Branding & Identity

So the image of a nearly nude Miley Cyrus as she twerked her way, tongue out, through a performance at the MTV Awards, was shocking to say the least.

Where was the sweet teen whose alter-ego was Hannah Montana?

The show, and Miley’s sexy new image, caused quite a commotion. And a bit like marmite, it seems people either love it or hate it. Either way, the stunt certainly got everyone talking, with all social media channels buzzing with the various opinions – both positive and negative. With a 100% increase in followers on Twitter, a significantly higher search engine ranking and literally millions of YouTube views, revenue for the Miley Cyrus label was given a huge boost.

And despite the fact that not all publicity was in favour of the star, in just one week her new track Wrecking Ball sold nearly 100,000 digital downloads, her Facebook page gained more than 226,000 new fans and her Twitter account attracted over 213,000 new followers.

While discussions raged about the emotional wellbeing of the 21-year-old, those classifying Miley as yet another messed up child star, following in the troubled footsteps of Britney Spears and Lindsey Lohan, failed to consider it all from a somewhat different angle – that this was perhaps one of the most elaborate re-branding stunts ever pulled…

Why re-brand?

There were a number of reasons why Miley Cyrus and her team decided it was time to take action and re-brand. These include:

  • She turned 21.
  • The Hannah Montana brand portrayed her as young and innocent.
  • The Hannah Montana followers had also come of age and were ready for a more adult image.
  • As with all child stars, there comes a point at which they have to progress from child to adult. This nearly always requires a re-brand of some sort.
  • The Hannah Montana image would not sustain Miley in the adult pop world alongside the eternal icons, such as Madonna.

The re-brand of Miley Cyrus was perfectly planned and executed. It was strategic and smart, timed as it was to coincide with Miley coming of age. Miley and her team choose an international platform from which to present her new sexy image to the world.

Effectively killing all assumptions that Miley was in any way like her innocent former alter-ego. While this served to push Miley forward to a new level and into a completely new market, it also burned all bridges for the multi-million dollar Hannah Montana label. From this there will definitely be no going back. Gone is the sweet Disney image and in its place something new entirely.

So why was the re-brand of Miley Cyrus so successful?

It seems Miley and her crew adhered to some tried and tested re-branding strategies. Other brands can learn some important lessons from these:

  1. Slow or explosive – choose one method or the other. Miley’s team chose the latter. Big time.
  2. Know your audience and target market inside out, including exactly how to get their attention.
  3. Build a brand identity around what sets you apart form the competition – as a sex symbol in Miley’s case
  4. Fill a void – Miley satisfies the gap in the market for someone of her age and music genre.
  5. Develop a strong core brand message – Miley’s is to embrace what and who you are, a very powerful concept in the current political climate.
  6. Avoid diluting the brand or confusing the target audiences by eliminating unnecessary aspects of it. In Miley’s case this was to say goodbye to Hannah Montana. For good.
  7. Develop a strategic plan and stick to it. The re-invention of Miley Cyrus was planned to the very last detail, from the timing, to the outfit, to the stage. Whether perceived by those who saw it as good or bad, it could not have been more memorable.
  8. Measure the impact and always gather as much feedback as possible. The long term implications might take some time to become apparent, but it is important to begin to develop a picture of how the new brand is being perceived and by whom. Miley Cyrus is now more famous than she has ever been – even named one of the most influential celebrities of 2013 by Barbara Walters.
  9. Let social media do the work for you. Engaging communities and provoking discussion can have a ripple effect. One tweet, of the right tone and content, can soon have a topic trending, which more often then not will translate to higher revenues for the brand. This is certainly true for the Miley Cyrus brand.

The importance of longevity:

The challenge for any re-branding is to ensure the effects will be long term. Alongside following the strategies outlined above, any re-brand must be seen to be authentic. Brand ambassadors must believe in what they are promoting, inside and out. This can mean the difference between success and failure. Time will tell how the Miley Cyrus brand will fare over time, but the brand is certainly on the right track to continue along the road of success.

Author: This article was written by Maximus IT.

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