Friday, September 6, 2013

Miley Cyrus: Revolutionary Branding

Image credit: Getty Images for MTV via @daylife
In the world of personal branding, we preach consistency: know your brand promise and deliver it every day with everything you do. As the television character Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus delivered her brand promise of wholesome teen and singer for four seasons on the Disney channel, not to mention her megahit movie and albums. She became the role model for tweens everywhere, and their parents easily accepted her as a symbol of “pure” fun. The synergy between Cyrus and the Disney brand seemed unstoppable. She reinforced Disney’s family values, and vice versa.
That lucrative brand extended to merchandise, including apparel and toys. Her net worth – according to – is purported to be $150M. Media coverage of her net worth further stoked the brand. Amassing a fortune at such a young age, she reinforced the idea that a good girl can be wildly successful.
But the good girl is an adult now, and the Disney brand is kid stuff. Personal branding experts often recommend a gradual evolution for anyone who wants to project a new brand identity. It’s important not to alienate your current followers, right? Well, Cyrus’s fans have outgrown Hannah Montana too. So she needed to find a way to remain relevant while continuing to grow her fortune.
Cyrus’s recent MTV Video Music Awardsperformance was a small gamble that delivered a huge payoff, creating the blockbuster transformation she was looking for. Wearing flesh-toned latex, she delivered suggestive dance moves (“twerking”) that sparked outrage from fellow celebrities and got more airplay in morning shows than the crisis in Syria. It was all anyone could talk about after the event – an awards show notorious for outrageous performances. It was the perfect stage for the rebranding of Miley Cyrus. Even those who didn’t watch the VMA had a new opinion about Cyrus and were willing to share it.
Anything short of extreme would have missed the mark for Cyrus. Her goal was to once and for all shed the squeaky clean Hannah Montana image and reset our relationship with her. Mission accomplished. Disney is now the last thing on our minds when we think of Miley Cyrus.
Is brand revolution the best way to go? Not necessarily. There are countless examples of public figures who successfully took a slower, less controversial route when evolving their brands: Al Franken from comedian to politician. Kelly Osbourne from reality TV star to fashion designer and commentator. Bethenny Frankel from “real housewife” to entrepreneur and single mother. Vanilla Ice from rapper to real estate expert (he has a new show on the DIY channel).
But for the new Cyrus brand, revolution is part of the promise. The nineteen year old not only succeeded in being the most talked about celebrity for several days, she left behind her past and paved a new way for a career as a  fearless woman and sex symbol.
And if that wasn’t enough, her twerking episode also lined her pocketbook with cash and grew her social media presence. According to Forbes Beat Reporter, Zack O’Malley Greenburg, since the racy performance, Cyrus has sold 90,000 digital downloads of her new track “Wrecking Ball BLL -0.05% ,” which moved into the 13th spot in the Billboard charts. Her Twitter activity rose 112% from the previous week. She added 226,273 new Facebook fans and 213,104 new Twitter followers.
Most of all, this episode on the VMA was the rocket fuel that has propelled her new career into the stratosphere. Disney’s branding power is monumental; it takes rocket fuel to overcome that kind of gravity. She’s in demand for appearances and articles and is attracting the attention of those who might want to cast her in a film or new TV series – one that surely won’t air on the Disney channel.
culled from Forbes.

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