Miley Cyrus six months later: If you’re over 22 you’re not the target

urlIt’s now been six months since Miley created a storm of controversy at the MTV Awards.  While I didn’t see it live, everyone on my Facebook had an opinion of it all day the next day.  The only issue is nearly everyone on my Facebook is over 40. Then you watch the news cycle and see all the news stations all day trashing Miley and talking about how inappropriate it was. But everyone on these news stations was also over 40.

The issue is that if you’re over 40, you’re not in the target market.

So then I asked my 15-year-old daughter what she thought of the whole “Miley thing”.  She said “she’s just trying to show that she’s a grown up and make a living”.

My daughter is in the target market.  And she gets what Miley was trying to do.  And she was willing to defend her. 

A beloved brand knows who is in their target, and who is not in their target.  I hear so many non-beloved brands say “we can’t alienate…” But before you say alienate next time, keep in mind that target and alienate are pretty much synonymous.

Miley is very Strategic

Beloved Brands find a way to separate themselves.  With traditional brands, you have to be better, different or cheaper. Or else not around for very long.  With music, there’s so much talent out there, so really those who make it are “different”.  And Miley has a very good voice but she’s smart enough to know that’s not enough.  She gets that:  ‘Every time I do anything, I want to remember, this is what separates me from everybody else.’

While all the controversy was going on, Miley called the MTV Award performance a “strategic mess”.  I know it caused this storm of outrage but that’s not really the first time in music history.  

Elvis-and-Ed-300x244When Elvis first performed on Ed Sullivan, they would not show him below the waist because of his gyrating hips.  The Beatles long hair caused a stir, Rolling Stones getting arrested in Toronto, Madonna singing about being a virgin in a wedding dress or kissing Britney Spears on stage.  Pick your age and you likely think the one prior to your generation was “kind of silly” and the one after was “completely offensive”.

So let’s look at this strategically.  

There are Four Principles of Good Strategy: 1) Focus 2) Early Win 3) Leverage point and 4) Gateway to something bigger.

  • FOCUS all your energy to a particular strategic point or purpose.  Match up your brand assets to pressure points you can break through, maximizing your limited resources—either financial resources or effort.  Focus on one target.   Focus on one message.  And focus on very few strategies and tactics.  Less is more. 
  • You want that EARLY WIN, to kick-start of some momentum. Early Wins are about slicing off parts of the business or population where you can build further.  This proves to everyone the brand can win—momentum, energy, following.
  • LEVERAGE everything to gain positional advantage or power that helps exert even greater pressure and gains the tipping point of the business that helps lead to something bigger.  Crowds follow crowds. 
  • See beyond the early win, there has to be a GATEWAY point, the entrance or a means of access to something even bigger.   It could be getting to the masses, changing opinions or behaviours.  Return on Investment or Effort.

Here’s how Miley did in terms of strategy:  

  • Focus:  Miley’s target audience is the Hannah Montana audience, who were 10-15 when she was on that show and are now 15-20.  She focused on the biggest teen show, the MTV Awards, well-known for crazy antics and perfectly timed to spur on her album sales, of which the first single had already hit #2.  You can do anything on the MTV Awards because only the kids are watching anyway.  She knew exactly what she was doing.  
  • Early Win:  In the music industry, it’s fairly obvious that no news is bad news.  Miley thought this out and was even quoted as saying “make the talk about it for 2 weeks rather than 2 seconds”. While others did outrageous things that night.  Sadly, Miley wasn’t the craziest performance that night. Poor Lady Gaga came up in a g-string and yet, no one talked about her at all.  For 48-hours, it was hard to see the win and even I was wondering if she could manage the storm.  People were worried she had lost it. But, after the 40 year olds were done complaining about her, the 15 year olds came to her defence on twitter, where none of the 40-year olds could see.  In each subsequent interview, she came across as intelligent and….strategic. She did a great job on Saturday Night Live, making fun of herself and even saying “I’m not going to do Hannah Montana, but I can give you an update. She was murdered.”  All part of the transformation away from child star into a 20-something singer.  
  • Leverage:  She was able to leverage the energy to get these loyal fans to go buy her music.  She kept the controversy going with the launch of the “Wrecking Ball” video where she was buck naked.  Within 24 hours, the video was downloaded 19 million times and the song quickly shot to #1. 
  • Gateway:  Everyone knows the music charts are the gateway to the bigger mass audience–more radio play, more iTunes downloads and more talk value. And Bigger concert sales. Miley’s album sales were through the roof and she was named MTV Artist of the Year for 2013.  She was also named #1 Sexiest Woman by Maxim Magazine.  The re-invention of her new image complete.  Oddly enough, Miley finished #3 in the voting for Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.   Odd because there is no more mainstream publication than Time. 

Does this seem like an insane person out of control, or someone who knows exactly what she was doing?

