What we all can learn from Miley Cyrus

A few years back, I heard of a character called Hannah Montana from one of my nieces who desperately wanted her album. I couldn't be bothered going out to buy it, so I simply gave her money so she could do it herself. Sitting in the car, she sang songs from Hannah Montana, mimicking her teenage idol.

All fairly harmless stuff - after all, Hannah Montana was a Disney brand, wholesome and pure that teenage girls the world-over could relate to.

Then something happened. She grew up. From teen idol to woman and that's where it all began.

Like Madonna before her, and Kylie Minogue for that matter, Miley Cyrus, the former sweet teenage girl that played Hannah Montana wanted to evolve her brand image and take it to the next level. If she would have kept up the wholesome image, it probably would have ensured that her brand diminish over time. Instead, she reinvented her brand. First it started with a number of selfies in proactive poses creating headlines. Then it was the picture of her smoking pot which  I would imagine was not by accident - instead just part of a brand evolution.
What made headlines and made her stand out even more than a girl appearing to go off the rails is when she had a drastic haircut (aka Britney Spears), died her hair bleached blonde and sent a twerking video viral that she self posted to her fans. This was quickly followed up by a song "We Can't Stop" that is racy, bold, pop-urban with a "chill" beat. 

The lyrics go like this:

"It's our party, we can do what we want
It's our party we can say waht we want
It's our party we can love who we want
We can kiss who we want"

Then adding to the raciness of the lyrics, the song continues with, "And everyone in line in the bathroom, trying to get a line in the bathroom" alluding to taking a line of cocaine "in the bathroom" and further accentuated by the usage of her own name that sounded very similar to another popular drug in the US called "Molly".

Her racy, naughty, bad girl image exploded onto our screens and smart phones. BANG, Miley Cyrus reinvented her brand - not too dissimilar to when Madonna brought out the song "Like A Virgin" followed by a book of naked images of herself. 

And as if we may have missed all of these things, she made another dash for the limelight with her new image singing "Blurred Lines" with bad boy Robin Thicke, strategically twerking close to his crotch whilst poking her tongue out in a sexy flesh colored latex outfit. 

Instantly, she was in every newspaper, magazine, television programme, online news sight and forum imaginable. Her brand exploded. Her brand now safely secured as having reinvented itself from wholesome good girl to proactive woman. The public now has a thirst to hear what's next, secretly hoping she will trash herself and become another Lindsay Lohan - which I don't think will happen, however, she may let her imagine go down a path that makes us think that perhaps this is possible - just to keep our interest in her brand at an all time high.

Is this good or bad for her brand? I would say that it will sell more records, more movies and definitely keep her front page news for a long time to come. If she falls off the bandwagon like Britney Spears before her, then she may become a train wreck however, I would say that this move is more "brand evolution" then a young girl off the rails. It appears too strategic, too well placed and the timing could not be better.

Her biggest selling song "We Can't Stop" has deeply entrenched Miley Cyrus into the limelight and ensured that young and old know exactly who she is and what she is about.

How can we relate this to business? Think Apple. When Apple reinvented itself with slick computers and cell phones, it became cool. Uber cool. If they didn't package themselves and brand themselves as such, they wouldn't be were they are today. Forget about how good the technology is - its all about the company's branding that has elevated them to the heights of where they are today.

How can your brand evolve, like Miley's to sell more products and more services to your customer base? How can your brand become more sexy, more exciting and published in thousands of editorials the world-over? 

Something to think about. Miley Cyrus is not some stupid young girl, but a branding prodigy who like many people before her saw an opportunity to evolve her personal brand and reinvent it to be come more profitable, and deeply entrenched in the curious mindset of the public.


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comments ( 22 )
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  • Ee-Laine
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    24 Oct 2013

    I entirely agree!

    Miley Cyrus may well be a genius. Within the span of a couple of years, she has managed to entirely revamp her image from good-girl Disney teen idol to pop wild child. The release of the music video for We Can’t Stop was raunchy, confronting and, honestly, pretty confusing. Despite polarising fans and critics alike (the ‘like’ ratio is almost 1:1), it did what it was supposed to do; everyone was talking about it. She even managed to break the record for the most VEVO views in 24 hours, beating Justin Beiber’s Beauty and the Beat.

    Then came the infamous VMAs performance. Again, it was very clever and very calculated. In a single night, Miley managed to shed four seasons and a movie of Hannah Montana to cement herself as the hottest new pop star. Indeed, not many people would remember other performances of the night, such as Lady Gaga’s nearly nude rendition of Applause or Bruno Mars’ intense Gorilla.

