It's a business that commands the loyalty of millions, generates hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and just embarked on an important makeover.
Sure, it's tempting to dismiss the surfeit of attention paid to the shearing of Justin Bieber's wavy light brown hair as yet another exercise in celebrity navel-gazing. But there's more to it than that: the 16-going-on-17 Canadian pop star is not just a singer. He's a successful business, and his good looks - especially the haircut to which he leant his name - are part of his brand.
Like any enterprise undertaking a shift in its look, his image choices are carefully controlled and timed, to be unveiled for maximum benefit.
He wouldn't be the first celebrity for whom you could put a price on a physical attribute: Elvis with his pompadour and the Beatles' early mop tops started fashion trends; supermodel Heidi Klum, among others, reportedly insured her legs for $2.2-million.
Justin Bieber described his new cut - a more conventional short-on-top, shaved-at-the-sides 'do - to TMZ.com as "kind of a mature look," reflecting his impending 17th birthday on March 1. It's not just Justin Bieber himself who is growing up: his audience is, too. An older image is calculated to keep his listeners devoted as they become increasingly drawn to more adult memes in pop culture. It's likely no coincidence that his haircut was unveiled at the same time as he shoots a new video with country-rockers Rascal Flatts.
The timing was important in another way, coming as it does a scant two weeks after Never Say Never, a documentary and concert film on the star.
"On the heels of a successful movie release, what better time? He has his audience in the palm of his hand," said Vancouver image consultant Diana Kilgour.
The stakes in such endeavours are high - unveil a new look at the wrong time and it can smack of desperation and erode a brand's popularity.
Like any important change in branding, the change was likely made after careful consideration and talks between the key players -- his managers, stylist and other consultants. Ms. Kilgour suggests they may also have used computer modelling to view how different hair styles would fit his head.
Such calculations have factored into the re-making of other celebrities, too. Justin Timberlake famously shed his image as a PG-13 boy band heart-throb to re-make himself as an effortlessly cool, overtly sexual and sophisticated fashion icon almost as soon as he stepped out of N'Sync. Tennis player Rafael Nadal exchanged his trademark sleeveless T-shirts and tight short-shorts for less revealing attire, giving him a more grown-up look.
There may, however, be one key way in which tweaking Justin Bieber's look differs from the changing of labels on a soft drink or unveiling a new advertising campaign for a car: You would expect any style-conscious boy, on the cusp of manhood, to shelve the haircut that worked for him in grade school and adopt a young adult look. It's a sincerity that, appropriately, makes for a stronger brand.Report Typo/Error