What can the material girl teach us about personal branding?

20Dec09

Every February, Billboard announces the top music moneymakers from the previous year.   Madonna took the honors for 2008, raking in more than $242 million.  Bon Jovi was a distant second at $157 million.

This flies in the face of logic.  Isn’t pop music supposed to be dominated by the young and the hot?  Madonna is 50+.  She had no hit records in 2008.   She released an album, which finished in 50th place.  Her music downloads were 14th.  So, did her album and downloads just cost more?  No.  What put her at the top was her 2008 tour.

Whether you are a fan or not, Madonna offers us a great example of a powerful personal brand.    She knows her audience.   She doesn’t worry about appealing to everyone.  She focuses on delivering what her fans want. Again and again.  And they reward her with exceptional loyalty.  Which obviously translates into exceptional income.

It does not escape notice that baby boomers are 78 million strong and any rock star they embrace has a natural advantage in terms of sheer fan numbers.  As noted above, Bob Jovi was #2.   Bruce Springsteen was #3.  You have to go all the way down to #9, the Jonas Brothers, to find a young person.  The brothers earned 25% of what Madonna hauled in. 

My favorite on the list?  Neil Diamond.  He came in at #7.  Did I mention he is 68 years old?  The old man rang up $82 million.

OK, so old rock stars have a fan advantage.  But there are plenty of famous baby boomer stars that never make the top 10 moneymaker list.  Their identities are not as clear.  Their energy and commitment to give their fans what they want is not as solid.  In short, their brands are not as strong.  

We can all learn from these graying giants who may not be topping the hit singles charts, but are rocking the money charts.

image from absolutemadonna.com

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