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Thursday, May 30, 2013

strategic case analysis - MADONNA

case one
Madonna
Robert M. Grant
THE STRUGGLE
In July 1978, shortly before her 20th birthday, Madonna Louise Ciccone arrived in New
York City with $35 in her pocket. She had left Ann Arbor where she was majoring in
dance at the University of Michigan. Madonna was raised in the suburbs of Detroit. The
third of eight children, her mother had died when she was 6 years old. Her prospects
in the world of show business looked poor. Apart from her training in dance, she had
little musical background and no contacts.
Life in New York was a struggle. “I worked at Dunkin’ Donuts, I worked at Burger
King, I worked at Amy’s. I had a lot of jobs that lasted one day. I always talked back to
people and they’d fire me. I was a coat-check girl at the Russian Tea Room. I worked at
a health club once a week.”1 She spent a few months training with the Alvin Ailey
Dance Theater and had a succession of modeling engagements for photographers and
artists. During 1979, Madonna explored a wider range of opportunities. With new
boyfriend Dan Gilroy, his brother Ed, and bassist Angie Smit, “Breakfast Club” was
formed, with Madonna sharing vocals and drums with Dan. For 6 months Madonna
was dancer and backup singer to French singing star Patrick Hernandez, during which
time she performed in Paris and around Europe and North Africa. In August 1979,
Madonna was offered the lead role in underground movie director Stephen Lewicki’s
low-budget film A Certain Sacrifice.
After breaking up with Dan Gilmore, Madonna was nomadic, sleeping on
the couches of various friends and acquaintances before finding a commercial loft
in the garment district. “There was no hot water. There wasn’t even a fucking
shower.”2 “At one point I was living in a New York flophouse and eating out of garbage
cans.”3
In a new effort to form a band, Madonna invited her former Michigan boyfriend,
Steve Bray, to New York. They moved into the Music Building – a converted 12-story
building crammed with studios, rehearsal rooms, and striving, impoverished young
bands. Together they worked on writing songs and developing their sound. The result-
Copyright © 2005 Robert M. Grant
2
ing rock band, “Emmy,” made little impression, but Madonna maintained a continuous
stream of calls to managers, agents, record companies, and club owners. Camille
Barbone offered a management contract – but only for Madonna. However, Barbone
was unable to deliver success fast enough for Madonna and after 18 months Madonna
fired her.
Finding a Sound, Finding a Style
During 1981, Madonna’s music and image moved in a new direction. Influenced by
the emerging dance scene in New York, Madonna moved increasingly from Pretenders/
Pat Benatar rock to the dance music that was sweeping New York clubs. In addition
to working with Steve Bray to develop songs and mix demo tapes, she worked on her
image – a form of glam-grunge that featured multilayered, multicolored combinations
of thrift-store clothing together with scarves and junk jewelry. She adopted “Boy
Toy” as her “tag name” and prominently displayed it on her belt buckle. It was a look
that she would continue to develop with the help of jewelry designer Maripole. Her
trademark look of messy, badly dyed hair, neon rubber bracelets, black lace bras, white
lace gloves, and chunky belt buckles would soon be seen on teenage girls throughout
the world.
Madonna was quick to recognize the commercial implications of the new musical
wave – it was the dance clubs that were key inroads and the DJs who were the key gatekeepers.
Armed with her demo tapes, Madonna and her friends increasingly frequented
the hottest dance clubs where they would make a splash with their flamboyant clothing
and provocative dancing. At Danceteria, one of the staff referred to her as a “heatseeking
missile targeting the hottest DJs.” There she attracted the attention of DJ Mark
Kamins who introduced her to Mike Rosenblatt and Seymour Stein of Sire Records. A
recording contract and $5,000 were soon hers.
The first release was a 12-inch single with different versions of Everybody on
each side. The record gained extensive dance-club play. Madonna began working on her
first album. Although she had promised both longtime friend and music collaborator
Steve Bray and DJ Mark Kamins the job of producer, she dumped both in favor
of Warner Records’ house producer, Reggie Lucas. Together with Warner Records’
national dance promoter, Bobby Shaw, Madonna began a relentless round of courting
DJs and pushing her record for play time. Central to the promotion plan was New
York’s hottest DJ, John “Jellybean” Benitez, who Madonna began dating in November
1982.
