Wednesday, November 14 , 2018, 4:53 pm | Fair 70º


John Daly: What You Can Learn from Madonna About Mastering Your Brand

I’ve been really focused on creating personal images and branding with my students of late. So, when I heard two radio personalities discussing Madonna, I was fascinated to learn that her dominance of the pop genre is the reason that virtually every performer (male and female) puts her on their Top 10 Greatest Talent list. Nowadays Lady Gaga and Beyoncé get all of the attention, but Madonna was the original that these talented artists used for inspiration. She became a master at creating her brand and message and never lost sight of her goals.

This led me to do some research about Madonna and what drove her success. Here’s what I discovered.

Stand for Something

Madonna declared that she stood for freedom of expression, doing what she believed and pursuing her dreams. In business, marketers call “what you stand for” your Unique Selling Proposition. If you aren’t living a defined message, you are dying a slow death. That’s why Madonna has made defining and redefining her message her No. 1 priority for the last 20 years.

Always Deliver

Madonna believed in always holding up her end of the bargain and delivering on her contracts and commitments. She was born in Battle Creek, Mich. Her good, old-fashioned work ethic came from her solidly Midwestern upbringing.

Look around and you’ll see that every superstar (in whatever medium) has a relentless drive to keep delivering. They may not like the hours, but they know that the work is required.

Be Clear About What You Want

Madonna’s negotiating skills are legendary in the recording industry. She once was paid $5 million by Pepsi for a commercial the company never even ran. They got cold feet. No matter — Madonna still got paid. Madonna gets what she wants because she’s been focused on exactly that from Day 1.

“A lot of people are afraid to say what they want. That’s why they don’t get what they want.”
— Madonna

Be a Work in Progress

Have fun with your brand. Once you’ve set your goal, have a blast getting there. Madonna is legendary for changing her image to fit the times and her own personal journey. Early on, critics tried to pigeonhole her as another big-hair pop act. “Like a Virgin” was her response. She’s gone on to tweak her brand image for two decades.

“I am my own experiment. I am my own work of art.”

You’ll need to evolve, too. Your core will stay the same, but your tactics will need to change. 

You may have to dial up some part of your personality to make a mark, or abandon a project entirely. Have the wisdom to know what’s important for your brand. And while you’re at it ...

Don’t Be Afraid to Stand Up for Your Beliefs

“Better to live one year as a tiger than a hundred as a sheep.”
— Madonna

The secret to real respect is to absorb criticism, learn from it if that makes sense. Ignore the ones who aren’t your people anyway, and keep moving forward. Remember, if everyone agrees with you, then you might not be saying anything worth talking about.

Conviction, creativity, and hard work, will never lose their appeal — much like Madonna.

John Daly is the founder and president of The Key Class, the go-to guide for job search success. Click here to learn more about The Key Class or to get his book. If you have questions about business or social etiquette, just ask John at [email protected]. Connect with The Key Class on Facebook. Follow John Daly on Twitter: @johndalyjrClick here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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