The Wrecking Ball of Rebranding: Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus is a daily topic of discussion in our office; Chantell cannot stop playing her music and the rest of us suffer through it. Beneath all the twerking, lingerie-inspired outfits and tongue flashing that puts Steven Tyler to shame, can we learn something from the girl who swung naked on a wrecking ball?
Let’s rewind to March 2006. Thousands of preteen girls huddled around their television screens awaiting the premiere of Disney Channel’s newest show “Hannah Montana” starring 13-year-old Miley, future tween sensation
and (obviously favorite) daughter of ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ crooner Billy Ray Cyrus. The show became an instant success, generating merchandise, a big-screen movie and North American concert tour. Girls of all ages were singing the songs, doing the ‘Hoedown Throwdown’ dance and digging out their sequin scarves and blonde wigs for a ‘Hannah-fied Halloween.’
Just as all great television characters grow up, the ‘death’ of Hannah Montana came in January 2011 shortly after Miley’s eighteenth birthday. She sexed up her image, got a few tattoos and sang about her inability to be tamed. What seemed like the end of the world for wholesome teenyboppers worldwide, however, was a mere precursor to Miley’s true unveiling.
Now 20 years old, Miley Cyrus is bigger and (arguably) better than ever before. Her name is in every headline, her presence is requested on every show and she is shocking the pants off most of the world. Speaking of pants, she hasn’t put on a real pair in months. The ‘Bangerz’ babe has revolutionized the way we view hair, clothing, music, tongues and even the foam finger. What is most astonishing is Miley’s ability to completely transform her image as an individual and brand in less than one year. Does this make her a branding genius or victim of all that Molly she sings about?
Her recent appearance co-hosting Saturday Night Live proved Miley isn’t stupid, contrary to popular belief, and knows exactly what she is doing with her personal brand. A recent PR study chronicled by Spin Sucks proves just that. The singer addressed Hannah Montana (she’s been murdered), spoofed the government shutdown, put an end to her twerking habit now that “white people do it,” joked about her “world-ending” VMA performance with Robin Thicke and outraged the Stroke Association by remarking her nasty tongue habit was the result of mini strokes. Passing judgment on Miley’s outrageous behavior may be good for a hearty laugh, but she’s laughing twice as hard at us.
The rebranding process is neither fast nor easy. To be successful, you have to understand who your current target audience is and how they perceive you, what changes are needed to alter the perception of said audience(s), which mediums these changes will be delivered through and most importantly, what you want your brand to stand for. Could Miley be the poster child for successful step-by-step personal re-invention?
Other brands have done it in the past, including Target, McDonald’s, UPS, Apple and Old Spice; that which lacked is now booming. As a culture, we buy everything at Target, refuse Coca-Cola that doesn’t come from McDonald’s for $1 and some of us cannot fathom using a technology device that doesn’t proudly boast an apple. Are we victim to rebranding efforts or are these brands simply that good?
The same situation applies to Miley; who was once an innocent tween is now an oversexed, edgy young woman. We can’t stand her music but find ourselves humming it at our desk. We question her hairstyle but long for the simplicity of a sassy pixie. She has redefined the “I don’t give a S#!&” attitude in a way that is too much and just enough at the same time.
What do you think… Branding brilliance or molly-fied Miley?