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#ConsumerCorner: Is Madonna the Queen of Pop, or just a lot of clever marketing?

Consumer Industries
Consumer Campaigns & B2B

Last weekend Madonna performed the biggest ever concert by a solo artist, with an audience in excess of 1.6M on Rio’s Copacabana beach. The concert was free and rounded off her 81 date Celebration Tour, which grossed a reported $77.4M.

So why did Madonna perform a free gig, when she could have made even more money and consolidated her status as one of the highest grossing touring artists ever?

Madonna has always known how to market herself, long before the days of the internet. In the 80s and 90s, the so called ‘Madonna effect’ was coined because of her headline grabbing, ever changing looks. From the 80s ‘Boy Toy’ net vests through to ‘earth mother’ in the late 90s, she was savvy enough to know that reinvention was a key marketing tool.

When her video for Like a Prayer was deemed too controversial for sponsor Pepsi, because it featured a black Jesus, she managed to keep the estimated $5M that she was due to earn for a tour sponsorship. She knew which move to make ahead of her sponsors.

The very risqué Justify my Love video was later banned in 1990 due to its promotion of sexually explicit themes, so rather than miss an opportunity, she released it as the first ever VHS single. A stroke of genius.

The artist doesn’t always get things right and has sometimes read the room wrong. Her 9th studio album featured ‘anti-Iraq war’ song American Life, which led to the artist being banned from most American radio stations for over a year.

And now, in her mid-sixties, there is little sign that she is ready to throw the towel in yet. What do you do when Taylor Swift and Beyonce start to smash some of your records? You get your marketing hat on and think ‘what do I do next?’

The free show in Rio was definitely a ‘thank you’ to her Brazilian fans, many of whom would not have been able to afford the eye-watering ticket prices. But I can’t help thinking that her intentions were not completely altruistic. This weekend she managed to get on to most global news channels championing the gig and for setting a new world record.  She definitely deserves her mantle as the Queen of Pop, but I would argue, that at 65, she is also the Queen of Marketing.