Miley Cyrus: Train Wreck or Marketing Genius?

Like many people I’ve watched the Miley Cyrus circus unfold over the past month.

I can’t say I like what I’ve seen. Especially as a mother of a young woman myself. Quite honestly, I didn’t expect to be giving her media exposure, because I know that’s exactly her goal, and I don’t want to support her actions. However, after sitting back and watching for a few weeks, as a marketer and someone who writes about money and success, I have to comment.

Media Manipulation

While many of us may not approve of Miley’s theatrics, there’s no denying she has successfully manipulated the public relations machine. It’s been difficult, if not impossible, to turn on the TV, open a magazine, or spend time on the Internet in the past few weeks without bumping into a story about Miley.

And, while there is an entire category of media dedicated to celebrity news, Miley has gone beyond coverage in the Hollywood tabloid media. I learned of Miley’s controversial “Wrecking Ball” music video on

While we may not like what we’ve seen, and we may have all sorts of personal opinions about whether it’s right or wrong, about how her parents can allow this behavior (she is, after all, only 20 years old), about whether she’s objectifying herself, or even having an emotional or mental breakdown right before our eyes, I believe Miley is laughing all the way to the bank.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

While we (you and I) may not approve, the collective we has pushed her latest album to the top of iTunes in 70 countries. The album is also expected to top the Billboard 200 album chart. I believe Miley knows exactly what she’s doing. Not only that, I believe it has all been part of a strategic plan to reposition her from her squeaky clean Disney image of just a few years ago, into an adult artist. From the skimpy clothes and punk haircut, to the tattoos, drug references, twerking and suggestive tongue. They’re all strategically chosen tactics to change how we see Miley Cyrus.

We may not like it but plenty of young adults seem to. If we don’t approve, clearly we are not her target market. In fact, if we don’t approve it probably serves her purposes even better. How many parents approved of Elvis? Isn’t it cooler if your parents or teachers object?

Miley is not the first.

And she surely won’t be the last.

The path to superstardom is often controversial. Artists have to do something to stand out. And plenty have in the past. Like it or not, it works.

Think about…

  • Madonna
  • Britney Spears
  • Lady Gaga

It’s almost a formula.

We really shouldn’t be surprised. Have you opened up a women’s magazine lately? Seen a Carl’s Jr. TV commercial? Sex sells. We are a celebrity-obsessed society.

It’s our fault (again the collective our, if not you and I specifically). We are the ones tuning in. We are the ones buying.

While Miley’s antics may look like a train wreck, I don’t believe they are one. She knows exactly what she’s doing and it’s getting her exactly what she wanted. As long as these tactics work, stars will continue to use them. Only we as consumers have the power to stop this. We have to stop rewarding this behavior. And the only way to do that is with our eyeballs, ears, and wallets. Because as long as this type of marketing gets results (and big results as we’ve seen in Miley’s case) it will continue to be used.


About Debbie

Debbie worked in marketing for 32 years and ran a successful coaching and consulting business for 19. Now she helps people find greater happiness and success by learning how to Follow Inspiration.

2 comments on “Miley Cyrus: Train Wreck or Marketing Genius?

  1. I have thought so all along that this is genius marketing. My hat’s off to Miley. Good for her even if my geezer brain looks askance a little.

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