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Jessica Coston
Final Case Study

The Rebranding of Justin Bieber


In recent years, Justin Bieber’s image has shifted dramatically. When he first came into

the public eye in 2007, Bieber was just 13 years old and quickly developed a reputation as a cute,

Canadian teenage pop star. His first album, “My World,” made a huge splash in the music

industry and started Bieber down a path of great success and enormous fame. However, in 2013,

Bieber’s image changed drastically when reports of the singer’s various behavioral scandals

began to surface. Since the beginning of 2015, Bieber has made efforts to repair his image and

reconnect with his fans. He set out on what many media outlets are calling an “apology tour,”

partnered with Calvin Klein as a celebrity endorser and has made several positive steps toward

recovering his brand. While he has a solid start, Bieber will need to continue reconnecting with

fans and making a new name for himself to repair the brand he so publicly tarnished.

Rise to Fame

Bieber was first discovered by his now-manager Scooter Braun and fellow singer Usher

when Braun came across videos of the Canadian 13-year-old on YouTube. In 2009, he released

his first album, “My World,” which included hits like “One Time” and “One Less Lonely Girl.”

In 2010, Bieber went on his first world tour and released “My World 2.0,” which included one of

his biggest hits to date: “Baby” (cbc.ca 2014). The release of “Baby” set in stone the fame of

Justin Bieber. To date, the music video for “Baby” has over 1 billion views on YouTube,
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making it the most-viewed YouTube video of all time, and was on the charts for 317 weeks,

peaking at No. 1 (statisticbrain.com).

Since the release of “Baby,” Bieber has released three more albums, gone on huge,

worldwide tours and has become one of the most-followed people on Twitter, second only to pop

star Katy Perry. There was even a 3D film made about Bieber’s life and career. In 2011, “Justin

Bieber: Never Say Never” was released in theaters, grossing $98,441,954 in box office sales


Fall from Glory

Though his 2012 album, “Believe,” was a huge hit, becoming his fifth No. 1 album,

Bieber’s 2013 album, “Journals,” was far less successful. The album was released in

installments in a purely digital format with a song release every week for several weeks.

“Journals” sold relatively few copies, did not make the Billboard chart and received poor reviews

(nme.com). The failure of “Journals” was just the beginning of what became a hard year for

Bieber in 2013.

In April 2013, Bieber made what many perceived to be an offensive statement. After

visiting the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Bieber wrote, “Truly inspiring to be able to come

here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber,” in the site’s guestbook.

This was the first of many incidents that tarnished the star’s good name. Later that year, in July,

a video surfaced of Bieber urinating in a janitor’s mop bucket and spray painting expletives on a

picture of former President Bill Clinton. Bieber did apologize to Clinton after this incident, but

that was not the end of his behavioral problems. In January 2014, Bieber was charged with a

DUI in Miami and partook in vandalizing his neighbor’s house by throwing eggs at it. The
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egging of his neighbor’s house led to Bieber being put on probation, being forced to take anger

management classes and paying his neighbor $80,000 in damages (CNN.com 2015).

These and other incidents culminated to create an entirely different reputation for Bieber.

The singer’s public perception was so bad at one point that in January 2014, there was a petition

in favor of his deportation from the United States on the White House’s official website, which

received a total of 273,968 signatures (petitions.whitehouse.gov 2014). At this point, it was

obvious that the star’s image was tarnished and needed repair. Bieber’s scandals continued

throughout 2014.

Unlike in the Rush Limbaugh case, Bieber’s actions contradicted his brand image,

negatively impacting the way the public and media viewed him for a long period of time.

Limbaugh’s image, however, was not affected in the long term when he made rude remarks in

regard to women’s health issues on his radio show because his rude, radical comments coincided

with his shock-jock brand image. If an action, even if it is offensive, aligns with the image a

brand has a reputation for having, then the action will have fewer long-term effects on how the

brand’s publics view it and interact with it. If the action does not align with the image, more

effort will need to go into repairing the brand’s good name.