Her second single, Burning Up, with Physical Attraction (written by Reggie Lewis)
on the B-side, was released in March 1983. It too was a dance-club hit and bounded
up the dance charts to number three. With full attention and full resources of
Warner Brothers and a network of DJs, Madonna had most of the pieces she needed
in place – but not quite. Early in 1983 she flew to Los Angeles to visit Freddie
DeMann, then manager of megastar Michael Jackson. DeMann remembers the
meeting vividly: “I was knocked off my feet. I’ve never met a more physical human
being in my life.” In a short time DeMann dropped Michael Jackson in favor of
managing Madonna.
MADONNA
3
Breakthrough
The record album Madonna was released in July 1983. By the end of 1983, the record
was climbing the US album charts supported by the success of single release Holiday.
In April 1984, another single release from the album, Borderline, became Madonna’s
first top-10 hit. At Madonna’s national TV debut on American Bandstand, presenter Dick
Clark asked Madonna “What do you really want to do when you grow up?” “Rule the
world,” she replied.
Within little more than a year Madonna was partway there. The fall of 1984 saw
Madonna filming in Desperately Seeking Susan. Although initially hired as support for
the movie’s star, Rosanna Arquette, Madonna soon turned the movie into a vehicle
for herself. By the time the shooting was complete, it was essentially a movie about
Madonna playing herself, wearing her own style of clothes, and featuring her own
music. The release of the movie coincided with a surge of Madonna-mania. Her second
album, Like a Virgin, had gone triple-platinum in February 1985, while the singles
charts featured a succession of individual tracks from the album. Madonna’s first
concert tour was a sell-out. Her marriage to bad-boy actor Sean Penn on August 16,
1985 further reinforced her celebrity status. When Madonna took up residence in Los
Angeles during 1985, she was already a star and seldom far from the popular press
headlines.
FAME, FORTUNE, NOTORIETY
During the next two decades, little would come between Madonna and her quest for
fame. Between 1986 and 1990, she released six record albums. The 16 single releases
from these albums gave her a near-continuous presence in the charts including a
remarkable seven number one hits.4 In the process, Madonna rejected the industry’s
conventional wisdom of “Find a winning formula and stick to it.” Madonna’s career
was a continuous experimentation with new musical ideas and new images, and a constant
quest for new heights of fame and acclaim. Having established herself as the
queen of popular music, Madonna did not stop there. By the end of the 1980s she was
destined to be “the most famous woman on the planet.”
Madonna in Charge
Behind Madonna’s rags-to-riches story is her own drive, determination, and appetite
for hard work. “I’m tough, I’m ambitious, and I know exactly what I want – and if
that makes me a bitch, that’s okay,” she told the London News of the World newspaper
in 1985. On the set of Desperately Seeking Susan she maintained a blistering
pace. “During the shoot we’d often get home at 11:00 or 12:00 at night and have
to be back at 6:00 or 7:00 the next morning. Half the time the driver would pick
up Madonna at her health club. She’d get up at 4:30 in the morning to work out
first.”5
MADONNA
4
There was never any doubt as to who was in charge of managing and developing
Madonna’s career. While Madonna relied upon some of the best minds and strongest
companies in the entertainment business, there was never any ambiguity as to who
was calling the shots. In addition to Freddie DeMann as manager, Madonna hired top
lawyer Paul Schindler to represent her business deals. Her swift exit from her marriage
with Sean Penn further emphasized her unwillingness to allow messy personal relationships
to compromise her career goals. When it came to her third album – True Blue
– released in June 1986 – Madonna insisted on being co-producer.
