Cyrus, known for her squeaky-clean Disney image, seems to be pushing to mature her brand. For example, her notorious Vanity Fair photo session with Annie Leibovitz, which provoked outrage last year, could be seen as the first step in her push for a more adult audience. In this context, the Miley Cyrus/Max Azria line aims for a comfortable middle ground: she's a top-selling recording artist at Wal-Mart, where much of her core audience already shops, so it seems a logical retailer for the clothing line.
Yet by pairing with Max Azria, Cyrus is making a bid for respectability and a more sophisticated image. While most of her audience won't recognize the designer's name, aspirational shoppers might want to fill their carts with his wares.
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The pairing also makes sense for Wal-Mart, positioned as a chain for consumers living paycheck-to-paycheck. In light of the financial meltdown, its core audience has likely exploded. The $20 price point is high for the store, but quite low for many new (and once-affluent) Wal-Mart customers. Even if they don't bite, Miley Cyrus is a sure bet.
The third link in the chain is Max Azria. A move that's logical for Cyrus is a big leap for a designer best known for the stylish BCBGMAXAZRIA line, whose mission is "innovative, high-quality clothing at realistic price points." Azria's definition of "realistic" is flexible: his T-shirts start at a relatively inexpensive $38, but most BCBG tops are in the $100 to $200 range.
Still, pairing with Wal-Mart isn't a strategy from out of the blue. While Azria's last retail partner, Nordstrom, has a far more affluent clientele than Wal-Mart, co-branding is clearly becoming an important way to widen his reach. But Wal-Mart is new territory for Azria, a bulwark against further slowing of sales among his more affluent clientele. Given the economic outlook -- and his core audience's likely economizing -- it's a wise move.
If their marriage succeeds, then three highly disparate brands will benefit mightily from this strange synergy. But even if it fails, this unique cross-pollination promises to be fabulous.