When Brands Bubbles Burst

As I was falling asleep last night, this was the topic being debated on CNN. Laura Ries found a way to look at it from a marketing/branding slant. Take a look:

An Achy Breaky Branding Blunder


She was named Destiny Hope Cyrus because her parents knew she would do great things. And that is exactly what the girl now better known as Miley Cyrus and/or Hannah Montana has done.

Miley has become an international pre-teen sensation and mega-brand for the Disney Company. She is only 15 years old but Miley is predicted to be a billionaire by her 18th birthday. Not too bad, all your typical teenager brings home is average grades and acne.

Miley Cyrus’ Empire includes:
– Hit Disney channel TV show: Hannah Montana
– 2 multiplatinum albums
– Sold-out concert tour and concert film
– Upcoming movie (due 2009)
– Book deal with Disney (reportedly seven figures)
– Merchandise including lunch boxes, bed sheets and MP3 players

Miley Cyrus is a teenager and a billion dollar franchise. That is a tough combination to manage from a business, branding and personal perspective. You have three forces at odds with one another.



Disney is in it for the short term. Disney’s goal is to milk the Miley brand as fast and as furious as it can. Why? Because of the short shelf life of a pop-princess. A pre-teen act has 3 to 5 years maximum before the kids grow up or their fans move on.

Disney can treat Miley like an ordinary brand. Ordinary brands in ordinary categories can develop, grow and mature over decades. (Like Red Bull introduced in 1987. )But in 20 years, Miley will probably be lucky enough to get a call back on a third-rate reality cable television show.

Miley Cyrus will grow out of her role as Hannah Montana brand before you know it. She has maybe 3 good years left. Nothing can stop time or puberty.

Ideally Disney would keep Miley in a bubble. With a short shelf life, nobody wants any major slip-ups.

Today Miley is incredibly important to Disney. But five years from now, they will have created another star to replace her.


Miley’s parents

While they are happy to make money now, Miley’s parents, who also manage her career, are also wisely keeping an eye on the future. Her Dad (Billy Ray Cyrus) knows all too well the realities of being a one-hit wonder.

Team Cyrus has to be very worried about how Miley can sustain her fame past 18 years old. It is not easy. There are very few Justin Timberlakes and Britney Spears who go from Mickey Mouse Club to mainstream stardom. Most fade into oblivion.

I imagine it was team Cyrus who wanted to do the Vanity Fair shoot. Vanity Fair is an upscale, sophisticated, cultural, adult magazine. It is the magazine that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes gave their first baby photo to. And the one Bono was a celebrity editor of last summer.

The thinking goes like this: Appearing in Vanity Fair would give Miley her own credibility and authenticity with an influential adult audience apart from Disney. The photographer, Annie Leibovitz, is one of the most respected artistic photographers of our time and her images would lend an edgy, sophisticated look to young Miley. Clearly Disney would be against this; they want Miley to always be Hannah Montana and stick to Seventeen magazine at the raciest.

Miley Cyrus

Let’s not forget, Miley is a teenager. And as any parent will tell you, teenagers are not the most predictable or reliable of creatures. But for Miley and Disney things have gone perfectly.

The clean-cut, church-going, modestly-dressed Miley has been a dream come true for Disney and parents alike. But you could have said that about Britney Spears 10 years ago. So it goes to show you, you just never know. And sometimes delayed rebellion is far worse than one can imagine.


Britney jumped from Mickey Mouse club to “baby one more time” to this Rolling Stones cover when she was 17. And we have all seen the photos of her today.


Was the Vanity Fair shoot a good idea?

No. From the very start this strategy was flawed.

A few months ago Miley turned 15 years old. She is at the height of her success. Vanity Fair is the wrong magazine, Annie Leibovitz is the wrong photographer and the back-bearing shot was the wrong photograph.

