Who’s that girl?


She is turning 60 today, so we have to talk about: Madonna.
This woman is an icon and through the years she has taught us so much about what it means to be a well-known brand. Her way is an ‘either you love her or hate her way’ but girlll it made her really successful.
So what can we learn from her? What can you apply on a day-to-day basis, when it comes to your career and building your personal brand.

When I was a teenager I once saw a live show of her on tv and the show started (if I remember it correctly) with her saying this:

“I went to New York. I had a dream. I wanted to be a big star. I didn’t know anybody. I wanted to dance. I wanted to sing. I wanted to do all those things. I wanted to make people happy. I wanted to be famous. I wanted everybody to love me. I wanted to be a star. I worked really hard and my dream came true.”
So that brings me to the personal branding lessons I learned from her:
1. What you focus on expands
She has always completely been focused on getting to where she wanted to be. Madonna has taught us to think big and to set goals. That is why I love it when she said: “A lot of people are afraid to say what they want. That’s why they don’t get what they want.”
Basically she says: don’t let fear be your guide and don’t get sidetracked by the opinions of others. This is also a lesson about not feeling insecure and having self-confidence. So really focus on what you want, instead of what you don’t want (which is what most of us do!).
But yes, first you have to know what you want.
After her number one album ‘Like a Virgin’ was released a journalist asked her “What’s next?” Madonna replied, “I want to rule the world.”
2. Stand for something
Madonna has said “I stand for freedom of expression, doing what you believe in, and going after your dreams.”
Yep here she is telling us to: do your own thing and really believe it. She has always been so self-aware, I am sure this has helped her over the last 30 years to truly fight for her beliefs. She has had bad publicity and even that has worked in her advantage. Like she said “I’ve been popular and unpopular, successful and unsuccessful, loved and loathed and I know how meaningless it all is. Therefore I feel free to take whatever risks I want.
So ladies, you have to stay true to your beliefs.
3. Appearances matter
I don’t know if you are old enough to remember this but she was a fashion leader back in the eighties. Girls used to copy her look and dress exactly like her. This was when she appeared in the film “Desperately Seeking Susan”. And when Madonna cut her hair for the True Blue album we all where shocked in disbelief. But she knew early on that you get judged by your looks, especially if you are a woman. So she used this to her advantage and often shocked us with her looks to make headlines.
Like the bras she had designed by Jean Paul Gaultier that she used as outerwear. If you look back at her looks they all define a period from her life and what she stood for. They all tell her story. That is what we want, for our looks to truly represent us.
4. Take care of your business
Time Magazine has called her one of the “25 Most Powerful Women of the Past Century” and there is a reason that she has been called the smartest woman in business.
She’s been one of the highest paid artist for over 30 years. Madonna was smart enough to look at the decline of record sales and leave her record label Warner Music to sign with Live Nation and focus on touring income. She understood that to have a successful business, you must understand your market. She retains 90% of gross touring revenues and 50% of endorsements.
5. Change is good
She has always been about constant transformation and exploring new things. She has successfully transformed herself from from a material girl, activist, actress, yoga fan and author to a humanitarian. This is the most consistent thing about her personal branding.
We can count on her to teach us new things but also to transform herself whilst doing it. She truly embraces change and doesn’t look at it as something scary. It is a way to stay innovative and discover new things about yourself. Like discovering hidden treasures and also a way to challenge yourself to feel new things.
Listen, all brands evolve over time and no human being ever truly stays the same. So, if we can embrace this process like she has perhaps it wouldn’t be that scary.

So, what have you learned from Madonna? Share it with me, that’s what sisters do.

And talking about sisterhood, our next Network Academy-event with Harper’s Bazaar is coming up. It is all happening at the College Hotel on the 5th of September. Get more info here if you want to join us.