The best evidence of her hands-on management style is the documentary of her
1990 “Blonde Ambition” tour, Truth or Dare. The tour itself was a masterpiece of the
pop concert as multimedia show embracing music, dance, and theater. The tour’s planning
began in September 1989. Madonna was involved in every aspect of the show’s
design and planning, including auditioning dancers and musicians, planning, costume
design, and choice of themes. For example, Madonna worked closely with Jean-Paul
Gaultier on the metallic, cone-breasted costumes that became one of the tour’s most
vivid images. On the tour itself, the Truth or Dare movie revealed Madonna as both creative
director and operations supremo. In addition to her obsessive attention to every
detail of the show’s production, she was the undisputed organizational leader responsible
for building team spirit among the diverse group of dancers, musicians, choreographers,
and technicians, motivating the troupe when times were tough; resolving
disputes between her fractious and highly strung male dancers; and establishing the
highest standards of commitment and effort.
The summer of 1990 marked new heights of international obsession with
Madonna. The “Blonde Ambition” tour was the must-see concert of that summer in
North America, Europe and Japan. The tour coincided with the release of Dick Tracy,
the Disney movie that was a vehicle for the high-profile lovers – Madonna and Warren
Beatty. The film did much to rectify a string of Hollywood flops and scathing reviews
of Madonna’s own acting capabilities. Madonna’s portrayal of Breathless Mahoney
exuded her natural talents for style and seductiveness and became her biggest box office
hit to date, and allowed her to indulge in her seductiveness. In the September 4, MTV
annual music awards, Madonna yet again stole the show with a version of her Vogue
single in which she portrayed French queen, Marie Antoinette.
Fame and Controversy
From her initial launch into stardom, Madonna’s fame was tinged with notoriety. From
the early days of her singing career, her overt sexuality was reinforced by her “Boy Toy”
moniker. This combined with her sexually audacious, expletive-laced talk and use of
crucifixes as items of jewelry raised disquiet within conservative and religious circles.
Madonna’s explanation only added fuel to the fire: “Crucifixes are sexy because there’s
a naked man on them.” With every video and interview, Madonna was pushing a little
harder against the boundaries of acceptable language, behavior, and imagery. Her Like
a Prayer album, released in March 1989 proved to be a landmark in this process.
Pepsi Cola saw the opportunity to piggy-back on the surge of Madonna-mania by
making an advertising video based upon the album’s title track Like a Prayer. Madonna
MADONNA
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received $5 million for appearing in the video. What Pepsi had not taken into account
was that Madonna was making her own music video of Like a Prayer to accompany
the launch of the record. The day after the first broadcast of the Pepsi commercial,
Madonna’s own Like a Prayer video appeared on MTV. The video was a stunning mixture
of sex and religion that featured Madonna dancing in front of burning crosses, making
love on an altar, and revealing stigmata on her hands. The video outraged many Christian
groups and the American Family Association threatened to boycott Pepsi products.
Pepsi pulled its Madonna commercial, leaving Madonna with $5 million in the bank.
The explicit sexuality of the “Blonde Ambition” tour and its mixing of sexual and
religious imagery resulted in Madonna achieving new heights of controversy – and
public awareness. In Toronto, city authorities threatened to cancel the show. The
Vatican condemned the show as “blasphemous.” Her Justify My Love video released
in November 1990 set a new record for Madonna – it was banned by MTV on the basis
of its inclusion of homosexuality, voyeurism, nudity, sado-masochism, and oral sex.
Again, Madonna was quick to turn controversy into profit: as soon as MTV refused to
air Justify My Love, the video was rush released for retail sale. The publicity generated
helped the Justify My Love single to the top of the charts.
During the early 1990s, Madonna continued to break new ground in sexual explicitness.
Her photographic “art” book Sex featured Madonna in an array of sexual poses.
The book itself introduced several marketing and design innovations from its unusual
size (14 by 11 inches), its stainless steel covers and spiral binding, its sale in sealed wrapping,
and its inclusion of Madonna’s latest CD, Erotica. And it was a smash hit. Despite
its high price ($49.95 for 120 pages) the book sold half a million copies in its first week.
The record too went beyond any of Madonna’s prior albums in terms of the sexually
explicit content of its lyrics and supporting videos.
