Miley Cyrus is only Guilty of Bad Branding

I don’t watch MTV’s Video Music Awards. To me they are a relic of a long dead era. I really wonder why MTV even bothers since their model doesn’t include music video broadcasts anymore.

This year the internet exploded about Miley Cyrus’ performance, so naturally I had to look to see what the fuss was about, and while I was at it, I looked at some of the other performances as well. The verdict? Yawn.

The entire thing looked like it was done on a low budget. But what I couldn’t really grasp initially is why Miley’s grinding and gyrations (the likes of which dominated MTV all throughout the late 90s… The Grind anyone?) were being called out as lewd or surprising. This is after Lady Gaga sported a string bikini bottom that would be illegal on several US beaches. Past VMA’s shocked and awed more so than this one. The three way open mouth extra-tongue kiss between Madonna, Christina, and Brittney a number of years back comes to mind.

If I could put my ad-man hat on for a second, I think it ultimate came down to this: Gaga’s branding and marketing is better than Miley’s. Pop stars are exactly that, too — brands. Miley had a killer brand for a long time that she was quick to shed to break out into adult pop. Her new brand, although using her real name, is just as genuine as Hannah Montana or Lady Gaga, but it has one severe problem. It’s inconsistent.

Inconsistency can ruin a brand, this applies to all types of industries and all types of personas. Party in the U.S.A. era Miley was a Gen-Y pop star that visually took a cue from her roots as the daughter of country mega-star Billy Ray. This Miley had a playful levity with a touch of sultry fashion that was prime 2010’s pop success. Short shorts, a lower cut top, and long brown locks distanced her from the Hannah Montana brand. And although Party in the U.S.A. was one step in the sexier compared to her first two Miley Cyrus albums, there was a gradual change that seemed natural for someone breaking out of her late teens and entering her 20s. Even when Can’t Be Tamed hit with a bit of media fanfare, the album at least broadcasted themes of rebellion and breaking out of expectations.

However We Can’t Stop was just such a jarring step into outer-space it makes consumers feel that she is being *obviously* disingenuous. Keep in mind, she’s just as genuine as she was as Hannah Montana or Miley of Party in the U.S.A., but the type of media that covers pop stars is unforgiving, and can’t handle the jarring move in her character’s development.

Lady Gaga™, on the other hand, can get away with this sort of thing. Why? Not because the person is more genuine, but because her brand is. Not that it matters, Miley has two songs in the top 10 on iTunes, despite the media backlash.

Maybe this campaign is working afterall.