Previously a darling of the young teen market, Miley Cyrus (aka Hannah Montana) had stunned the entertainment industry last year with her new, adult image. While the reactions to this career-changing move have been mixed, there's no denying Cyrus dominated the headlines of Hollywood and music industry gossip publications for many weeks giving her an unprecedented amount of publicity.
With the benefit of hindsight one can see that this was a carefully planned and executed marketing plan. With a nicely arranged follow up appearances, photo shoots and eventually a brand new album all riding high on the hype generated by the image change, it's not hard to see that it was also a very successful move.
While I'm not going to suggest to any of my clients they should strip naked and swing around their workplace on a wrecking ball, there are several key points that are worth adopting in your future marketing plans.
1. If you have to change your brand image do it fast and do it big.
The fans of Miley Cyrus hardly noticed any "transitional" stages. it's almost as if the sweet and innocent teenage Hannah Montana turned into an very grown up, full of attitude Miley overnight.
In a corporate world a perfect example of a similarly executed campaign was ANZ Bank's branding update a few years ago. It seemed like all the offices, staff uniforms, stationery and even the ATMs were changed over to the new corporate branding over a single weekend. The change was well publicised, quick and swift. The general acceptance of the bank's new customer-focused image was equally quick.
2. Have a good reason for the change. Don't change for the change's sake.
In Miley's case the reason was quite clear, she has grown up, as have her fans who were now interested in a different kind of a pop stars and listening to a different type of music. Her only options were to keep making songs for the younger audience, something only a handful of adult entertainers managed to do successfully (The Wiggles being a notable exception), or shake off her teenage image and re-launch her career as a serious, adult entertainer.
While I usually advise my clients against changing their brand image, if there is a genuine need for it a change can be refreshing and beneficial to the brand. The important thing is to capitalise on that change. Just like Miley, who had a new album and music videos waiting for the hype to peak, a company should have new products, new services or a new customer strategy all prepared to take advantage of the publicity generated by the new brand image.
3. Don't worry about haters, worry about your core demographic and loyal customers.
If you're not a Miley Cyrus fan, you would have probably heard a lot more negative than positive comments about her image change. If you look closely though, most of the negative publicity was generated by people and media outlets who do not and more than likely will never buy or promote Miley's records. What it did however, is exposed Miley to a whole new demographic that she couldn't previously reach. So apart from keeping most of her loyal fans, Miley also gained exposure to a whole new group of potential fans.
What is the lesson in this for the corporate sector? Don't listen and act on negative comments from people who are not likely to ever purchase your product or service. As the Facebook saying goes: haters be hatin'. On the other hand, be very attentive and quick to respond to any issues your past or present customers raise. It is those people who will vouch for your brand and go out of their way to promote it to their friends. But only if they feel like they've been listened to.