Can Madonna sell beauty products like Kylie Jenner?

Grace Gold
Contributing Writer
Madonna’s still selling her beauty — but this time for a new product line, MDNA SKIN. (GIF: YouTube/Madonna)

Does the Material Girl still have what it takes to open your heart — and wallet?

On Tuesday, Madonna is doing something she’s never done before: launching her very own collection of beauty products in the U.S.A. MDNA SKIN debuts at upscale retailer Barneys New York and at the line’s own website, where a glance at the prices bring to mind her 2015 hit, “Bitch I’m Madonna.”

Among the sleek offerings: the Rejuvenator Set, which features a futuristic Chrome Clay Mask that is activated and magnetically removed with a special tool ($120 for 1.7 oz.); the Rose Mist to refresh your pores ($120 for 5 oz.), and the cornerstone of the line, the Serum ($240 for 1.7 oz.). The most affordable option, the Face Wash, is only a cool $50 per 4-oz. bottle. A Reinvention Cream by the reinvention queen will launch later this year, along with an Onyx Black Beauty Roller, made of high-density carbon that emits infrared-red rays for anti-aging benefits. No prices have been cited on the latter yet, but they likely won’t have a BOGO deal.

Madonna has been going all out on IG. (Photo: @madonna via Instagram)

If Madge’s prices are a bit rich for your blood, fear not — there is already a more affordable secondary line in development, with an anticipated fall 2018 release. Instead of a $250 moisturizer, expect a price point of about $75 for a comparable formula, along with smaller, lower-priced versions of the initial line. Plus, those additions will available at more mass retailers, Madonna divulged to WWD.

Though she has played many roles over the years, Madonna has never been a shrinking violet, and she has chosen to name the line after herself, minus the vowels and second “n.” The parent company of the brand is a beauty and wellness company called MTG, based in Japan, where the skin care line has already been successfully selling for three years — and is on track to do about $383 million in revenue this year.

Madonna during an interview with Jimmy Fallon, on Sept. 25, 2017, in New York City. (Photo: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/Getty Images)

The products are available at 12 swanky department stores in Japan, and three MDNA Skin Spas operate in the Grand Hyatt hotels of Tokyo, Seoul, and Fukuoka. But in Asia, women spend significantly more time and money on skin care. Brand marketing vice president Shannon Goldberg told WWD that the cultural embrace of high-end skin care, combined with the fact that American celebrity names actually do better in Asia than in the U.S.A. in general, is why MDNA SKIN first launched overseas.

But will the American consumer be as receptive as Asian consumers?

Always one to take the dare, the 59-year-old’s marketing approach has the swagger of a confident bet. For now, at least, it appears directed straight at millennials, with a series of videos dropped on the singer’s Instagram on Friday, including this one in collaboration with Josh Ostrovsky — better known among the under-35 crowd as The Fat Jew. In it, the viral comedian gets pampered with Madge — “We’re, like, the same person; I’m just fat!” he gushes — and the two exchange beauty “secrets.”

Industry reaction to the entire effort has been mixed, to say the least.

Photo: @madonna via Instagram

“Teenage girls and boys don’t want to look like Madonna,” celebrity branding expert Jeetendr Sehdev, author of The Kim Kardashian Principle, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Madonna’s brand has significantly lost influence over the years. She’s continued to try to manipulate the media with ’80s-style tactics — the problem is, savvy millennials see right through this. Authenticity today is everything.”

The one group that Sehdev does think will line up around the block are her diehard fans — the ones who have been devoted to the self-made star since her “Lucky Star” days. And an informal poll of loyalists taken by this writer agree, pointing to the fact that Madonna is actually not a big endorser or seller of consumer goods, which strikes older generations as having more of that popular millennial value — authenticity — than younger celebrities who are seemingly always pushing products and partnerships.

“I’m very interested in her skin care line because I know she will only collaborate with the best — and while I’m priced out of this initial line, I’m waiting until she releases the secondary line,” says Floribel Maldonado, 39, of Florida, who has attended every Madonna tour since 1993, and who dressed as the pop star as her first childhood Halloween costume. (Maldonado says she initially planned on splurging on the $240 serum, but is instead donating the money to relief efforts for family in Puerto Rico.)

Another fan is also holding out for the lower-priced line, though she doesn’t rule out being swayed into buying the Rose Mist if rave reviews start making her itch for it. “I love Madonna, and almost everything she produces commands my attention. I’d love to see sample kits so I can try several items at once,” says Tanya Sharma, 39, from California, who became a cassette-carrying fan at age 7.

Meanwhile, the makeup junkies who may or may not be into Madonna — but those who are into all things beauty, and are part of the highly viral online culture of consuming tutorial videos and following bloggers and influencers — are cautiously intrigued. “I’m going to wait until everyone tries it, but I believe whatever Madonna is pushing is good stuff, not junk,” says Gail Clark, 63, of New Jersey, who regularly shops at beauty stores like Sephora and Ulta, and is always on the hunt for the next best mascara.

So how will all of these factors actually influence numbers? It all comes down to one thing, predicts longtime brand strategist Jennifer Walsh, who has advised more than 100 beauty brands on launch strategy: how involved Madonna gets. That, she says, will determine the success of the brand.

“Consumers want to buy great products from people who truly love their creation and are passionate about why they created it,” says Walsh. To that end, Walsh thinks Madonna needs to get real about who she’s really connecting with.

“I think she should be marketing to women her age, and not paying the Fat Jewish to do a video with her to try and get the younger millennial audience interested,” she says. “I follow him on Instagram and think he’s funny, but I’m not going to buy a product because he’s promoting it.”

It’s all sage advice for the Queen of Pop, who will still likely dance to her own tune.

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