But that was the point of the picture and it shouldn’t be such a shock. An adult magazine wants adult photos. The shot of Miley is a beautiful, artistic, edgy, mature photo commonly found in the book. Vanity Fair does not publish publicity shots, it is known for pushing boundaries. When you play with fire, you can’t complain when you get burned.

The time to move to Vanity Fair is when Miley turns 21. Then you have a story to tell of her move into adulthood. Managing the transition is not easy. Start too young and it is child porn. Start too old and it is creepy.

Will this hurt her brand?

It certainly didn’t help. But it is unlikely to do any long-term damage to the Miley Cyrus brand because:

1: There is nobody else out there for teens to adore. The lack of competition is the best thing she’s got going for her. Hillary Duff is in her 20’s. The Cheetah Girls are in their 20’s. And her biggest competition Jamie Lynn Spears (Nickelodeon star and Britney’s sister) got pregnant last year at just 16 years old.

2: The photo of Miley was shocking but not pornographic. It caused so much attention not because of its raciness, but because it was the opposite of her brand image.

Like I said, being the opposite and looking grown-up was probably the intent of Team Cyrus, but the photo obviously went too far. Although other girls have gone farther, quicker, parents thought that Miley would be different and wouldn’t try to grow up so fast like most other pop-stars.

3: She was not on the cover. Not being on the magazine’s cover and being mostly covered is Miley’s saving grace. This will allow the controversy to blow off relatively quickly as long as she doesn’t hitting the clubs with Paris Hilton or doing cocaine with Amy Winehouse. And her parents don’t book her the cover of Maxim magazine.

Miley immediately issued a statement saying she is “embarrassed” by the photos; so she is likely to get sympathy. Her managers and parents on the other hand will get hell.

While it is good for Miley she is not on the cover. It is bad for Vanity Fair. All this free publicity and they are unlikely to reap any rewards or much of a spike in newsstand sales.

The Future?

While it lasts, Miley needs to enjoy the Hannah Montana ride. Her future is uncertain. If she is like the Olsen Twins, she won’t make it into adult stardom. If she is like Lindsay Lohan, she will make it and then throw it all away by doing drugs. If she is like Madonna, she will be as famous 25 years into her career as she was when she started. The secret to Madonna’s success is that she starts a trend, she fades from view and then she returns reincarnated. Hard to do, but when it works, it is pure magic.


Re-defining Branding

What you are about to see is a slide show that you can click through to see how media, marketing, advertising and branding are changing right before our eyes.

Remember no matter what changes with technology, each of us still have the same 24 hours a day that our grandparents had. Yet the speed of technology and how it is affecting the younger generations, (compared to say, the over 55 year olds?), is hard to keep up with.

Is it any wonder that A.D.D. and other disorders are more common today compared to 50 years ago?

Even my kids that are in their teens and early 20’s have placed self-imposed limits on how much tech they are going to use in their daily lives.

The real revolution is that there are more and more choices for getting information, entertainment, social interaction, and each of these options are also more and more interactive which levels the playing field. It also means that each option will likely have a smaller number of users/readers/listeners/viewers, simply because of time limiting factors and the explosion of options.

Well, enough from me, here’s the slide show I promised, from David Armano. Click here to go to his site for more goodies:

Dumbing down and Smarting up

Yesterday I gave my daughter my copy of Seth Godin’s Purple Cow. If you haven’t read it yet. Do so. This week.

One of the thoughts behind the Purple Cow is that you need to be remarkable. Exceptional. Not Perfect, but something that will break out of the ordinary of the plain old black & white (or brown & white) cows and that can separate you from the rest.

Now about the Dumbing Down concept. Last week at the Labov & Beyond Seminar ( Next Thursday is the next and last chapter of the Umbrella series), Barry Labov mentioned how some businesses get repeat business from dissatisfied customers due to the “Suck Factor”. You may suck, but your competitors suck even more, so you win by default.

Smarting up is the opposite. It is the Purple Cow. It is also the subject of this tidbit from MarketingProfs.com:

How Can You Give Customers a Little Thrill?

