Does s*x still sell? Lessons from Miley Cyrus


If you’ve got it, as they say, flaunt it. Since the earliest days of celebrity culture, bodies have been used to promote people, businesses, brands, ideas and lifestyles. But, despite being hardened by over a century of suggestion in the media, is it still possible to be too blue for the public?

Of course the answer is most definitely yes. Irrespective of what Madonna did when she crossed over from starlet to sex queen with her movie In Bed with… Regardless of the boundaries broken by Britney Spears in school uniform at the end of the 1990s. Everyone must have a line, and crossing it risks alienating supporters, customers, followers and fans.

By now most of you will be aware of Miley Cyrus-gate, wherein the innocent pop sensation (AKA Hannah Montana) unleashed her apparently repressed inner-self before a watching, largely under-18 world. Dressed in nothing more than a skin coloured bikini, she got on stage at the MTV VMA Awards and set about Twerking herself senseless, which, by the way, is the name of a highly provocative dance that just made it into the Oxford English Dictionary.

Within half an hour or so the Internet was alive with chatter, videos, and images, discussing the ‘highly inappropriate’ performance. An icon in the eyes of many girls who are far too young to see such movements, that several of the ‘crowd reaction shots’ appearing online in the aftermath actually depicted Will Smith and family looking aghast at Lady GaGa, at an earlier moment, is irrelevant. The damage has been done.

So what can we learn from this latest case of a famous person seemingly switching personalities. Well, for one thing this shouldn’t put anyone off trying to sex up a story- it’s been done since the printing press was invented and will be done again, successfully. Nevertheless, there are certain rules that Ms. Cyrus may not have fully considered before donning such revealing attire and as such I implore you to make a note of them, even if it is just to confirm exactly where she went wrong.

Rule #1 – Know your audience, and don’t offend or alienate your core fan or customer base

Rule #2 – Focus on long term positioning not short-term gain, and similarly consider the repercussions in two weeks, three months, and four years.

Rule #3 – Think twice or pay the price.

Rule #4 – In the words of our favourite news anchorman, Ron Burgundy, stay classy. Think Dita Von Teese, rather than Jodie Marsh.