The case examines the career and the success of Madonna Ciccone – “the best known woman on the planet.” The central issue is explaining the success of Madonna in the highly competitive, highly volatile world of entertainment, where Madonna has been a megastar since 1984. The case offers students the opportunity to explore the nature and meaning of strategy within a fast-paced business environment and to consider the role of strategy in career success. The case represents an expansion of the illustration provided in the ﬁrst chapter of Contemporary Strategy Analysis (5th edn, strategy capsule 1.1).
The purpose of the case is to allow students to consider three questions: “What is strategy?”, “What role does strategy play in success?” and “What are the critical ingredients of a successful strategy?” The case forces students to address the meaning of strategy in environments where turbulence renders detailed planning impossible and to consider the notion that strategy can be both implicit and emergent as well as explicit and intended. The case also introduces the idea that strategy exists for both individuals and organizations; indeed, in this case there is some ambiguity as to whether “Madonna” is Madonna the person or Madonna the show-biz organization. This issue is important This note was prepared by Robert M. Grant.
in terms of making the point that strategy is relevant to the future careers of business students. While I have no expectation that students will write a strategic plan for the rest of their lives, one of the most immediate and valuable applications of the principles of strategic analysis is likely to be students’ thinking about their future careers.
POSITION IN THE COURSE
The Madonna case is intended to open a core strategy course. It provides a lighthearted context for engaging the interests of students while at the same time introducing a number of fundamentally important issues and concepts about strategy that will be explored more fully later in the course. I typically use this case on the ﬁrst day of class. One of the merits of the case is that, even if students have not had time to read it, their familiarity with Madonna means that it is possible for everyone to contribute to the discussion.
1. 2. Why has Madonna been so successful in the world of entertainment? Does Madonna have a strategy? If so, what are the main elements of that strategy?
R. M. Grant, Contemporary Strategy Analysis (5th edn), Blackwell Publishing, 2005, chapter 1.
CASE DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS
Why Is She Successful?
I begin by investigating the reasons why Madonna has been so successful over such a long period of time (her ﬁrst hit record was in 1983). I start off this line of inquiry by asking students whether Madonna is exceptionally talented. In relation to key capabilities as an entertainer – singing, musicianship, song-writing, acting, dancing, even beauty – she tends to be graded as B+ or A− except by the most die-hard Madonna fans. Where she scores the highest acclaim is for her capabilities in marketing, self-promotion, work ethic, and leadership. In addition to these underlying capabilities (and lack of them), I encourage students to explore what Madonna has done to achieve and sustain success. Among the themes that typically emerge are:
Her goal commitment (ambition) and sustained level of effort. Her brilliance in identifying and exploiting alliance partners. From her early boyfriends on the New York rock music and DJ scene, through to Sean Penn and Warren Beatty in Hollywood, Madonna has clawed her way to the top through courting key individuals in strong strategic situations (these have often been temporary alliances to achieve speciﬁc goals). Her continual renewal and reinvention. I ask how many phases Madonna has been through. This tends to produce some...
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