As we learned from cases like Tiger Woods, it is impossible to control your CEO at all

times, especially when the CEO is the entire brand. Woods, similarly to Bieber, once had a

wholesome, family-friendly image. He had a reputation for being a great golfer and a great

family man. However, after a long line of mistresses began revealing his darker side in a larger-

than-life cheating scandal, Woods was forced to do major damage control and rebrand.

Bieber is currently facing similar hurdles. He has done a lot of less-than-admirable

things and in order to regain public trust, he will need to rebrand. Bieber’s key publics include
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his fans, who he calls “Beliebers,” his record label, Island Records, and now Calvin Klein, the

brand he recently began endorsing. To regain the trust of “Beliebers,” Bieber will need to restore

some of the good image he had in the past while maintaining the more adult image he has

worked to achieve. By doing this, he will secure a positive brand image and hopefully, album

sales. In doing this, he will keep both his record company and his new partner brand, Calvin

Klein happy. He has already taken steps in this process in the form of an “apology tour,” social

media use, particularly with Vine, and his mutually symbiotic relationship with Calvin Klein.

The “Apology Tour”

On Jan. 28, 2015, after an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Bieber posted a

video apology on his Facebook page. The one-minute-and-42-second video featured the singer

in his bedroom with dim lighting. In his apology, Bieber said that he was not proud of the way

he had been acting for the past year and a half, saying, “I’m not who I was pretending to be.” He

emphasized how hard growing up can be and said that he wanted people to know that he really

does care about his fans and people, in general. The video received 5,236,888 views and 379,854

likes. This was what I would consider a successful apology.

Unlike the video apology of Lululemon’s CEO, Chip Wilson, Bieber’s apology seemed

genuine and relatable. When Wilson made a video apologizing for his inappropriate comments

on women’s body types, it was not well-received. Wilson’s apology seemed scripted and poorly

targeted, as he did not apologize to the people he offended, but rather to the people he wanted to

please. Bieber’s apology had the opposite effect because he appeared to be genuinely interested

in regaining the respect and trust of his publics. The video seemed to be spur-of-the-moment and

he used language that made him approachable. By talking about the difficulties of growing up
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and discussing how he felt awkward and judged while on Ellen, Bieber gave his apology video a

quality that is very important to brand recovery: relatability.

The next stop on Bieber’s apology tour was another appearance on Ellen. In February

2015, the singer visited The Ellen DeGeneres Show yet again and discussed the apology video he

posted after his last appearance. He once again said that he was not proud of his past

transgressions and said that he is looking forward to his future personal growth and that he is

glad to have the public’s support in the new chapter of his life. Ellen was a great platform for

Bieber to make a public, televised apology. First of all, Bieber and DeGeneres have an extensive

history together. Bieber’s first appearance on the show was back in 2009, when he was just 15

years old. Since then, he has made about 15 more appearances on the show. DeGeneres’s

viewers have become accustomed to Bieber being on the show and he has become a staple in the

show’s celebrity affiliations. Based on Bieber and DeGeneres’s Facebook accounts, they share a

similar demographic. According to Bieber’s account, the majority of his Facebook followers are

women between the ages of 18 and 24, while The Ellen DeGeneres Show’s account says that

most of its followers are women between the ages of 18 and 34. Twitter is also a connecting

factor between Bieber and DeGeneres. They are both on the top-10 list of Twitter accounts with

the most followers. Bieber is at No. 2 with 63,115,023 followers, while DeGeneres is at No. 9

with 42,740,361 followers (friendorfollow.com). Given their history, similar demographics and

large Twitter presences, Bieber and DeGeneres are likely to have overlapping publics, making

The Ellen DeGeneres Show a great platform for Bieber’s rebranding efforts.

Bieber’s most recent apology tour stop was the Comedy Central “Roast of Justin Bieber.”

On March 30, Bieber allowed a large group of comedians and other celebrities to “roast” him on

national television, giving them permission to point out and make fun of his music, personality
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and most importantly, his past transgressions that led to his currently flawed brand image.

