Thursday, July 17, 2008

Brand valuation with Miley Cyrus


Good branding is like building up someone’s character. It is multifaceted and interpretable by a variety of people in a variety of ways. Good brands also have a strong storyline behind them which makes it more difficult to interpret the brand in an undesirable way because of the consistent associations built up over time.

So if we’re considering what makes a good brand, then how can we add to the colour palette of brand associations? That is, how are brand values defined?

Broadly, a brand’s values fall into one of three areas:

  1. Accidental values
  2. Aspirational values
  3. Core values
To help put this values wheel into perspective, Miley Cyrus and I are now going to analyze brand values:


Accidental values are those tangential or inconsequential associations that a brand might adopt which are not relevant to the nature of the product or service. And they’re not always negative. Sure, it’s accidental for the Ford Pinto to launch in Brazil (and ‘pinto’ in Brazilian Portuguese is slang for ‘small penis’), but the accidental value could also suggest a new direction for the brand to take. It is essential to have your ear to the ground as a marketer to sense the emergence of unwanted accidental values or those that could define a new strategy for the brand.

What are Miley Cyrus’ accidental values?
  • That she is only a flash in the pan to be replaced on her seventeenth birthday by a younger, bubblier, upcoming pop star.
  • That the Annie Liebowitz photoshoot for Vanity Fair cast her as an incenstuous prosti-tot.
  • That through months of national touring, she has actually developed an ability to sing without computers and vocal looping. Or not. Check out what happens at 2:25 into the video. Shameful!


Aspirational values act as a North Star for where the brand could go. For a consumer brand, should it be the arbiter of ‘cool’ to its target market? For a website, should the brand focus on expert content rather than networking functionality? These are strategic decisions for marketers to make and aspirational values are important to help temper the framework within which a brand evolves.

Miley Cyrus’s aspirational values might include:
  • A successful transition into womanhood as America sexualizes her on her eighteenth birthday. Remember pop culture consumers, on November 23, 2010, she is finally legal!
  • Avoiding the pratfalls and goof-ups of her skanky trailblazer, Britney Spears.
So sad.

Core values really are the intransient fixtures of a brand’s identity. Think of these as how you would describe yourself: “student, male, marketer”. Core values are the brand’s bread and butter so to speak. They are the facets of the brand’s personality to consumers that are widely recognized and easily identified with that brand. Coke = fun. Apple = cool. Wal-Mart = ubiquity. For marketers, core values are critical to maintain because the keep the brand alive long enough for newer, accidental or aspirational values to be integrated into the mixture.

It's quite easy to hypothesize Miley Cyrus’ core values:
  • A positive role model to young girls and synthesize the yin and yang of parental acceptance and teenage angst.
  • Show off the collective power of tens of millions of screaming tween girls clamouring for Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus merch.
  • Stymie anyone older than seventeen with her stunningly apparent lack of vocal ability.



So there you have it. A brand value analysis of Miley Cyrus. Just so there are no hard feelings, I really do like Miley Cyrus as a brand. It’s got some real Teflon-like properties and for all my jibes, she embodies good tween values – including excessive purchasing and considerable lack of substance.

1 comment:

Miley Cyrus Fan said...

Miley is definitely one of Disney's more remarkable brands these days. She gets a heavy rotation of performance on Disney, and the Walmart corporation has more than marketed her (moreso than I ever recall Britney or similar performers ever being marketed on signs, posters, shirts, etc.)