“When looking for good ideas about customer service, ask around,” writes Paul Williams in a post at the MarketingProfs’ Daily Fix blog. “Exceptional services experiences are rarely forgotten.” He even asked his parents for their input on the topic, and they came up with two experiences that made a lasting impression:

  • While vacationing on St. Thomas in the 1970s, they made dinner reservations at the Cafe Brittany. On their arrival the couple found two matchbooks embossed with their names. “The restaurant made custom matches for every reservation,” explains Williams. “My mom still has them.”
  • Following LASIK surgery performed by Dr. Peter Polack of Ocala, Fla., his mother received a $25 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble with a card that read, “Enjoy your new eyesight!”

According to Williams, these examples have three things in common:

  • They’re an unexpected surprise.
  • They have relevance for the customer.
  • They foster a fond remembrance of the brand.

The Po!nt: Asks Williams, “How can you offer your customers an unexpected surprise, something relevant, and something that helps them remember your brand?”

Source: Daily Fix. Click here for the post.


Remember the Heinz Ketchup commercials that featured the song Carly Simon made famous about Anticipation? The concept was that it was “the Ketchup worth waiting for”. And the reason you had to wait was because the Ketchup was so thick, (and rich with flavor), that the faster pouring ketchups were inferior.

Heinz ought to bring back that campaign. You should consider building anticipation into your advertising. With more on the subject, read this from MarketingProfs.com:

Yummy! I Can’t Wait!

Consumers are notoriously impatient. They want everything and they want it now. But what if they are forced to—gasp!—wait in line? Or—shudder!—wait for delivery? Does delaying consumption negatively impact a person’s enjoyment of the product?

Good news! The opposite might actually be true, if you play your marketing cards right. Researchers at Arizona State University found that delays can actually add to the customer experience—if the person anticipates consumption to be pleasant.

(OK. Hold off eating that chocolate bar for a minute. Now, bite. See what we mean?) The delay allows the consumer to savor their anticipation of the product, which adds to their experience.

What does this mean for marketers? It’s best to build a yummy factor into the customer experience as much as possible. In particular, design ways to enhance customer anticipation when a delay is necessary. For example, a restaurant might design a waiting area next to the kitchen, where the sights and aromas of the food arouse diners’ anticipation.

Or when savvy marketers help consumers anticipate consumption pleasure (“New spring styles on sale this Saturday only!”), they just might make the customer’s product experience more enjoyable, too.

The Po!nt: Don’t forget the yummy factor in promotions. Imagery that marketers provide about how good product consumption will be may enhance a customer’s savoring of the product experience—and their enjoyment of it once they receive it.

Source: “The Effect of a Delay between Choice and Consumption on Consumption Enjoyment” by Stephen M. Nowlis, Naomi Mandel, and Deborah Brown McCabe. Journal of Consumer Research, 2004. Click here for a PDF of the report.

Harvey’s ABC’s of Selling-4

Wednesday’s update from Harvey Mackay:

The ABCs of Selling

By Harvey Mackay

Not long ago, I was listening as one of my grandchildren practiced his ABCs. He had a little picture book that helped him remember what the letters stood for, and he studied it intently, determined to be the first in his class to know all the letters and words. With his determination, I knew he would master the alphabet in no time at all.

As he worked, I started thinking about what those letters mean to me, after a lifetime in sales and years of helping young hopefuls get started in their careers. I didn’t draw pictures, but these are the words my alphabet book would include:

Availability for your customers is essential, so they can reach you with questions, concerns or reorders.

Believe in yourself and your company, or find something else to sell.

Customers aren’t always right, but if you want to keep them as your customers, find a way to make them right.

Deliver more than you promise.

And NEVER, do the opposite!

Newspaper Circulation Numbers Released

I have friends in the paper business. I sit with one of them on the board of directors of our local AdFed. And I would not want to be in her shoes.

