Marketing February 2, 2016 Last updated September 18th, 2018 1,424 Reads share

Digital Marketing Lessons to Learn from Madonna’s Foibles

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When it comes to branding and digital marketing, few have as recognizable a brand as Madonna. She’s been entertaining audiences for 30+ years, and has reinvented herself again and again.

Still, recently, she’s made some daring career moves that have been criticized. Is she succeeding at creating a buzz around her, or is her relevancy to today’s music audience dwindling? Whatever your opinion, you have to admit, there are lessons that marketers can learn from her.

Know Your Audience

Madonna has targeted teens to twentysomethings throughout her career. But is it still possible for her to hold appeal to that demographic as she gets older and music tastes change? In an effort to get this audience’s approval, she’s paired up with everyone from Miley Cyrus to Taylor Swift to Drake, and not always successfully.

The Lesson to Learn: Knowing who you’re trying to reach is essential in marketing, whether you’re trying to hit the Billboard charts or sell toothpaste. Reaching beyond that demographic that cares about your product will just waste time and money. Your efforts are better spent concentrating on your ideal customer and reaching them through the marketing channels they prefer.

I’ve whittled down the types of clients I work with in my marketing firm to a very specific type. They’re business owners and CEOs of small businesses, and while they value marketing and writing, they don’t have the time or energy to do it themselves.

Not sure who your customer is? Find out. A simple survey emailed to customers after a sale can help you get valuable data on age, income, location, and buying habits that you can use to better target to that demographic.

If You’re Going to Use Social Media, Know What You’re Doing

Madonna’s move onto social media is like a train wreck you can’t help but watch. Her streams on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter share identical images and updates, all surrounding her new Rebel Heart album. There’s no interaction with fans, and it’s a little too PR-polished to feel genuine.

The Lesson to Learn: People want to get to know you and your brand on social media. Let them. Interact with them. Respond to messages sent to you, and give people a reason to follow you on each social channel. Diversify what you share on each site.

I spend maybe an hour a week on social media, but I get a lot done. I have my company’s blog content automated to be shared on social media, and I schedule reshares of other people’s content. I add to that my own comments and questions for some diversity.

If you’re unclear on how to appeal to your audience, see what others in your industry are doing on social media. While you don’t want to copy their strategy, you can get ideas about innovative ways to connect to your audience on social sites.

Be Brazen, Not Offensive in Your Digital Marketing

Madonna created a firestorm earlier in the year when she posted images of leaders like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr. in bondage, mimicking her own bonded face on her new album. We’ve embraced her controversial envelope-pushing in the past, but many felt this was disrespectful and missed the mark.

The Lesson to Learn: Don’t be afraid to be daring in your marketing. You want people talking about your brand, even if it’s because they’re not sure how to feel about your marketing. But realize there are social boundaries that you should never cross.

When you do push into uncharted territory, carefully monitor results. Your web traffic and social media interaction numbers will tell you how positively (or not) people are responding to your creative endeavors.

Focus On a Niche

Madonna has tried every style of music from electronica to country. She’s entitled to exercise her artistic creativity, but her core audience likes her peppy dancey pop music. Sticking to that niche would net her more loyal fans.

The Lesson to Learn: Know what you sell and stick to it. When you deviate from that, you water down your market share, and people scratch their heads, unsure of what your brand stands for.

Years ago, I accepted any and all work in my marketing firm. I figured the more work I did, the more money I’d make. But it left me feeling stretched and stressed. I took (what I considered to be) a leap and zeroed in my niche to offer just one main service (writing), and rather than limit my revenue potential, I helped it grow. Why? I got better at the one thing I was already doing well, and that attracted more business.

Being well-known for one thing (such as selling writing services) will get you more respect than trying to be all things to all people.

Have a PR Crisis Plan

Madonna’s newest album, Rebel Heart, had a lackluster launch, due to several of the songs being leaked on the Internet. You can’t plan for getting hacked the way she did (and the guy who did it got 14 years in prison), but you can have a backup plan for how to mitigate what could end up a disaster.

The Lesson to Learn: It may seem pessimistic, but plan for the worst. If an irate customer bashes your brand on Twitter, how will you respond? If you get a negative product review on a prominent site, how will you counter it?

If you’re constantly monitoring what’s being said about your brand online, it should be fairly easy to nip any issues in the bud by responding immediately.

Don’t Get Stuck in a Rut

If anyone illustrates this point, it’s Madonna. She’s reinvented herself more than anyone, and usually successfully. She has fun with every iteration she’s tried on (as well as every outrageous costume she’s worn).

The Lesson to Learn: While you may not want to change your brand up quite as much as Madge, mixing things up occasionally can breathe new life into your marketing. If you always send a stodgy email newsletter in the same format, change it up by sending a shorter, letter-style email every other month. Diversify what you share on social media. Update your logo or add holiday bling to your website.

Again, whatever changes you make, monitor results. That data will be the key to helping you find the right marketing mix. And if something new doesn’t do as well as tried and true ways, change it back.

I try to assess my company’s marketing efforts annually. If there is anything that isn’t driving traffic or results, I switch it out. I also pay attention to trends, like new social media and tools, and embrace those that seem to be sticking around.

At this point in the game, Madonna can do whatever she pleases. After all, she has brand equity. But if you don’t have 30 years of building a relationship with your customers, you may need to follow the rules a bit more than she does. Still, she’s a great role model to look to in terms of how to brand successfully (as well as maybe a few tips on what not to do in digital marketing).

Images: ” CHIANGMAI, THAILAND – February 26, 2015: Photo of Wikipedia arti  /


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Susan Guillory

Susan Guillory

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