    She is doing phenomenally well for herself, especially when comparing her current presence to fellow Disney starlets like Selena Gomex, Hilary Duff and Demi Lovato. My concern with Miley’s brand is that seems primarily driven by the shock factor. It isn’t particularly sustainable to be reliant on something that requires constant reinvention. If there’s anything we’ve learned from Lady Gaga, it’s that shocking stops being interesting when people start to expect it. Hopefully, she can continue to ride the wave without getting left behind.

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  • Christy
    Christy
    24 Oct 2013

    A great method that Miley has used. Reinvention of self, a 180 degree turn of what she used to be, shocked audiences, and gain more (and new) audiences.

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  • Jill Scott
    Jill Scott
    18 Oct 2013

    It wouldn’t be all too bad if businesses copied the same principles she used to create what she created (disclaimer note: just the principles). And with the help of social media, being viral has been easier, you just need to find the right mix.

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  • MissPDF
    MissPDF
    14 Oct 2013

    If she was simply another person ... acting like this alone ... we would call her mentally off ... oh wait ... or not useful in society ... the worst thing is, she leads a broad path of followers ... way to go Miley ... terrific achievement in being the revolting part of home entertainment ... she has to be so proud

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  • Stephanie
    Stephanie
    13 Oct 2013

    Although it could be a manipulative marketing ploy in which to 'reinvent' herself, it fails to do that. Personally, being sexually provocative doesn't demonstrate maturity or someone growing up - it's something that is done to draw attention to oneself in the most obscene way.

    There are ways to reinvent yourself as a brand without displacing your 'core' values - you look at actresses such as Natalie Portman and you can see that you can keep your morals and values with you. Still, she's able to land movie deals and be someone people aspire to, all without utilising shock tactics and over-sexualisation.

    Essentially, Miley could have kept her (what some people would say) 'Disney' personality, but of course adapting it in a way that demonstrates a sense of maturity rather immaturity. The way she sexualises and 'ghettoises' herself is putting her in headlines, but all highlighting how deviant and disgusting she is. It completely disregards that she is an amazing performer (her covers from her Backyard Sessions with Miley over the summer were vocally incredible), which is her 'product'.

    Conversely, given the modern carpe diem is #yolo, you can't argue that her attitude isn't selling records and making news.

    Reply
  • Ignatz DeFyre
    Ignatz DeFyre
    06 Oct 2013

    The laziest and easiest marketing is shock marketing. The techniques are often associated with, for example, serial murderers, and self-loathing celebrity wannabees (like GG Allin). At the soft-core end of the spectrum we can include talk shows like Maury or Rivera.

    Frankly I don't know (and don't care) if MC is damaged goods or plays her marketing people's tune.

    It's generally accurate to surmise that the need to resort to stunts is inversely proportional to talent, otherwise why bother with the grotesque exaggerations for the gain of attention.

    The shrinks may explain it better, but it has something to do with confusing renown (or notoriety) with importance.

    While we're likely to still be listening to Chopin or the Beatles 50 years from now, and people will be paying $20,000 for a copy of Hank Mobley on Blue Note, MC's output, like that of all MSM "artists" will be in the dung-heap of history.

    Will it sell more product? Probably, for a short and intense time, like Chinese made dollar store gift-ware that will be in the trash tomorrow. I, for one, won't throw good money at it.

    Are some people proud of this? From this article I can see that standards continue their race to the bottom.

    The next up-and-comer wanting to upstage may well be s..cking Donald Trump's co.k at an upcoming awards circus.

    Reply
  • Victoria
    Victoria
    02 Oct 2013

    In a world that is no longer confined merely by trading blocks, where most if not all barriers of the past have been broken down as a result of the Internet, it is so hard to be heard.

    Brand evolution is what will continue to keep brands alive and ensure their message is heard.

    We now live in a world there is so much white noise and where sticking with the status quo, sticking to what worked for you before, can be suicide.

    Like Miley, if your business model is no longer representing who you are, what you and your company stands for as well as and what your consumers want then it is your obligation to evolve in a way which will see the continued success of the business for all stakeholders involved.

    More so now than in the past consumers have a warm spot, a certain respect, for those individuals and companies who can stay genuine and true to themselves and their stakeholders.

    I think this has been a long time coming for Miley and as you have written, very well timed. This timing and execution process can be used as lesson for many businesses.
    It is all about the planning, timing and the platforms when you want to be heard above the crowd.

    Reply
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    01 Oct 2013

    I completely agree. I think it was a good career move for Miley. Over the past few years she has had several songs with which it seemed she was trying to break away from the Hannah Montanna/ Disney image, but it never really worked because she didn't get a lot of widespread publicity.

    Her recent songs, video clips and VMA performance have really catapulted her into the public eye and changed the way people see her. She has been likened to Madonna and Lady Gaga and I think that is probably what she was aiming for.

    It was one of those stunts; like Lady Gaga's meat dress or Britney Spears and Madonna kissing on stage, that is very deliberately designed to get attention and present her in a very particular way.

    Reply