Another job I would not want to have is selling Yellow Page Advertising. But today, let’s stick to the newsprint biz with this report from Mediapost:

Bad Read: Newspaper Circs Fall Again
by Erik Sass, Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008 7:45 AM ET
newspapers The long slide in newspaper circulations continued with the release Monday of figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations showing an overall circulation decline of 3.6% in the six months ending March 2008, compared to the same period one year ago.

This is the steepest drop yet (up from a 3% drop in September), and it’s the ninth straight report where newspaper circs have declined. Since March 2004, total daily circulations have fallen almost 10%, from about 50.8 million to about 46.2 million.

The news is now so bad, and delivered with such regularity, that the Newspaper Association of America–which used to crunch the ABC numbers for total circulation figures–no longer bothers to do so. The percent and overall figures are the result of independent analysis.

In most cases, daily and Sunday circs both declined, with Sunday declines generally larger. That’s especially bad news because advertisers consider Sunday editions key to reaching consumers.

Among big national papers, The New York Times saw daily circulation fall 3.9% to about 1.08 million, as Sunday circulation tumbled 9.3% to about 1.48 million. At the Los Angeles Times, daily circulation fell 5.2% and Sunday 6%. The Washington Post‘s daily circ fell 3.6% and Sunday 4.4%. At the Chicago Tribune, daily and Sunday circ both fell 4.5%.

Big regional papers also suffered.

The Houston Chronicle‘s daily circ fell 1.8%, as Sunday fell 6.6%.The Dallas Morning News daily circ fell 10.6%, and Sunday declined 7.6%. The San Francisco Chronicle‘s daily circ fell 14.1%, as Sunday plummeted 16.6%. The Phoenix Republic‘s daily circ fell 5%, while Sunday dipped by 5.6%. The Denver Post/Rocky Mountain News saw its combined daily circ fall 11.4%, as Sunday dropped 15%.

No part of the country was spared.

The Miami Herald‘s combined daily circulation fell 9.4%, as Sunday slipped 7.6%. Likewise, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s daily circ fell 8.6%, a Sunday slipped 5.1%. The Boston Globe‘s daily circulation fell 8.4%, and Sunday dropped 6.5%. The Detroit Free Press saw daily circulation fall 6.7%, Sunday 5.2%. The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s daily circ fell 5.1%, while Sunday dropped 6.3%. At the Newark Star Ledger, daily circ fell 7.4%, and Sunday dipped by 12.3%. And the Cleveland Plain Dealer‘s daily circ slipped 4.2%, as Sunday fell 3.3%. There were a few exceptions to the general gloom: USA Today and The Wall Street Journal both saw circulation creep up slightly, gaining less than 1% each.

SoundBite Back Bits

I chose to live and work in Indiana’s 2nd largest city, Fort Wayne.

Awhile ago I had lunch with Anthony Juliano, another media professional that writes something everyday on his blog entitled SoundBite Back.

I get an update each night in my email, via feedburner.

You can get updates sent to your email of Anthony’s Blog, or this Blog, or nearly any blog you want via feedburner.

Here’s a couple of Bits from Anthony:

SoundBite Back

Sometimes the best marketing ideas are the simplest ones

Posted: 29 Apr 2008 08:14 PM CDT

Like this. How will people spend their economic stimulus checks? It’s hard to say, but it’s almost certain that after reading this news, a lot more people are planning on spending some of their windfall at Kroger and with other retailers who are handing out a little something extra.

Photo: sufinawaz on stock.xchng

Vintage political ads: the good–and bad–old days

Posted: 29 Apr 2008 04:57 PM CDT

Despite the battle on the Democratic side, this campaign season hasn’t yielded much in the way of landmark political advertising. A compilation of old political ads on Parade.com, however, shows that every election year offers the chance of spots that are good, bad, and ugly. For every “Daisy Girl” or Willie Horton ad that shakes things up, there’s an Adalai Stevenson or “Ike” Eisenhower jingle to drag things back to earth. It’s good to know that while things may not have gotten any better, they haven’t necessarily gotten much worse, either.