Celebrities that participated in the roast included “roast master” Kevin Hart, Will Ferrell,

Shaquille O’Neal, Snoop Dogg, Martha Stewart and several others. With such big names

involved, the roast brought in huge ratings. With 4.4 million viewers at original air time, “The

Roast of Justin Bieber” became the third most-watched roast in Comedy Central history, falling

behind only the roasts of Jeff Foxworthy and Charlie Sheen (variety.com 2015).

This Comedy Central event could really help Bieber in his rebranding efforts. Not only

does it show his willingness to own up to his mistakes and laugh at himself, it gave him yet

another opportunity to publicly apologize for his wrongdoings. After all of the jokes and laughs,

Bieber took the time to get serious and again apologized for his behavior over the past year and a

half. He said that he was not prepared for a life of fame when he first started at 12 years old and

that he has done things he’s not proud of, saying, “The things that I've done really don't really

define who I am. I am a kind-hearted person who loves people, and through it all I lost some of

my best qualities. For that, I'm sorry.”

While it could be perceived that Bieber is being genuine and truly trying to repair his

relationship with fans and mend ties with his record label, some may perceive the apology tour to

be disingenuous and self-serving. One comment by comedian Hannibal Buress that ended up not

making the cut for the final roast is an example of how Bieber’s efforts may be negatively

perceived. Buress said, “Actually you should thank me for participating in this extremely

transparent attempt to be more likeable in the public eye. And, I hope it doesn’t work”

(latimes.com 2015). So, while the apology tour may be seen as a positive thing, it could have

been a risky move, as some people may think it was nothing but a publicity stunt, which could

further damage the brand he is trying to repair. Honesty and genuineness are very important in
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public relations, so it will be vital to Bieber’s rebranding that people believe in his changes and

think that he will be a better version of himself in the future. If the public perceives his

rebranding efforts as self-serving and insincere, then his apology tour was in vain.

However, I think it will work in Bieber’s favor that the platforms on which his apologies

took place were well-suited for his personality and profession. After his similar brand crisis,

Tiger Woods held a press conference where he delivered an apology to all of his key publics.

While Woods’s and Bieber’s apologies were similar in the way that both of them seemed honest

and sincere, they greatly differed in delivery. Woods is in a much more rigid profession as a

professional golfer, so his publics would expect a more sophisticated apology. Also, most

people would agree that the nature of Woods’s wrongdoings were more severe and thus

prompted a more serious apology. Because of his more relaxed profession and less serious

allegations, Bieber was able to have more fun with his apologies and deliver them in ways that

his publics would best be reached. Avenues of apologies should suit the party issuing them, and

I think Bieber successfully found avenues that suit him.

Vine Activity

Social media has also played a role in Bieber’s recent rebranding. The singer’s activity

on Vine, an app that allows users to post only six-second videos, has helped cast him in a

positive light. Bieber has had a Vine account since the middle of 2014, so he has been posting

Vines since before his recent rebrand started. To date, he has posted 80 Vines, appeared in many

Vines posted by other users and has accumulated 3.7 million followers. His early Vines were not

incriminating and showed him doing fun, normal things with his friends like playing sports,
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playing music and having a good time. However, as of January 2015, his Vines became even

more wholesome and began to play a role in his rebrand.

In the early days of his Vine activity, I think the app served as a great way to stay

connected with fans, even in the middle of some of the scandals that led to his tarnished brand

image. Despite his poor decisions in his personal life, fans were granted access to Bieber’s

normal, human side. They could see his friends, what he liked to do, his sense of humor and his

musical talents, to remind them of his good qualities, even while he was going through a rough


Since the beginning of the year, however, Bieber’s use of Vine has, like all other parts of

his public life, become a part of his rebrand. Since Jan. 1, he has posted Vines promoting Calvin

Klein, promoting Comedy Central’s “The Roast of Justin Bieber” and showing him with his

family. So, not only have his new Vines promoted the other parts of his rebrand, they have

shown his softer side by depicting him spending time with his family and playing with his

younger siblings.