EVITA
While Madonna has been compared to previous superstars and goddesses of sex and
glamour – Greta Garbo, Marilyn Monroe, Mae West, Brigitte Bardot – she has gone
further in creating a persona that transcends her work as an entertainer. All the priormentioned
female superstars were defined by their movie roles. The same is true of the
big names in popular music, from Lena Horne to Janet Jackson. Madonna achieved a
status that was no longer defined by her work. By the 1990s, Madonna was no longer
famous as a rock singer or an actress – she was famous for being Madonna. For the next
decade she worked to reinforce this status. Strategically, superstar status has much to
commend it. Joining the pantheon of superstars acts as insulation from comparison
with lesser mortals. As her website proclaims, she is “icon, artist, provocateur, diva, and
mogul.”
In her acting roles the key has been to take roles which are primarily vehicles for
Madonna to be Madonna. Her successes in Desperately Seeking Susan and Dick Tracywere
the result of roles where Madonna could be herself. However, both these roles were to
be eclipsed by Madonna’s portrayal of Eva Peron in the movie version of the Andrew
Lloyd Webber musical Evita. Madonna had coveted the role for years and mounted
a vigorous campaign to gain the support of director Alan Parker and Argentine
MADONNA
6
President Carlos Menem. While in previous roles Madonna had been able to use her
talents as a singer, a poser, a sharp talker, and a seductress, in Evita Madonna could
present her own life. Like Madonna, Evita had working class origins, a burning ambition,
and had used sex and shrewd judgement to become a legend in her time. The film,
released in December 1996, was a huge commercial and critical success. As Q magazine’s
Paul Du Noyer remarked, “If ever there was an ideal vehicle for Madonna’s dream
of transcendent stardom, this must be it.”6
MOTHERHOOD, AND MORE
During most of the filming of Evita, Madonna was coping with her pregnancy.
On October 14, 1996, she gave birth to Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon at the Good
Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles. The baby’s father was Carlos Leon, Madonna’s
personal trainer.
In terms of her life, image, and career, motherhood was a major discontinuity for
Madonna. The press began reporting a host of life style changes: Madonna abandoned
pumping iron in favor of yoga, she had begun to study Kabbalah (“A mystical interpretation
of the Old Testament,” she explained), she developed a closer circle of women
friends, she spent increasing amounts of time writing music, she became less available
to the media. Her interviews were amazingly devoid of sex, expletives, and shock value.
“I think [motherhood] made me face up to my more feminine side. I had a much more
masculine view of the world. What I missed and longed for was that unconditional love
that a mother gives you. And so, having my daughter is the same kind of thing. It’s like
that first, true, pure, unconditional love.”7
The clearest revelation of these changes was in Madonna’s new album, Ray of Light,
which was unlike any previous Madonna album. Working with William Orbit, the
album incorporated a host of new influences: electronic music; traditional Indian
music; Madonna’s thoughts about the troubles of the world and the hollowness of
fame; Madonna’s own emotional development and her reflection on her unhappy childhood.
In performing tracks from the album both on TV and on video, Madonna revealed
a series of entirely new looks including Madonna as Goth-Girl (black hair, black clothes,
black nail polish), Madonna as Shiva (multi-armed with henna tattoos on her hands),
Madonna as geisha (straight black hair, kimono, and white makeup).
The new persona was the most ambitious and risky reinvention of Madonna’s
career, insofar as it was the first that was not founded upon sexuality and sexual aggression.
Yet this transformation was met with no loss of popularity or worldwide acclaim.
Ray of Light hit number two on the album charts and went triple platinum (over 3
million copies) on the basis of US sales alone, and at the MTV Music Video Awards she
walked away with a total of six awards followed by three Grammy Awards.
MADONNA AS INVESTOR AND BUSINESS MANAGER
Not only did Madonna maintain control over her own content; she increasingly wanted
a cut in distribution too. In April 1992 she signed a $60 million deal with Time Warner,
MADONNA
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Inc. The joint venture, Maverick Records, was a music production company (together
with TV, video, and music publishing wings) that was to provide a vehicle for Madonna’s
creative and promotional talent. Warner Records provided distribution. Although
Madonna remained contracted to Warner Records for her own recordings, Maverick
offered an avenue for her to develop and promote other singers and musicians.
