MTV lessons on how to “Express Yourself”.

23 Aug

In a previous tweet I referenced a study commissioned by MTV who clearly understands and has managed to stay ahead of their elusive millennial audience, and wants to keep a good thing going. (

So how has MTV done it? I suppose large budgets help. But throwing money at this target audience isn’t the answer – the solution requires far more creativity. And although research can help pave the way for great strategic marketing and advertising, many of the gem insights outlined in the study findings are things that MTV has been doing (well and at light speed) for quite some time.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

One study finding that MTV has managed to dominate is the idea of brand evolution that is as timely and fluid as the very audience they’re working to attract and retain. So what’s the secret? In order to be considered an evolutionary brand one requires creative thinking, strategic and certainly customer insight, but most importantly, a willingness to constantly re-evaluate and reinvent yourself – to be(come) a Madonna-esque brand if you will.

Madonna in Famous Gaultier Cone Bra

Let’s look for a moment at the chameleon that is Madonna. What is it that’s captured our attention and held it for so many years? Is it the fact that she’s a great singer? Arguably, she’s no better or worse that every other female artist out there. So what is her key differentiator? It’s the fact that she isn’t afraid to express and reinvent herself…often. Think back to the 90’s – just because she’d historically wore sheer tops during her shows didn’t mean she couldn’t pull off a Gaultier cone bra with amazing and unforgettable impact. She has continued to make risky moves, but has stayed true to her personality and she’s pulled them off with 100% confidence.

It’s this approach that has Madonna’s and MTV’s audience looking to them as the end-all-be-all for trends in music, fashion and life. So how can we all create a brand connection this deep with our audience? Is it really as easy as it sounds – taking your brand and stretching, pulling and twisting it into variations of itself in order to keep it engaging and compelling in a way that competing brands are not? Absolutely!

The trick is recognizing that you (and the brand police within your organization) need to get creative, act fast when opportunities arise and consider approaches you wouldn’t have previously considered. While you certainly want to keep in mind any foundational work you’ve done to build your brand, you have to be willing to push the boundaries of brand guidelines so new evolutions feel like natural extensions of your brand personality, not just a “strategic plan for creating emotional engagement” – your audience will see right through it.

Last but not least, don’t over think how you will evolve your brand, just follow your brand intuition and have fun with it. So what are you waiting for? Go ahead, Express Yourself!



2 Responses to “MTV lessons on how to “Express Yourself”.”

  1. andmerson August 24, 2011 at 9:36 am #

    Great points Jodie. We often think of a brand like a person- with its own voice and unique style. As humans, we have consistent underlying values but we still constantly update ourselves. We buy new clothes, set out on adventures and garner an entirely new library worth of stories. We stay intriguing.

    It’s the poor soul with the 80’s haircut and same old stories that stands alone at the party- why would we expect anything different for a brand.

  2. Doug Brown August 24, 2011 at 8:13 pm #

    Re-invention also resolves competitive changes, the advent of new technologies and what I would call “happenstance”, the fortuitous event, or bit of luck, that can change the fortunes of a brand. When lady luck smiles on you, it would be unwise to ignore the opportunity for the sake of brand stubbornness.

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