Social media has similarly played a role in the reworking of other brands as well. Miley

Cyrus has gone through a rebrand similar to that of Justin Bieber in the past couple of years. She

too made a transition from child star to adult star. Cyrus used social media, in the form of

Instagram, to aid her reimage. She opened her account around the time of her infamous VMA

performance with Robin Thicke, and her first post was a provocative picture of herself, which

promoted the new image she was trying to portray. Similarly, Bieber has used Vine as an outlet

to express the person he now wants to be. He has portrayed himself as more of a family man and

has made a greater effort to connect with fans. We also saw a similar use of social media in an

attempt to rebrand potatoes. In an attempt to give people a more positive perception of the health
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of potatoes, Pinterest was used to show healthy ways to eat potatoes in moderation. In a similar

way, Bieber’s use of Vine shows his followers a good side of him, despite the negative

perceptions they may have of him.

Calvin Klein

When discussing how to market the new BMW i3, we talked about the benefits of

celebrity endorsements and the importance of choosing a celebrity that fits your brand. The

Bieber-Klein partnership was somewhat unexpected, but it has turned out to be the perfect

match. Calvin Klein clothing ads have always had a reputation for being edgy, risky and up-to-

date with pop culture. Bieber perfectly personifies those three elements. He is a young star with

millions of fans across the globe, he has recently become a controversial figure in pop culture,

and his newly changed physical appearance consists of tattoos, slicked back hair and a muscular

physique. Bieber has provided Calvin Klein with a lot of publicity and has helped the brand

upkeep its tendency to work with Hollywood “bad boys.” The clothing brand had a very similar

relationship with Mark “Marky Mark” Wahlberg in the 1990s. At the time, Wahlberg had quite

the reputation for being a troublemaker. Prior to his rap and acting careers, Wahlberg was

arrested several times for drug charges and even spent a couple years in prison for assault

charges (huffingtonpost.com 2014). In 1992, Wahlberg partnered with Calvin Klein and his

iconic ads drew a lot of attention to both parties. Both Wahlberg’s and Bieber’s ads were done in

classic Calvin Klein style. Both featured young, attractive models posing for provocative, black-

and-white photographs and videos. Since the January release of Calvin Klein’s ad series

featuring Bieber, the singer and clothing company have received comparable recognition. Bieber

has fully taken on the role of celebrity endorser and has promoted Calvin Klein products in all
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facets of his public life. Bieber has used Vine, Facebook and other social media sites to promote

Calvin Klein, and he even gave Ellen DeGeneres a package of Calvin Klein underwear for her

birthday on national television.

The partnership between the brands has done more than simply provide both parties with

publicity, however. Bieber’s relationship with Calvin Klein has provided him with a platform on

which he can associate himself with a positive brand while maintaining the more adult and

mature image he has created in the past couple of years. While Bieber may need to rebrand to a

certain extent to remedy the negative perceptions fans and the media have of him after he made

some poor choices, he should not aim to revert back to the image he had at the beginning of his

career. He is now 21 years old and needs to portray an adult image without all of the scandalous

behavior and run-ins with the authorities. By working with Calvin Klein, Bieber has

successfully associated himself with a brand that is mature and well-respected. The Miley Cyrus

rebrand also used the method of celebrity endorsement. Cyrus also wanted to make the transition

from child star to serious adult musician. She partnered with MAC Cosmetics to promote their

line of Viva Glam lipsticks and glosses. She too was able to associate herself with a mature

brand that she could have a mutually beneficial relationship with.

What Now?

To continue his rebrand, Bieber needs to get back to the roots of why people first fell in

love with his brand: music. He has already started releasing new music, such as his new

collaboration with Skrillex and Diplo, “Where Are Ü Now.” So far, he has used social media to

promote his new music, but eventually he will need to release a new album and go on tour to
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reconnect with fans. However, the next tour he goes on should not be a traditional, money-

making endeavor. His next tour should incorporate community relations all along the way.

