Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Business Lessons from Miley Cyrus' Twerking

I do not necessarily like Miley Cyrus' music, but I do love this song.  I cycled actively when I lived in Dubai, and this song gave me wings, as it came time to ride uphill.  She's certainly come a long way - a way different way - since this 2009 piece from her Hannah Montana days.

Miley Cyrus, with Robin Thicke
You may disagree with her methods, but Miley Cyrus has ridden her twerking spectacle at the VMAs [Video Music Awards] all the way to the bank.
Reference: 3 Business Lessons from Miley Cyrus and her Infamous Twerk.

Writer Adam Toren teases out those lessons:

First, it's one thing to build a brand, and establish it so well that your target audience recognizes it everywhere.  It's quite another thing to undo an established brand that isn't just in a rut, but is rotting.  Sometimes it calls for drastic measures.

It's a critical juncture for any CEO, when company survival depends on tough choices that he or she has to make.  For the longest time, I believed in evolution: Small steps, taken consistently and patiently, lead to intended changes.  But I've also come to see the value of revolution: Jump into the deep end straightaway, and hope that whatever action planning or risk calculations you undertook will work out.    

Second, branding is a human affair, Toren wisely points out.  In fact, any endeavor any of us engages in is inevitably human.  But time and time again we seem to forget that fact.  It must not only be genuine and sincere, but it must also lay it on the line personally.  Or, in Miley Cyrus' case, it is strip down and shake it on the stage.    

Not all CEOs are comfortable in either case.  It doesn't mean that their communications, demeanor or interactions are fabricated.  Rather, they may simply be shy about it.  Of course I do not advise that they follow something along the lines of Miley Cyrus at the VMAs.  But consider Richard Branson.  Not only is he fun, personified, but also on occasion he's been known to flirt with naughtiness by surrounding himself with sexily- or scantily-clad ladies.

I do advise that a CEO, perhaps with a trusted colleague or advisor, reflect on what matters the most to him or her: for example, values, held near and dear to the heart.  Think through how that CEO can relate such a personal thing to others.

Finally, Toren suggests that although scores of people from all walks of life have now watched her infamous twerking, Miley Cyrus may have targeted just her Millennial cohorts.  This is a basic business lesson: Know who your market is, and fashion a campaign that speaks to them.  

Perhaps a meta-lesson - that is, a lesson on this lesson - is this, however.  Media is diverse and wide-ranging, and an audience in such media doesn't, and cannot, really segment itself in ways that marketers fool themselves into thinking they can.  Inevitably Miley Cyrus' twerking reaches across demographics and generations, and she and her handlers simply cannot assert 100% control over this process or our reactions.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

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