During the late 1990s her efforts became increasingly focused towards identifying
and nurturing emerging young singers and musicians, relying upon her creative and
promotional intuition and experience, the wealth of talented specialists and media
moguls who were part of her personal networks, and, above all, her ability to open any
door in the business. Among Maverick’s early signings was Canadian singer/songwriter
Alanis Morissette, whose Jagged Little Pill album sold over 30 million copies. Through
Madonna’s links with director Mike Myers, Maverick released the soundtrack for the
Austin Powers movie The Spy Who Shagged Me. Other Maverick artists included William
Orbit, Prodigy, Ben Jelen, Muse, the Deftones, Erasure, Tantric, and Michelle Branch.
Madonna also teamed up with British comedian-rapper Ali G, and helped him to launch
himself on to the US market.
Madonna’s interest in new musicians and in developing and producing their music
was linked closely to her own widening musical interests. Her involvement with William
Orbit on Ray of Light was followed by increased interest both in electronic and world
music, including collaboration with the French electro-boffin, Mirwais. But Madonna’s
interests also embraced more standard popular music. In February 2000, Madonna’s
recording of the 1971 hit American Pie became an international best-seller.
Madonna’s business interests extended beyond records. Through a series of collaborative
ventures, Madonna became involved in a series of movie, TV, and pop video productions.
With her Maverick Records partner, Guy Oseary, Madonna set up Madguy
Films. Among the Madguy projects were several television films based on music history
and culture, including The Dusty Springfield Story. In collaboration with New Line Films,
Madguy also produced the 2002 movie Turn It Up featuring the Fugee’s Pras.
THE NEW DECADE
During the new millennium, neither Madonna’s career nor her popularity showed
much sign of flagging. In 2000 Madonna set up home in London with a new partner,
the actor and director Guy Ritchie. In August, shortly before her 42nd birthday,
Madonna gave birth to her second child, Rocco. In the following month, her new album,
Music, was released. The album was an immediate hit, topping the album charts within
two weeks. In October, the Music single from the album became her 12th number one
single in the US. On December 22, Madonna and Ritchie were married at Dornoch
Castle in Scotland.
After an 8-year lapse, 2001 marked Madonna’s return to concert touring. The
“Drowned World” tour opened in Europe with shows in Barcelona and Milan followed
by a run of shows at London’s Earls Court before moving on to its US leg. Like prior
Madonna concert tours, the show was a sophisticated and meticulously planned
multimedia event embracing music, light, video projection, elaborate dance scenes,
and pure theater – including Madonna riding a mechanical bull. Observations of
MADONNA
8
Madonna’s audience for the shows suggested that the adoring fans who bought tickets
for Madonna’s “Drowned World” concerts were not the same people who had attended
her earlier tours – they were, for the most part, simply too young. Unlike the aging fans
of aging rock stars from Bob Dylan to Tom Jones, Madonna’s successive reinventions
had been successful not just in renewing her appeal to existing fans, but in creating
new audiences in entirely new generations, some of whom had not been born when
she recorded her debut album.
With the 20th anniversary of Madonna’s first album release, she celebrated the
occasion by topping the album charts in March 2003 with her new release American
Life. Outside of music her artistic efforts met less success. Her 2002 London stage performance
in the leading role of the comedy Up for Grabs and her Swept Away movie costarring
with Guy Ritchie were both panned by the critics. These set-backs do little to
dent Madonna’s entry into new fields. During 2003 she published the first two in a
series of children’s books. The first, The English Roses, was printed in 42 languages and
launched in 100 countries. As part of a deal with The Gap in which Madonna promoted
Gap clothing, the book was distributed through Gap stores.
APPENDIX
Madonna’s Biographical Timeline
1958: Born August 16 in Bay City, Michigan to Sylvio Ciccone (design engineer for Chrysler
and General Motors) and Madonna Ciccone.
1964: Mother dies of breast cancer.
1973: Starts at Rochester Adams High School.
1976: Freshman at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; majoring in drama.
1977: July: arrives in New York City with $35.
September: begins training with Alvin Ailey Dance Theater.
1979: Flies to Paris, becomes back-up singer for Patrick Hernandez.
