported genius is her ability to reinvent herself periodically when one image becomes tired. This is genius in the music industry—especially as each Madonna incarnation is successful and high-proﬁle. Other singers who have gone through reinventions—Olivia Newton-John, Kylie Minogue, Britney Spears—have never been able to hold a consistent “share of mind”.
In a branding sphere, few rebrands work so well because companies are hampered with an existing image. Madonna took care of that by shocking people early on—and each “rebrand” is expected to cast away the remains of the last, something that organizations, generally, cannot (but maybe could?) do.
After all, when we are assigned a branding task for a client, we have to take into account the history, for better or worse. There is still some brand equity in existing images. Madonna, because she has shocked and done 180-degree turns, does not need to take into account too much beyond current and emerging consumer trends. In a weird postmodern twist, the only history is to have no history—something that few can do. Anyone who has tried is instantly compared to Madonna—she has personal rebrands pretty much sewn up in the pop world. Posted by Jack Yan, 06:10
Madonna's brand IS that she reinvents her self regularly, fans expect - even look forward to- the change and are more accepting when it happens. She manages to stay current AND not peeve her fans off. 50-Cent couldn'nt hold his fan base if Madonna's people did double time on making him an emo punk rocker or boy band crooner. Same goes for Eric Clapton.
Madonna doesn't rebrand at all. Shes stays firmly in the pithy, superficial realm of Dance Pop, a level of sexuality is exhibited, shes switches wardrobe, producer and bam, "Reinvented". These elements are her core brand values, and they never change.
Interestingly, when Madonna did try a different approach and made a politcal statement in her music (on the current war in her Album "American Life") it became her least successful album to date. Madonna thrives on controversay and other bands fuel their entire careers on politcal statements, Rage Against The Machine for example, but Madonna couldnt pull it off.
She returned by Kissing Britney Spears on Stage at the MTV awards in a new set of clothes.
Branding genius? Yup. Rebranding genius? No.
The lesson for regular business is that you CAN keep current if you customers expect a relevent product, but your core values, those that truly constitute your brand, probably shouldn't be messed with.
# posted by Dan Gordon: 7/16/2006 10:25:00 AM
Good argument, Dan. Actually, bloody good—especially with American Life being your support (which I didn’t consider), and bringing it back to the core values. I like what you’re saying here and I’m beginning to see it your way.
Say, Dan, what do you reckon about the shorter main page?
I would agree that Madonna has been incredible in her ability to re-invent herself repeatedly. Because of this, she has managed to stay fresh musically and keep fan interest.
Another area where Madonna has shown great savvy is in creating spin. She'll deliberately do something that'll create controversy because she knows it'll create spin and thereby interest in her. It can also make her look hip.
Lastly, she has been very lucky to have a string of songs that have clicked with people. One of the biggest problems artists have is writing or getting really good songs that hit.
On the political angle, I think an artist has to be careful there. Certain audiences don't take well to that kind of stuff. An example would the the Dixie Chicks in the U.S. and their Bush bashing. It may have created a lot of hype for them but I have no doubt it hurt their album and concert ticket sales. Country music fans tend to be for God and Country and don't like folks who go around bashing the President.
Based on what Dan Gordon said, she might want to avoid that. She can always promote her political views other ways.
Excellent points, Ron. And I agree the Dixie Chicks found themselves in heaps more trouble over their comments. If you’re a southern group, I would have thought it was grade-A dumb to go against the core Republican audience by criticizing the President. They can have any view they like, and express it if they so wish, but in my mind, it was commercial suicide to publicly diss Dubya and, therefore, not very prudent for their careers.
Yo Ditto, word. Virgin is probably the corporate equivilent of Madonna, they revitalise their brand values every couple years by launching a completely new company. I wonder how much brand equity they would have if the were still selling mail order cd's. I think entering new markets (accompanied by some branson stunt) keeps the same brand fresh.
Another way that you can look at it is that each of Madonnas "looks" are really products by Madonna. Fans of "Madonna Brand" can collect em' all in the form of albums and music videos. Oh and a book.
And Jack, I spend too much time with label people to believe any of the hype.
Re: Main page. Can't figure out what you mean since I read you on bloglines 99.9% of the time...
Im off to Japan again in a few hours. Wish me luck. I got some meetings about my streetwear label sans translator. Eek.
# posted by Dan Gordon: 7/16/2006 01:57:00 PM
Bon voyage, Dan!
Virgin is actually a good example of your earlier argument, Dan: that change and diversiﬁcation are hard-wired into the company vision. It aims to be a challenger, as its raison d’être, but that inspires people within the organization.
I meant the main blog page at jackyan.com/blog, but no worries if you are reading me via a reader.
Don’t worry, I don’t go in for label hype, and the days for that stuff are fast waning, in my view.
Just remember to bow and be humble and you will be ﬁne in Japan. If you get stuck, give our photographer Douglas Rimington an email—use the ﬁrst name dot surname at lucire.com convention and grab his phone number. He speaks ﬂuent Japanese (his mother is Japanese, though he put himself through uni to learn it properly).
One thing, Dan, though you’ll be in Japan by now: when Madonna started, no one expected change to be part of her personal brand. I think we had come to expect a certain amount of it with pop stars, though one could say that she has incorporated it as her core value; others have not, at least not to this degree, and fell as a result. Olivia Newton-John’s Physical image, for instance, didn’t draw too many more hits; and the pop world seems littered with these casualties.
Cant stop thinking of what Madonna are going to do next. ONE think that I guess she will be the first to do is spreading here talented DNA on here next CD. Did not now if that is something that is possible – then yesterday I meet Anna how is an expert and working with human DNA in Norway. She explained that it is possible to put in ONE a CD but it is going to be a lot of information. I hope Madonna would do this so other artist in the future can not only sample here music, but also here magic DNA into there music and art.
When are we going to see Jack Yan DNA spread on this blog?
# posted by Stefan Engeseth: 7/17/2006 07:42:00 AM
Hej Stefan! I haven’t had my DNA coded out yet and I think I might stick with the old-fashioned way of spreading it … Well, that does take another party and it’s still too early to have that sort of conversation! But it would be a strange future if we could indeed have our DNA put on to a disc. It will be possible, I am sure, and I even have a few theories that that’s how we humans started out, once upon a time …
FINALLY someone who sees this my way. I don't really even like Madonna but I gotta say that she's masterful when it comes to marketing herself. She's been around for decades now.
Hi Nicole! Yes, she is not my favourite pop artist by a long shot but I have to admire her for her marketing expertise. And I admit to liking one of her songs, ‘Beautiful Stranger’, because it wasn’t hummable and she still got away with it. (I am of the sing-along generation!)Post a Comment
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