Was Miley Cyrus’ VMAs Performance a Botched Attempt at Rebranding?


By now, unless you’ve been living under a really peaceful rock, you’ve heard of the disaster that was Miley Cyrus’ performance with Robin Thicke at the MTV VMAs. During the performance, Cyrus donned a furry swimsuit that resembled a cartoonish teddy bear, but later stripped to flesh-toned underwear. The performance was described across the internet as “cringeworthy” and Cyrus was widely criticized for the entire ordeal. But perhaps the pop singer was simply trying to rebrand herself from her days as the loveable, adorable TV star kids knew as “Hannah Montana.” Even if she was, though, she missed the mark. There are a few areas she went wrong in her rebranding attempt, and in this blog we will discuss how you can avoid making the same mistakes in your business.

Moving Too Far Away From the Original Image

As any business knows, it’s important for customers to be able to recognize you and rely on the service you provide. In Cyrus’ case, she went too far off of the path she had started down on, leading many people to see the performance as comical, not to be taken seriously, and tacky. Likewise, when businesses attempt rebranding themselves but move too far away at once from what they originally portrayed clients may shy away under the guise that they no longer can trust the business because they don’t understand its actions.

Miley may have gained some new fans that night, but she likely lost more due to the aggressive nature of her new brand. Her new look offended some and shocked nearly everyone who saw it, so it wouldn’t be an unfair speculation that prior fans have turned from her music toward something they can rely on. In the same vein, if you’re trying to rebrand your organization, it’s important to keep some of the same elements of your old branding so that customers can still recognize you.

Confusing Clientele (or Fans)

When Miley donned that pale set of undergarments, she had to have known, at least somewhat, what the response would be. Regardless of the fact that the outfit was reminiscent of the outfits used in Thicke’s video for his hit song “Blurred Lines,” the underwear looked far different on her than it did on the women in the music video. The shock value of stripping off a teddy bear outfit into very revealing underwear confused her viewers. When customers, or in her case, viewers, are shocked and confused about how to respond to new branding, the response may not always default to “favorable.”

When a business rebrands and shocks its client base, those clients may not stick around—again, the switch up can cause clients to feel as though they no longer know who they are dealing with and working with, and they may no longer feel that a business represents their ideals and values. It’s important to thoroughly consider each step of your rebranding process before implementing it, and to really focus on what your client base will think of the change.

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