Miley is a very smart strategic “grown up”


Do you want a team of amazing Brand Leaders?  We can help you.  

Read more on how to utilize our Brand Leadership Learning Center where you will receive training in all aspects of marketing whether that’s strategic thinking, brand plans, creative briefs, brand positioning, analytical skills or how to judge advertising.  We can customize a program that is right for you or your team.  We can work in person, over the phone or through Skype.  Ask us how we can help you. 


At Beloved Brands, we love to see Brand Leaders reach their full potential.  Here are the most popular article “How to” articles.  We can offer specific training programs dedicated to each topic.  Click on any of these most read articles:

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Why CMO’s are demanding more Creativity

CMO’s realize that it’s harder and harder to get a real competitive point of difference.  More and more, creativity in execution can help separate a brand.  But the issue is that brand management teams have gotten so conservative, the CMO feels stuck when they ask for more creativity and the team doesn’t respond. You have to create a culture of creativity where people feel safe to raise ideas.  

A Team’s culture can suck the creativity right out of Everyone

When we first walk through the doors into the marketing world, we are so gung-ho with an infinite number of ideas, that are all over the place.  These junior marketers just ooze with passion.  That’s why we hired them.  So we chain them to the desk and say “no”, “can’t” and “that will never happen” to about 90% of their ideas.   And we suck the life out of them, tell them that they are getting much more “strategic” and then promote them to Brand Manager.  At Brand Manager, we instil the fear of god into them that if they mess up anything they’ll be held accountable.  Accountable means don’t try anything stupid.  And we tell them to “stay on strategy” which is code for “play it safe”.  It’s all about ownership.  By the time we promote them to Director, they know what to do, and what NOT to do.  This is code for BORING and the USUAL.  

And the CMO takes the reigns, looks at all their first share book, the numbers look flat.  They look at their competitors taking risks, especially compared to their own team’s work.  So they figure out quickly, that making dramatic changes to the product will take time and investment.  More advertising costs money. So the simplest answer is to stand in front of the group and say “WE NEED MORE CREATIVITY” 

Here’s the problem: Teams get so stuck Following the Usual

But the problem is the team has been set up to reject creativity in favor of the safe and trusted options.  The classic launch formula: do the basic product concept testing, hope for a moderate pass.   Then meet with sales and explain how this is almost identical to the launch we did last year, and builds on the same thing we just saw our competitor do.  Re-enforce that the buyer hinted that if we did this, we’d get on the shelves pretty easily.  Go to your ad agency, with a long list of mandatories and an equally long list of benefits they can put in the ad.   Tell the agency you’re excited.   They’ll tell you they’re excited as well.  Ask for lots of options, as a pre-caution because time is tight and we’re not sure what we want.  Just hope the agency clearly understood the 7-page brief.  Test all the ads, even a few different endings, and then let the research decide who wins.  That way, no one can blame you.  Do up a safe media plan with mostly TV, some small but safe irrelevant secondary media choice.  Throw in a web site to explain the 19 reasons why we launched.   Maybe even a game on the website.  Ah, we have our launch. 

Given the current economy, shouldn’t we be taking more risks to stand out rather than playing it safe right down the middle of the road?  

This type of launch though is almost a guaranteed formula for success, because it follows last year’s launch to a tee and will be done hundreds of brands this year.  You convince yourself, you had to play it safe because sales are down, margins are tight and you will do something riskier next year once this launch is done.   What looks like a guaranteed success will likely get off to a pretty good start and then flat-line until it will be discontinued three brand managers from now.  You’ll never be fired because you never did anything wrong.  But you’ll just be part of the team that’s frustrated by the status quo of the team’s performance.  And you’ll all under “why is this happening”

At some point, to break through in a cluttered market, you’ve got to do something different to stand out:  now, more than ever.   It might feel like a risky move, but it’s almost riskier not to take that chance.

Push the team to Find your love in the art of being different

Push yourself to be different.  The most Beloved Brands are different, better or cheaper.  Or not around for very long.   Here’s a very simple model for creativity, there are four choices:

Slide1Good But Not Different (the launch outlined above) 

These do very well in tests mainly because consumers have seen it before and check the right boxes in research.   In market, it gets off to a pretty good start—since it still seems so familiar.   However, once challenged in the market by a competitor, it falters because people start to realize it is no different at all.  So they go back to their usual brand and your launch starts to go flat.  This option offers limited potential.

Not Good and Not Different:

These are the safest of safe.  Go back into the R&D lab and pick the best one you have–even if it’s not very good.   The tallest of midgets.  They do pretty well in test because of the familiarity.   In market, it gets off to a pretty good start, because it looks the same as what’s already in the market.  But pretty soon, consumers realize that it’s the same but even worse, so it fails dramatically.   What appears safe is actually highly risky.  You should have followed your instincts and not launched.  This option is a boring failure.

