Disney capitalizes on talented teens

Just when you think capitalism has run out of new tricks, it has a way of surprising you. Enter Hannah Montana.

I thought the only thing our free market economy had left was stealing someone else’s idea and branding it under a different name. Take Marble Slab Creamery‘s concept of mixing ice cream and toppings on top of a chunk of marble. It was pretty inventive and one of a kind.

Then along came Cold Stone Creamery five years later. They completely copied Marble Slab’s idea right down to the mix-ins, except they craft their ice cream creations on top of a granite slab and charge you $1 more for the same stuff, presumably to avoid copyright infringement lawsuits. I guess it’s cool, though. After all, Cold Stone’s employees sing while they work. It gives the shop a wacky, zany, carefree feeling to distract you while you pay way too much for a small ice cream. And people wonder why they can’t send their kids to college …

Alright, back on track. The Disney Channel’s Hannah Montana television series has taken the nation by storm and created a craze of Beatlemanian proportions.

The shows centers around the life of Miley Stewart, an average high school student played by Miley Cyrus who lives a double life as pop star Hannah Montana by night.

Stewart has to keep her pop star identity a secret in order to avoid the tabloid headlines, drugs and unplanned pregnancies that plague teen stars these days. Or maybe it’s so the kids in math class won’t bother her for an autograph. I’m not really sure.

The show features both a look into the ups and downs of teenage life, as well as musical performances by Stewart’s alter ego, Hannah Montana.

This is precisely what makes this show such a crazy success. It’s marketable on more than one platform. It’s popular television and music.

Knowing that Hannah Montana is the cash cow of all cash cows, Disney has naturally flooded the market with an array of goods featuring her likeness – clothes, books, purses, bed sheets, mustard gas, assault rifles, freeze-dried krill – the list is endless.

She has even got a concert series. Here’s the breakdown: Miley Cyrus is touring the country as herself, Hannah Montana, assuming both personalities during the course of a show. This is pretty much the hottest ticket ever. It has ticket brokers snapping up seats and selling them for as much as $2,000. It made a mother and daughter write a false essay about non-existent “Daddy’s death in Iraq” to score tickets.

Heck, I tried suggesting to a 10-year-old the other day that she could skip the concert, thus saving her family $500. She proceeded to slash my tires, go after both of my kneecaps with a crowbar and wish a pox on my house.

This is where Hannah Montana beats all previous children’s fads bar none. Sure, we’ve seen popular fads before, but never before has there been the almighty trinity of a TV show, a best selling CD and a massively popular concert series. That’s not all, as the concert will be screened as a 3-D movie for one week only beginning Feb. 1.

While Hannah Montana’s cross-platform marketing strategy surprises me, the people behind it don’t. Disney is the king of marketing. Don’t forget these are the people who invented the artificial shortage, taking movies off the shelf and putting them back in the Disney vault so people can realize how much they miss Pocahontas, paying some disgustingly high price for it when it comes back to stores.

Also, don’t forget the way they brand some sweaty hellhole “the happiest place on earth” despite the fact that numerous people have died on rides at Disney World and only the kids actually want to be there.

Bravo, Disney. Bravo. You’ve got America by the wallet once again.