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Hannah Montana The Miley Cyrus Movement: putting the work back in the “twerk”

In a world where everything is shared immediately through pictures and videos and content has to be tweetable in order to be remembered, it’s difficult to stand out. This is definitely the case in the media and entertainment sector, where illegal downloading, YouTube clicks and Twitter updates dominate the scene; you have to come up with a good strategy to catch and keep the attention. This article zooms in on the remarkable media strategy of one the most controversial pop stars of the past year: Miley Cyrus.

Remember ‘Hannah Montana’? Quick recap: ‘Hannah Montana’ was an award-winning Disney show aired between 2006 and 2011 with Miley Cyrus playing Miley Stewart, an ordinary girl who led a double life, plain girl during the day, famous pop singer at night. Miley Cyrus’ success was huge and in less than no time she became America’s new sweetheart.

Fast forward: end of August 2013: MTV’s Video Music Awards. Talk of the town wasn’t the surprise reunion of N*Sync nor Lady Gaga’s new single. One performance was burned in people’s memory: Miley Cyrus’ “twerk” act. Should you have disappeared of the face of the earth for a few weeks and not have heard about this act, click here and discover what happened. In short: 20 year-old Miley is ‘twerking’ against married Robin Thicke’s crotch in a flesh-colored latex outfit and is using a foam finger in rather sexually suggestive ways. Her twerking act broke all records: Twitter users posted more than 360,000 Tweets per minute about the event. Her new single ‘Wrecking Ball’ reached the most views in any 24-hour period ever on Vevo. Miley swinging around naked on a ball helps, of course.


Coincidence or well-planned? Miley’s reaction: “They’re overthinking it,” she said. “You’re thinking about it more than I thought about it when I did it. I didn’t even think about it, ’cause that’s just me.” It seems rebellious and a typical teenage thing to say, but actually it’s a well-thought answer and also a lie.

Robin Thicke declared afterwards that he wasn’t shocked at all: they knew exactly what was going on: “We’re entertainers and the VMAs are the perfect place for a little shock and awe. We kind of knew when we were in rehearsal and we were like, ‘okay, if you touch me with your foam finger all over my crotch, obviously some people are going to have something to say about it. But that was the whole point!”.

Since her remarkable performance at the VMAs it is impossible not to read yet another Miley update at least 3 times a week. She’s everywhere and she’s hot. What is it about her that suddenly made her such a popular star? Let’s analyze her marketing strategy…

1. Build and destroy a reputation

Miley plays with one of the ground rules of marketing: brand image. Building a consistent brand image is considered a key element in branding: it makes you recognizable, trustworthy and credible. Miley had such an image: the “all American girl”. But people had seen it all before, so something had to change. Instead of doing everything to maintain that carefully constructed image, she did the exact opposite: destroy it. She changed her style, the content of her music, the boyfriend she dated. And that grabbed the attention.


2. Likes are silver, clicks are gold

For pop stars these days, it no longer is just about television and radio… Online is the key to the jackpot. And this also changes the rules of marketing: clicks and views are the new gold. It is not about how many people like you, but about how many people would click on you. Miley understood that well: her VMA performance has more dislikes than likes on YouTube, but it increased her reach drastically. And what does that mean? Companies become more interested in her and want her on top of their website to generate more clicks. CNN even put Miley Cyrus’ performance on top of their website and wrote a blogpost afterwards about why Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance was their top story. A good marketing move of CNN as well, of course, but in the meantime Miley got what she wanted: more reach, yet again.

3. Innovation is not inventing something new

Miley5Miley’s music is not going to change music history. She did not invent a new style, she is not doing anything that has not been done before: Lady Gaga’s costumes were more extravagant, Britney’s shaving act was more desperate, Rihanna’s perfomances are equally suggestive. What really is innovative about her approach is the fact that she actually gives people what they want: an ongoing series of new material, juicy stories and crazy events. The ‘accidentally leaked’ music video of Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber’s new single, ‘Twerk’, came at a very convenient time: a few days after her “twerking” act. A few days later her single ‘Wrecked Ball’ was launched and last week another new single already hit the radio. Her new album ‘Bangerz” , which also includes a single with Pop Queen Britney Spears, will be released on October 8th. A documentary about herself “Miley: The Movement” has just been released on MTV. Miley is actually listening to her customers, mainly GenYers: stimulation junkies, always looking for something new. Miley became a customer-oriented product.

Is this all a coincidence? Of course it isn’t. Strategy is everything. It is all part of her manager’s well-thought plan : Larry Rudolph. He also represented music artists such as Britney Spears, Avril Lavigne and Lindsay Lohan, so can be considered an expert in the field. Miley Cyrus is not a desperate wild child, but a smart money machine and a marketing game changer. Miley Cyrus: the Marketing Movement.

Posted in Music

One Response to “The Miley Cyrus Movement: putting the work back in the “twerk””

  1. Clive Robbins

    She’s got a practical doctorate in modern marketing and advertising with a minor in music. Her actual control over her strategy and the companies that risk hundreds of millions on her judgment, are the real story here. I’ve never seen such a young “child star” make the difficult jump to pop superstardom especially relying principally on her own decisions.


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