Different but Not that Good

Sometimes we get focused on the product first:  it offers superior technology, but not really meeting an unmet need.  So we launch what is different for the sake of being different.  It does poorly in testing.  Everyone along the way wonders why we are launching.   But in the end, consumers don’t really care about your point of difference.  And it fails.  The better mousetrap that no one cares about.

Good But Different:

These don’t always test well:  consumers don’t really know what to make of it.   Even after launched, it takes time to gain momentum, having to explain the story with potential investment and effort to really make the difference come to life.  But once consumers start to see the differences and how it meets their needs, they equate different with “good”.   It begins to gain share and generates profits for the brand.   This option offers long-term sustainability.

It will be up to you to figure out how to separate good from bad.   One caution is letting market research over-ride your own instincts.  As Steve Jobs said:  “it’s hard for consumers to tell you what they want when they’ve never seen anything remotely like it.   Yet now that people see it, they say OH MY GOD THAT’S GREAT”

We always tracked many numbers (awareness, brand link, persuasion etc), but the one I always wanted to know was “made the brand seem different”.  Whether it is new products, a new advertising campaign or media options push yourself to do something that stands out.   Don’t just settle for ok.  Always push for great.  If you don’t love the work, how do you expect your consumer to love your brand?  The opposite of different, is indifferent and who wants to be indifferent.      

In case you need any added incentive:  Albino fruit flies mate at twice the rate of normal fruit flies.   Just because they are different!   And the place where most ground hogs are run over is right in the middle of the road.  

Push the team to Find Difference through Brainstorming

The trick to a good brainstorm is very simple:   Diverge, Converge, Diverge Converge.

Diverge #1:  Quantity over Quality

Divide the room up into groups of 5 people.   I prefer to assign one leader who will be writing the ideas, pushing the group for more, throwing in some ideas of their own. A great way for the leader is to say “here’s a crazy idea, who can build on this or make it better”.  But if you catch the leader stalling, debating the ideas, then you should push that leader.  At this stage you are pushing for quantity not quality.  If you have multiple groups in the room, do a rotation where the leader stays put and the group changes.  I like having stations, where each station has a unique problem to solve.

Converge #1:  Focus on picking the best Strategic Ideas

There’s a few ways you can do this.

  • You can use voting dots where each person gets 5 or 10 dots and they can use them any way they want.  For random executional ideas, this is a great simple way.
  • If there is agreed upon criteria, you can do some type of scoring against each criteria.  High, medium, low.
  • USP 2.0If you are brainstorming product concepts or positioning statements, you might want to hold them up to the lens of how unique they are.
  • For things like naming, positioning or promotions, the leader can look at all the ideas and begin grouping them into themes.  They might start to discuss which themes seem to fit or are working the best, and use those themes for a second diverge.
  • For Tactics to an annual plan, you can use a very simple grid of Big vs Small and Easy vs Difficult.  In this case, you want to find ways to land in THE BIG EASY.  The reason you want easy is to ensure it has a good return on effort, believing effort and investment have a direct link.  


Diverge #2:  Make the Ideas even better, richer.

The second diverge is where the magic actually happens.  You’ve got the group in a good zone.   They have seen which ideas are meeting the criteria.  Take the list from Converge #1 and push it one more time.  Make it competitive among the groups, with a $25 prize, so that people will push even harder.  

  • If you narrowed it to themes, then take each theme and push for more and better ideas under each of the themes  
  • If you looked at concepts or tactics, then take the best 8-10 ideas and have groups work on them and flush them out fully with a written concept, and come back and present them to the group.  
  • If using the grid above, then take the ideas in the big/difficult and brainstorm ways to make it easier.   And if it’s small and easy, brainstorm ways to make it bigger.

Converge #2:  Decision Time

Once you’ve done the second diverge, you’ll be starting to see the ideas getting better and more focused.  Now comes decision time.  You can narrow down to a list of ideas to take forward into testing or discussion with senior management.  You can take them forward to cost out.  You can prioritize them based on a 12 or 24 month calendar.   You can vote using some of the techniques above using voting dots.  Or you can assign a panel of those who will vote.  But you want to walk away from the meeting with a decision.

Let Brainstorming bring an energy and passion into your work.



Do you want a team of amazing Brand Leaders?  We can help you.  

Read more on how to utilize our Brand Leadership Learning Center where you will receive training in all aspects of marketing whether that’s strategic thinking, brand plans, creative briefs, brand positioning, analytical skills or how to judge advertising.  We can customize a program that is right for you or your team.  We can work in person, over the phone or through Skype.  Ask us how we can help you. 


At Beloved Brands, we love to see Brand Leaders reach their full potential.  Here are the most popular article “How to” articles.  We can offer specific training programs dedicated to each topic.  Click on any of these most read articles:

Ask Beloved Brands to run a brainstorming workshop or ask how we can help train you to be a better brand leader.