What Taylor Swift Can Teach You About Branding

1. Brand Consistency is Key

If you are a Taylor Swift fan, then you know that with each new album comes a new “era”. That means a new style, new sound and sometimes a new haircut. Taylor has been quoted saying that she does this so that years later she can look at a picture of herself and know exactly what album she was working on. 

 From left to right: Fearless, Speak Now, Red, 1989 and Reputation

From left to right: Fearless, Speak Now, Red, 1989 and Reputation

How this applies to your business:

If you are going with a theme for a campaign for you business, you need to go all in. If you are doing graphics that include watercolors, you need to continue that theme until you launch a new campaign. You need time for people to get used to it and assign the relationship between those graphics and your brand. A good example to look at for this is Apple. When they launch a new phone, they have a campaign theme to go along with it. This new iPhone X theme is swirled paint and water. Which coincidentally was a theme also taken on by the new Adobe launch. You can see them side by side here:

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2. Brand Evolution

While consistency is important you also can’t ignore that a brand is going to grow and evolve. Taylor Swift has done this beautifully, slowing changing throughout each new album. It was always age appropriate, she didn’t go from country princess to sex kitten overnight. She evolved and matured at a normal pace — the same way that her fans were also growing up along with her. If she had gone from singing “Love Story” to singing “Look What You Made Me Do” we would all be pretty shocked. But her evolution from country to pop was actually pretty smooth. In her last country album, Red she had songs that sounded completely pop - like “I Knew You Were Trouble”. This started to temper her fans into this kind of style and when 1989 came out, they were completely on board. 

In 2011, she understood that many of her fans were still young girls and that she was a role model for them whether she liked it or not. She was quoted saying "I definitely think about a million people when I am getting dressed in the morning," "That's just part of my life now. I think it's my responsibility to know it and to be conscious of it."

How this applies to your business:

Your business is going to evolve and grow, but doing a complete 180 overnight is going to upset your customers. Sure, you will always upset someone with any type of change, but you can avoid a huge upheaval by evolving on a gradient. 

3. Survey and Engage with Your Audience

Taylor Swift is known for her intense involvement with her fans. Some examples include: 

•“T-party” which is a party that she hosts for hand-picked fans at the end of her concerts. They eat pizza and take pictures and hang out together.
 

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• Tumblr Comments: Since the 1989 era, Taylor has been on Tumblr and has interacted and commented on numerous fan posts. 

• Fan Visits and Presents: Taylor has some relationships with fans that have lasted through her whole career. She has sent boxes of Christmas presents, helped pay for college, attended weddings and bridal showers. See this here: https://youtu.be/j3yyF31jbKo

• Secret Sessions: Just when you thought the fan-love couldn’t get stronger, before the launch of 1989, Taylor hosted “Secret Sessions”. These are sessions held at her houses across the country where hundreds of fans are hand-picked to hear her new album before it gets released. These fans had to keep this secret for months until the album was released. She carried on this tradition into this new album Reputation. See this here: https://youtu.be/kGOmPmILndU

Taylor knows what her audience likes to hear, what they want from her lyrics. In the forward of 1989, she wrote “These songs were once about my life. They are now about yours”. If you think this resonated just for young girls, then think again, because Ryan Adams was grieving a divorce when he heard 1989 and it helped him get through it. “It was very cathartic for me, because I found myself singing those songs and feeling things from my divorce.” He went on to release a cover album of 1989

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How this applies to your business:

Always listen to your customers. Even if it is things you don’t want to hear. The easiest way to hear from customers is on social media. If you are transparent about your business you will gain and keep customers when you start really having a conversation with them. 

4. Take a PR nightmare and turn it into solid gold. 

As Taylor says, “haters gonna hate”. Tomorrow is the launch of Taylor’s new album Reputation and whether you like this new era or hate it, I don’t think it matters. This album is going to sell like hotcakes and I think it embodies the example of what you do after you have been embarrassed by the world — you stand up and fight back. 

Are you ready for it? :) 

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