Wal-Mart Stokes Bieber Fever

Posted by Dale Buss on November 2, 2010 01:00 PM

Brand managers know they’re taking a big leap of faith when they make huge investments in celebrity-designer lines and personal endorsements by superstars.
But Wal-Mart corporate (and Walmart, the retail brand) clearly believe that it’s still early enough in the career of Justin Bieber to take a flyer on his continued innocence — at least for a while.

The world’s largest retailer has forged a near-exclusive arrangement with the 16-year-old teen-heartthrob singer from Canada heading into the holiday season, including being the sole distributor of his new album (My Worlds Acoustic, teased during the World Series) starting Nov. 26, as well as related add-ons such as a Bieber-inspired unisex fragrance line and even nail polish (with Nicole by OPI).

Having already featured Bieber on its Soundcheck platform, the house that Sam Walton built is latching onto the lad while he’s still a lad — perhaps because the last time the retailer signed on with a tween sensation, it didn’t go too well.

Wal-Mart observers will recall how the retailer heavily invested in Miley Cyrus as the namesake for an apparel line and other licensed merchandise. That was fine and dandy a couple of years ago, when Cyrus was still 15 years old and arguably still an ingénue, most closely associated with her sweet and light role in Disney’s Hannah Montana TV series.

But since then, Cyrus has taken a dark — if sadly predictable — turn toward vulgarity as her handlers have tried to make her appeal more to an adult audience, including racy videos and a fake girl-on-girl kiss on TV in the United Kingdom.

And to top it all off, the retailer's line of Cyrus jewelry was recalled earlier this year on fears the made-in-China wares contained unsafe levels of cadmium.

Good thing that American teenagers, and pop culture in general, move on so quickly. By the time Bieber is an adult and completely free to be whoever he is, er, becoming, Wal-Mart will have no doubt signed an exclusive with the next Bieber-like sensation spurring young girls to beg their parents to prise open their wallets.

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