Confession time: I love Miley Cyrus's music. Her music blasts merrily through my earbuds on jogs and nothing made me happier than watching the fallout her raunchy performance at the recent Video Music Awards. She twerked, we judged and now she is laughing all the way to the bank.
The actor/singer who played the title role in Disney's Hannah Montana has been sitting pretty as one of Google's top-trends since the event. And as of the end of last week, she has been profiled by The New York Times and invited to host a hilarious episode of Saturday Night Live.
After the hurricane of negativity thrown at the post-Disney starlet, it's obvious that she's come out on top. Not all attention is good attention, but any entrepreneur could learn a little something about the powerful rebrand that came out of Miley Cyrus's performance. Here are three takeaways:
1. Survival can call for drastic measures.
Brand rot has never been more real than for child stars. The horror stories that come from a young celebrity's transition from precocious youth to budding adulthood are many. Most often, this change is a combination of factors that stem from the necessity of a rebrand that isn't ever easy to pitch.
As many entrepreneurs have regretted saying before, many child stars and their management take an 'if it ain't broke' mentality which leaves them in a rut that only becomes visible after the damage is permanent. Miley Cyrus, pre-twerk, was a Disney product. Her performance with Robin Thicke was the best way to distance herself utterly from the platform through which her child stardom sprouted, and set the stage for adult success.
2. The best brands are human.
The explosive aftermath of the VMAs was filled with scoffs, jeers and sarcastic photoshops. And while I'll never say that all PR is good PR, I will say that everyone's done something embarrassing in public before.
The most important aspect of Miley's twerk blogged around the world is that it didn't seem like a publicity stunt: If anything, it felt like something anyone could have ended up doing at a really good party. Tomorrow's pictures would be embarrassing, sure, but that wouldn't change how we lived our lives.
Humanizing your brand can involve something as simple as highlighting a mistake that your team has made. Or it could get complex by, say, producing an ad campaign revolving around your company's product-development process. As is the case with both celebrities and business, the customer prefers the team that is more authenticly human.
3. Demographics count.
The funny thing about twerking that bloggers and cultural commentators forget is that the performance wasn't meant for them. Miley Cyrus, whether knowingly or not, appealed to a demographic that thought it had outgrown her as they ventured away from Disney TV. She was their soapbox that night, though, and manifested the mixed emotions that come with the latest you-had-to-be-there dance craze that confuses many. People get older, however, and it's up to a business's leadership to decide whether or not it will grow with its audience or expect it to stick around.
Miley Cyrus twerked, and the world reacted. Some loved it, some hated it. Either way, it should be remembered for what it was: a harmless spectacle. Controversy is a gamble, but rebellion is usually a sure thing.
People react to the company that can twerk in the face of the mainstream. Maybe not the hip-gyrating twerk, but the kind of business dance move that shocks and inspires. Richard Branson did it with Virgin, Steve Jobs did it with a now-immortal 1984 commercial, and now Miley Cyrus disrupted her industry and won big.
What have you learned from controversial figures? Let us know with a comment.