Tom Tom Madonna

kinnon —  June 17, 2005 — 1 Comment

Tom Peters News Services points to an article from South African site, Biz Community.Com championing Madonna as the Queen of Brand Re-invention.

Kathryn Sakalis, Marketing Director of the Foschini Group, says that marketers can learn a lot from Madonna’s excellent marketing skills.

One of the secrets of Madonna’s success, according to Sakalis, is that she knows how to read the market, and has mastered the art of seeming to be talking directly to reach each one of her fans – in spite of appealing to many different types of women.

Allow me a moment to disagree.

Madonna is the quintessential Pop Tart (sorry Kellogg’s) of the boomer generation – acquiring and shedding persona’s in an ever more vapid attempt to keep an audience. From Material Girl to Vogue Voyeur to Porn Chic to High Priestess of Kaballah, Madonna has re-invented herself in a "whatever it takes" style. And my, how Christine & Brittany’s careers skyrocketed after the The Kiss of the Spider Woman @ the MTV awards, eh? One might ask, "Would the real Ms. Cicconne please stand up?" But I would suggest that there is no real Madonna.

The problem is, we have lost interest in Madonna. But Madonna has not lost interest in our interest. Hence the lingering, sexy, utterly contrived kisses with which she chose to draw the cameras at the MTV Awards. (Telegraph August 30th, 2003)

Madonna may well be an example of Modern brand re-invention, but in a post-modern world the audience is looking for authenticity rather than perfect plastic. And, in spite of Madonna’s past success, she is hardly an example for successful brand management.  Tom Asacker, in A Clear Eye for Branding comments:

We want to be around strong, authentic, engaging people. People who can bring us new insights, solutions, connection, and enjoyment. People who can inspire us. Passionate people with a strong point of view, who aren’t afraid to take a few risks.

Madonna is an empty vessel, hoping to be filled with whatever will sell. Her passion is her success and the only view she’s interested is yours – and it staring at whatever her latest spectacle will be. It’s rather sad, actually. (See her PR stunt of dressing up as a Nun and her Guy as a Priest.) And it’s no way to build a brand.



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

One response to Tom Tom Madonna

  1. If Madonna is such an anathema to post-modern dogma, then why does she keep her success while “real” divas like Alanis Morrissette seem boring and bored after a few years? Since we are now asked to fake “realness” – hip hop is obsessed with and dying because of it – and appear “uplifting” and “engaged” to the point of spiritual kitsch, I suggest we take a further look at Madonna and realise that ideals of beauty, dance and power don’t go away just because we want them to. You can spend your life singing folk ditties for the disenfranchised, but looking at her album sales and ticket sales, I suspect she’s doing mighty fine after 25 years…


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