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Even if you didn’t watch the VMAs last month, there’s a good chance you saw the controversial video of former Disney star Miley Cyrus and her possibly inappropriate performance; a performance so controversial and public that it made the word “twerking” the biggest word of the year.

While much of the world found the performance lacking in elegance and sophistication, there’s no question the former Disney star got people talking. Her performance might be one of the biggest marketing demonstrations the world has seen in a while. Here are four online marketing lessons her show highlighted.

1. Build awareness through controversy

One of the biggest online marketing lessons Miley Cyrus demonstrated is that there’s no better way to raise awareness than controversy.

The star has a new single and CD out. To bring awareness to her new product, she went for controversy. She got people talking, which raised attention for her brand.

2. Employ a controversial strategy

Another online marketing tool is strategy. Cyrus didn’t choose an arbitrary Tuesday afternoon to make her controversial appearance. She chose the night of the VMAs because it was the night her new single dropped.

She became the hottest topic across the country, and that strategy brought more attention to her new single. More attention equates to more downloads.

Your business could use the same strategy. Spark attention when your business has something new to offer.

3. Target a specific market

Ask yourself: Who did Cyrus most offend with her performance? The answer is older people and parents. Who loved it? Teens, tweens, and young adults. She knows your grandmother isn’t going to download her music, but you are.

When a brand uses target-specific marketing, it might risk anger and controversy in some circles, but that might also excite the target and get them talking.

4. Create a new image

Miley Cyrus is best known as Hannah Montana, but now that she’s in her 20s she no longer wants to be regarded as a squeaky-clean Disney star. Why? Because that image no longer works for her.

Perhaps your business image no longer works for your company. How do you change that? With a good controversial marketing strategy that gets people talking and helps the world see your brand in a different light.

No longer does Miley have to worry that the world sees her as an innocent child star singing about fairies and fun days and roller coasters. She’s become edgy, scary, and a bit mysterious.

Marketing matters

Every detail at the VMAs — from the childish teddy bear body suit to the skin colored leather bikini, and the twerking to the use of a foam finger — was carefully planned and strategized. Your brand needs the same strategic planning to create online controversy strong enough to boost your brand and your business.

There’s nothing wrong with a bit of controversy in a marketing campaign. When it comes to success, there’s no such thing as bad marketing. The more attention your methods bring to your brand, the more successful you’ll become.