Type Miley Cyrus’s name into Google News and in less than a third of a second a staggering 86,500,000 results show up. The post teen, punk pin up has undergone a meteoric rise from the saccharine Hannah Montana child star to an averagely talented pop star. So what can we learn from Cyrus’ media mania?
For starters, Cyrus (like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera) had fame at an early age and a platform from which to express herself. What makes Cyrus’ ascent much more noteworthy is the fact she isn’t a very talented singer.
Her recent “twerking” stunt in a barely there outfit at the MTV Video Music Awards divided opinion and is still keeping her in the news – Rolling Stone put her on the cover of their annual “Hot List”. As a result her songs have shot up the play lists with ‘Wrecking Ball’ reaching number one in the Hot 100.
The New York Daily News argues that Cyrus’ critics are missing the point. “Miley Cyrus might not have spun off the rails. She might know exactly what she is doing. The nudity, twerking and tongue-wagging all appear to be part of a calculated ploy to bury her formerly squeaky-clean Disney image. The end result, she says, is to reveal her inner ‘bad b—h.’ ” Billboard notes her “controversy” is probably a well-planned PR campaign, rather than the “train wreck” the tabloids hoped it would become. Let’s face it she hasn’t shaved her hair off entirely in a Spears-esque meltdown or changed her appearance from white to black and back again like Aguilera.
Instead, Cyrus has ramped up her appeal by turning from Disney princess into a risque entertainer where her lack of voice becomes secondary.
Robert Wynne from Forbes lists five lessons which can be learnt from Miley Cyrus:
1. Controversy sells. For certain businesses and individuals, a well-time stunt can yield big rewards. Attention-attracting stunts can sometimes break through the clutter.
2. Sex sells. And not just in the music industry. Businesses from all sectors adopt this effective principle to sell products or to push brand recognition.
3. Use social media. Made yourself (or your actual product) a product. Cyrus has enticed more than 14 million Twitter followers.
4. Publicize your demographic. Cyrus didn’t give a hoot about her critics slamming her MTV performance. Her target audience is under 20 and they thought her antics were, well ‘cool’. Cyrus knows exactly who her market is. It’s important to identify your market and make them your main focus.
5. Don’t be afraid to innovate. Cyrus added tattoos, cut her hair, and changed her image. Wynne isn’t suggesting a total image overhaul but “well-timed products and business strategies” helped to save big companies like Apple, Netflix and The Gap.
Of course, unless you’re willing to continually push the boundaries – think Madonna raunchy pop star turned mother earth figure/ librarian to brash exhibitionist, pushing 60 – there comes a point when reinventing and adapting no longer work. People get tired of the same old stunts – they want authenticity. Wynne concludes that Miley Cyrus “isn’t original, just very good at following the script for maximizing PR”. Time will tell if she’s to be taken seriously as an artist in the long run.