Joins Dan and Ed Gilroy to form “Breakfast Club.”
Lands part of Bruna in underground movie A Certain Sacrifice.
1980: Forms rock band “Emmy” with Steve Bray.
1982: Establishes friendship with DJ Mark Kamins.
Signs recording contract with Sire Records (division of Warner Brothers).
First record release, Everybody, goes to #3 in the dance charts.
Begins dating DJ John “Jellybean” Benitez.
1983: Second single, Burning Up/Physical Attraction, reaches #3 in dance charts.
Release of first record album, Madonna; first top ten hit, Borderline.
Persuades Freddie DeMann (Michael Jackson’s manager) to become her manager.
Appears in the movie Vision Quest.
1984: TV appearance on American Bandstand.
Appears and performs on annual MTV Awards.
Release of second record album Like A Virgin (produced by Niles Rodgers); sells 7
million copies worldwide.
Begins work on major studio movie Desperately Seeking Susan.
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1985: “Virgin” tour opens April 10 in Seattle.
Signs merchandising deal for official Madonna Boy-Toy clothing designs sold under
the Wazoo label.
Appears in Live Aid charity concert (London/Philadelphia, July 13).
Marries Sean Penn.
1986: Releases True Blue album.
Shoots Shanghai Surprise with Sean Penn.
Establishes her own film production company, Siren Productions, backed by Universal
Studios.
1987: “Who’s That Girl” tour opens Osaka, Japan on June 14; closes in Turin, Italy. Who’s
That Girl album and film also released.
1989: Divorce with Sean Penn (January 10).
Signs contract with Pepsi to produce video commercial based upon Like A Prayer.
Pepsi pays Madonna $5 million.
Madonna’s own video Like A Prayer creates storm of protest from Christian groups.
Pepsi pulls its commercial after just one showing.
Releases Like A Prayer album.
Plays Breathless Mahoney in Dick Tracy, co-starring with Warren Beatty.
Begins affair with Warren Beatty.
1990: Album releases: I’m Breathless and The Immaculate Collection.
“Blonde Ambition” world concert tour kicks off in Tokyo, April 13. Shows in Toronto
and Italy threatened with closure because of their explicit sexual content.
MTV refuses to screen Madonna’s Justify My Love video.
1991: Truth Or Dare documentary of “Blonde Ambition” tour is released.
Appears in Woody Allen’s Shadows and Fog.
1992: Grammy Award: Best Music Video (Long Form), Madonna: Blonde Ambition World Tour
Live; award shared with Dave Mallet, Mark “Aldo” Miceli and Tony Eaton.
Release of photographic book Sex: sells 500,000 copies in first week; tops New York
Times best-seller list.
Release of feature movie, A League of Their Own.
Madonna signs deal with Time Warner to create Maverick, her own record label.
1993: Movie releases: Body Of Evidence and Dangerous Game.
1994: Bedtime Stories album released.
1995: Releases Something to Remember album.
Movie releases include Blue In The Face and Four Rooms.
1996: Release of Evita in which Madonna plays Eva Peron. Wins Golden Globe Award for
Best Actress in a Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy).
Also release of the movie Girl 6.
Gives birth to Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon, October 14; father is Carlos Leon.
1997: Release of Ray of Light album, which in 1998 wins three Grammy Awards in the
categories Dance Recording, Pop Album, and Music Video, and two MTV Video
Music Awards.
1999: Grammy Award for Beautiful Stranger – best song written for a motion picture,
television or other visual media (shared with William Orbit).
Release of movie The Next Best Thing.
2000: Son, Rocco Ritchie born August 11, 2000; father is actor/director Guy Ritchie.
Release of new album, Music.
Wins WIPO arbitration to gain control of Madonna.com domain name.
Marries Guy Ritchie at Dornoch Castle, Scotland.
2001: July–Sept. “Drowned World” concert tour kicks off in London prior to US.
2002: US release of movie Swept Away – goes direct to video in UK.
Lead role in London stage comedy Up for Grabs.
2003: Release of American Life album.
Publication of children’s books The English Roses and Mr Peabody’s Apples.

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