Continuing today’s kick on reputation, there is this story last week from Forbes – Who’s Minding Miley?:
Miley Cyrus, the 15-year-old star of Disney’s Hannah Montana juggernaut, is the latest tween sensation to threaten her innocent reputation–and give her parent company a headache–after posing for racy photos that appeared online this weekend.
But the photos- including one of Cyrus topless, clutching a blanket over her chest- weren’t taken by an amateur with an axe to grind. Instead, they were part of an Annie Liebowitz spread that will run in an upcoming issue of Vanity Fair. Cyrus apologized to her fans and told People magazine that she “never intended for any of this to happen.”
Intentional or not, fans–and Disney–better get used to it. Like the Olsen twins and other stars before her, Cyrus is clearly growing up. But her risqué transition from tween to teen risks alienating her core fan base, and their purse-holding parents.
Point well taken: brands change — especially if they are teenagers who grow up. The story contrasts so far success of Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) and the failure of Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears. But that just raises the question of what is the brand. Radcliffe wasn’t the brand – Potter was. So Radcliffe can move on to other roles (not as easy as it always sounds — Leonard Nimoy never did shed Mr. Spock, while William Shatner finally made the transition with Boston Legal). Lohan and Spears themselves were the brand.
And customers for the brand also change — and get older. Maintaining customer loyalty can be hard as customers move in and out of your target demographic. GM succeeded for a number of years by having a line of products that pulled people to the higher level as their economic situation improved. That finally fell apart – but it was a great example of a form of brand transitioning.
Bottom line: brands are not static. And the management and valuation of brands needs to take that into account.