As we learned in the Hallmark case, it is important to actually go to fans and show them

you care. When Hallmark wanted to improve their brand image and encourage people to buy

more greeting cards, they went on the road and visited towns where there were high

concentrations of their key demographics and talked to people one-on-one to connect with them.

Bieber needs to do something like that. Instead of doing a fast-paced tour where the performer

does a show and immediately travels to the next stop to play another show two nights later, I

would recommend the Bieber management team planning a tour where Bieber could play a show

and then stay in the city for an extra day or so to interact with fans and children in the

community. To do this, I would recommend Bieber partnering with the Boys & Girls Clubs of

America and NAMM, an instrument manufacturer, to become a part of their nationwide

afterschool music program (namm.org).

The Boys & Girls Clubs of America has chapters nationwide. This would work in

Bieber’s favor, as he has large fan bases in most major American cities. Bieber could visit major

cities like New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Miami, Seattle and others. All of

these places have at least one, if not several, Boys & Girls Club chapters. By taking time out of

his touring schedule to visit these clubs and work with the children by teaching them basic music

skills, he may foster new interest in his music among children and improve the way the general

public sees him by giving back to the community and the people that helped him achieve his

goals. He could do more than just spend a couple of hours with the children as well. Many kids

that spend a lot of time at Boys & Girls Clubs chapters come from lower income families and

may not be able to afford the experience of seeing a large, multi-million dollar pop concert
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production. To add to his community outreach, Bieber could reserve a certain number of seats at

each show on the tour and give the tickets to kids at the clubs that he visits.

In some cities, Bieber could even work with organizations outside of the Boys & Girls

Club to give his community outreach efforts a more local context. For example, while in New

York City, Bieber could work with the Harlem chapter of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America,

but also visit the Harmony Program, a local organization that stresses the importance of music

education and uses music in an effort to change the lives of children in the New York City

community (harmonyprogram.org). By working with local non-profits, Bieber would seem more

genuinely interested in helping the communities he is visiting. In the Bloomberg “Pouring on the

Pounds” campaign case, I learned about how an organizations can partner up and promote

positive lifestyle changes while improving brand images. When major soda companies like

Coca-Cola and Pepsi partnered with the New York City mayor to promote drinking soft drinks in

moderation, it helped improve the brand perceptions of soda manufacturers. Bieber partnering

with music education programs would do the same thing for his brand. Instead of being known

for his poor choices, Bieber could develop a reputation as a charitable young star with a passion

for sharing music.

If Bieber were to take on a community relations project like this, his management team

would need to organize a media relations arrangement as well. When we discussed the Pink

Flight and Air New Zealand, we discussed how the flight was promoted on a niche media outlet.

To target the particular segment of the LGBT market it was designing the Pink Flight for, Air

New Zealand promoted the flight on Logo, a television channel designed for the LGBT

community. Similarly, Bieber should promote his community relations tour on a niche media

outlet to best reach his fans. MTV would be an excellent outlet to promote his community
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relations efforts. MTV’s viewership between the ages of 12 and 34 is 91 million strong and

growing; its viewers’ median age is 21 (parentstv.org). Bieber’s key demographics are about the

age and because MTV’s viewers’ median age is 21, he could potentially target the more mature

audience he is hoping to capture as an adult musician. Right now, a large percentage of his fans

are teenagers, so marketing his community relations tour to a slightly older demographic may

help him create a positive brand image in that segment of the market.


Justin Bieber has made great strides toward a renewed and refreshed brand image.

Through his apology tour, social media use and partnership with Calvin Klein, he has planted the

seeds for what he wants to be the next chapter in his career. By partnering these efforts with a

strong presence in the communities of his fan base, Bieber’s music career could potentially come

back stronger than ever. Though he has made mistakes, he has laid the groundwork for what

could be a long, well-respected music career in the future.

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