Be forewarned — I know, from sharing this idea with friends, that some of you aren’t going to like this post. May I ask that you please read all the way through, however, before you make any final decisions?
A significant part of the national conversation recently has centered around Miley Cyrus — and how her “twerking” and the Video Music Awards was anything from a sign of the apocalypse, to a brilliant career move, to a sad commentary on how a Disney star has turned into something much less wholesome and admirable.
Personally, with my tastes in music and entertainment, I didn’t like the performance and found it to be jaw-droppingly awful.
From a professional and business standpoint, however…I thought it was brilliant. Would you have guessed just a few months ago that Cyrus would become a hot topic? Could you have imagined that she would be on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine and have the #1 song in the nation? Whether it was Miley herself — or her manager and she made the decision to go along — someone developed a plan to make her distinctive and connect with her customers. (The Rolling Stone article suggests the plan has been five years in the making.) They took three lessons from the likes of Apple and Amazon, and they’ve revolutionized her career.
First, she knows her customer. Apple knows who wants its products — and, evidently given how the sales of the new iPhones are shattering expectations, they know it a lot better than Wall Street or other prognosticators. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is constantly mentioning how customer-centric and targeted his company has always been. Miley Cyrus knows her target market — and she constructed an image to appeal directly to them.
- Do you know your customers and have targeted them as precisely?
Second, she doesn’t waste time or effort focusing on those who aren’t customers. I get the impression that she doesn’t give a damn about whether or not a middle-aged guy like me cared for her performance. A buddy sent me the link to her latest video, and I couldn’t get through the first thirty seconds. I’ll bet she would think that is a great sign that what she’s doing is working. Bezos says that Amazon pays no attention to their competition. They aren’t customers. Tim Cook of Apple said that “what Microsoft does is of absolutely no concern to Apple.” Perhaps he views the two companies as focused upon different target customers. As Larry Winget says, “You’ll never be great enough to create raving fans if you aren’t also willing to create raving enemies.” Miley has certainly created her share of nay-sayers…but, her career has never been hotter.
- Do you waste time and effort trying to get those outside your target to become customers, instead of creating more profound loyalty and engagement from those inside your market segment?
Third, she’s willing to re-invent herself. Cyrus’ image today is a far cry from “Hanna Montana.” And, Amazon didn’t stay as exclusively a book retailer. Apple became the company with the highest market cap in the world when they branched beyond a product line that was exclusively computers. We now live in an age where you have to be amenable to refreshing your image in order to connect more compellingly with those you’ve targeted. If you want to see a career that was white-hot and then dramatically dissipated…look no further than Miley’s father, Billy Ray Cyrus. Would you want to still be singing “Achy Breaky Heart” all these years later? He’s frozen in time…but, by re-inventing herself, his daughter has suddenly become relevant in her demographic.
- Do you have the willingness to re-invent a product, a service, an organization…yourself?
You can say that Miley has no talent — I’m not a fan of her singing ability, either. However, I do remember my parents saying the same thing about the Beatles after they were on The Ed Sullivan Show. And, my grandparents said that to them about Elvis. Some of you may have said it to your kids about Madonna.
I DON’T believe that Miley Cyrus is the next Elvis, Beatles, or Madonna — by a long shot.
However…what’s going on here also suggests that somewhere along the way that we need to consider this point: nothing amazing will happen unless we’re willing to shake things…or, maybe “twerk” things…up just a bit.