Bonnie Fuller: Madonna Still the Best Brand Marketer

VIEWPOINT: A-Rod Affair a Platform for Another Material Girl Metamorphosis

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Bonnie Fuller
Bonnie Fuller
Marriage Wrecker. Man Eater. A-Rod's Other Woman and Soul Mate. Whatever you want to call Madonna now, you can be guaranteed that the Material Girl loves every one of her new Page One monikers. And it's not just because she's the nation's No. 1 narcissist.

No, it's because Madonna has just proven once again that she is the No. 1 marketer in the nation, maybe even in the world. She has once again brilliantly refurbished her brand exactly at the time that it needed a tsunami of a makeover.

This was no spur-of-the-moment attempt to grab the spotlight, either, but a well-thought-out months-in-the-making makeover. It's been reported, and I know from a source of my own, that the A-Rod/Madonna connection began more than six months ago, well before the release of her recent "Hard Candy" disc and the advance ticket sales of her Sweet & Sticky Tour.

Us Weekly reported that A-Rod was already receiving Madonna's text messages six months ago. My own source witnessed Madonna join A-Rod, her manager, Guy Oseary, and some friends for a cozy dinner at a midtown New York hotel six months ago. Then while most of the group continued to dine, Madonna and her baseball boy-toy headed upstairs on the hotel's elevator and didn't return for over an hour. Hmmm!

It seems that even six months ago, their "affair of the heart," as Earle Lilly, the divorce attorney for A-Rod's wife, Cynthia, has characterized it, was beating already.

Isn't it strange, then, that their relationship only went highly public just over three weeks ago when Madonna and her two sons turned up wearing Yankees gear and sitting in A-Rod's box at a Yankee Stadium baseball game?

Wasn't that just a couple of days after news reports had appeared saying the tickets for her upcoming tour weren't being snapped up as quickly as expected?

Is it surprising that the 49-year-old cougar decided that this was the time to pounce on the public and reveal her prey: a 32-year-old married hunk of a baseball player? In the space of a couple of weeks, Madonna's most recent image as an overly fit, aging Material Mom who had semi-retired to a townhouse in London has been shredded.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bonnie Fuller has been editor in chief of magazines including Glamour and Us Weekly and was VP-chief editorial director of American Media.


She is now once again a sexy temptress who is so magnetically attractive that she can lure Alex Rodriguez away from his wife (14 years younger than Madonna) and two daughters. And she sure looks like she's reveling in her born-again sex symbol status. She hasn't exactly fled the scene of the crime. She has remained in Manhattan and been photographed by paparazzi.

Her supposedly "estranged" husband, Guy Ritchie, has joined her and appears to be completely in on the whole marketing plan. He's been photographed with his two sons wearing Yankee booty at Central Park in recent days. My guess is that if Madonna's marriage is almost over and out, as has been reported, it's being maintained now by two total pragmatists who have made a pact to divide the financial rewards of a successful concert tour and album sales.

As for all the kabbalah, I believe it's just a cover that's been used to give Madonna and her new conquest more private time together.

So why will the Man Eater image work for Madonna and not drive away hordes of disgusted fans? A "homewrecker" isn't usually what brand managers are looking to associate with, especially when they're picking a celebrity as a "face," and doubly when they're marketing to women. Women usually reserve their sympathy for the victim in this sort of case, and Cynthia is certainly garnering her share of sympathy.

But here's the deal: When a female celebrity already has an image of notoriety, like Angelina Jolie and Madonna, women don't pile on the scorn. They innately understand that notoriety is an essential part of selling the brand. Instead, fascination becomes their overriding response.

In Madonna's case, there's even got to be some admiration involved, especially from women over 40. After all, what woman of a certain age wouldn't want to have a gorgeous younger man drooling over her? The fact that Madonna can still reel in a superhot shot ups her appeal. You may not want to buy a fridge from her, but maybe a sexy fragrance, a dance dress or lingerie. Then don't forget why she is now selling newspaper front pages and magazine covers again, whereas just a few weeks ago she was dead in the water as a sell. That old high-school urge to know all the details has taken over. It's the reason that celebrity obsession, in general, should never be underrated by marketers.

I've always believed that all human beings -- male and female -- are born with a gossip gene. And when there's a real-life story or situation that is far better than fiction, whether it's the Brad-Angie-and-Jen triangle or the Madonna-Alex-Cynthia-Guy quadrangle, the need to know overrides what lesser marketers than Madonna might not understand.

Madonna knows she initially made her mark as a Bad Girl, and returning to her roots will just elevate her sales power and, best of all, her image. All the new intense chat about her and A-Rod is music to her ears. And a home run.
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