Say what you will about Madonna, but the girl’s got game when it comes to smart, counter-intuitive marketing.
Today, the Vatican issued a strong statement denouncing Madonna’s current concert tour which, coincidentally, includes a date in Rome. Thanks to the Church’s castigation and the resulting worldwide coverage, Madonna’s bad girl antics received a beautiful shot of extra publicity and hype.
While I’m sure the Vatican spinmeisters believe their decision to condemn Madonna’s concerts was a sound one, all it really accomplished was to create additional buzz for the sensual siren. And, her decision to perform right in the Pope’s backyard is pure marketing genius. In fact, it reminds me of what Toyota has been doing to GM for the past few years.
First, Toyota began buying naming rights for sports stadiums (and, as GM liked to lament, "wrapping the American flag around themselves"). Then, they drove right over Chevy Truck’s market domination by holding one guerilla marketing event after another in such traditional GM strongholds as Texas. Finally, to add insult to injury, Toyota laid down the ultimate gauntlet by declaring they’d be the number one car seller in GM’s home state of Michigan.
I can tell you, first-hand, that the folks at GM were apoplectic about Toyota’s marketing prowess and, like the Vatican, made a bunch of statements and did a bunch of price-cutting promotions that did little more than further accentuate Toyota’s leadership role.
Nowadays, market share goes not only to the swift, but to the savvy as well. Madonna’s conquest of Rome and Toyota’s outflanking of GM on its home court, are just two examples.
That’s an excellent question, Captain Andrews (I’m assuming you still hold a Quoteship rank?). Anyway, if the Catholic Church is being honest with itself, then I’d say that its “messaging” is all about awareness and recruitment (much like the U.S. Armed Forces, BTW). Sure, the Church needs to speak up and clarify their stance on doctrine and spirituality. But, they’re also fighting a losing battle in most industrialized countries to hold onto existing Catholics while attracting new ones. Statements like the one denouncing Madonna will only resonate with hard-core Catholics while likely alienating a large percentage of younger, potential soldiers of Christ. In situations like this, the Vatican is clearly stuck between a rock and a hard place.
The Church’s official response included this question: “Is Madonna prepared to take on everything else that goes with wearing a crown of thorns?” What genius wrote that? I say she replies “YES!” and then see what happens.
(BTW, I agree with David that the Church should take on more important issues, but they never have before, who really expects them to start now?)
I agree with your assessment of the results of the Vatican’s denouncement of Madonna and the soundness of her capitalizing on the resulting “buzz.” I’m wondering what your thoughts are on how an ideological or faith based organization needs to, and should consider the “reputation fallout” from statements made they feel are directly related to their faith. Should the result of a potential communication be weighed against the “faith,” and if so should the “faith” be subordinated to the marketplace of public opinion, either in part or completely?
What I love is the fact that Madonna requires a new toilet seat at every venue she performs – umm, does she not remember that her rear did not mind where it sat in the 80s? Also, this week her father’s Michigan vineyard has been receiving a lot of press. And yes, there are crosses everywhere in the wine tasting area. I mean he is the father of THE Madonna.
That reminds me, “Does Madonna have a tour coming up?”
I really like the parallel you draw between Madge and Toyota — they’re both resilient brands.
With that, I just want to take a shot at the Vatican for coming out after Madonna. With war breaking out in every corner of the world, with the Episcopal church succumbing to in-fighting over gay marriage, the Vatican would be smart to talk about issues that people really care about.
They’re so hung up on Madge that they can’t even address the real issues that affect the world and their parishoners.