Brand or Be Branded

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:


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.


• 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:

• 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:

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


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? :) 


Branding is much more than “making it look pretty”

branding differentiation.jpg

We have come across this viewpoint that branding is unnecessary and that it is “nice to have” and just “makes things look pretty”. This could not be more wrong. Whether you like it or not you have a brand because, to put it simply, branding is just differentiation. It is what distinguishes your company from other companies. Your brand needs to reflect what your company stands for and what principles you will follow into the future.

You may know “who you are” but if you don’t take the time to brand your company, other people will do it for you. You don’t want to be “that skincare company that is trying to be like {well-known brand} but not as good” or “the product is really great, but I can’t remember the name, starts with a ‘y’ I think?” or “that cream that smells like cough syrup”. These are things that we all say when we talk about products, companies and places. We have also said things like “ you have to go there, the food is amazing!” and “that cream changed my skin, it is so great!” Differentiation can be good, bad, on purpose and by accident. 

When you are figuring out your branding, you are also looking at your product or service and putting it through the wringer as well. Is your product good enough? Is your service really delivering what it is promising? All these things together: your product, service, message, position, viewpoint, purpose and vision all tie together to form what makes you different — and that is your brand. 

After you have that established, you need to visually represent it. This is where you might need some help. How do you take all those conceptual things and turn them into a logo, packaging, website, flyer, signage, etc.? It’s a tough job, but when it’s done right you have everything you need to push forward as a company. There is no question on what font you are using, what the image should look like or what color the box should be. Your branding is established and it is the bedrock of your business. Now you just focus on building and growing. 

Hopefully that helped convince you that branding is more than just “making it look pretty”.

If you need help with your company’s branding call us at (727) 303-0387 for a FREE branding consultation. 

Brand or Be Branded Part 2

Branding and Integrity

brand or be branded part 2

First of all what is integrity and what is branding? 

Integrity is defined by the Oxford American Dictionary as: the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.

Branding is defined in that same dictionary as: the promotion of a particular product or company by means of advertising and distinctive design.

There is actually a great deal more that could be added to that definition of branding which falls into the area of storytelling. Every brand tells a story by way of its message,  the people who shop there, and what kind of experience those customers receive. This is all in addition to how the brand is presented visually in a logo, website or marketing piece. All these factors tell a story.

Now, what does branding have to do with integrity? You hear about companies running into this situation: they say one thing and then do the opposite, the public finds out and then the outrage occurs! So how can you avoid this, especially if you are a small business and still trying to figure out everything all at once?

First figure out your story. This is your branding. Figure out what you stand for and believe in. Is it great customer service? Is it the best quality? Is it all natural ingredients? Really decide, because this isn't just something you write on your next advertisement to make people feel good, you are making them a promise. If you say “all natural ingredients” and your product is then found out to contain GMOs…well, let's just say outrage is headed your way. Sound familiar?

Integrity and Branding is something that is even more important to our "do-gooder" clients. They have double the promises to keep. They are delivering a great product AND giving back to the community. So make sure that whatever do-good activity you decide to get involved in, you keep your promise and help that activity. Then make it known that you are doing it! This is important for three reasons:

1. It brings value and loyalty to your company

2. It brings awareness to the cause that you are helping

3. It sets a good example for other businesses to do the same!

So your exercise for this week:

Look over the story you are telling about your company and the promises you are making to the public. Then be really honest with yourself about it, and make sure that you are delivering on all those points. 

Brand or be Branded - Part 1

We have all done it, branded businesses without even knowing that we are doing it: "That coffee shop with that rude waitress" "Oh I hate going in that store, it takes FOREVER!". All of us have also been like little evangelists for certain businesses without even knowing it: "Thanks! My glasses are from Warby Parker - they are sooo cool - for every pair of glasses you buy they donate a pair to someone in need!!!". So, how can you make sure you are on the positive side of this?

First of all, what is branding? Is it:

  • A logo?
  • The colors and fonts you use on your marketing?
  • The way your employees look?
  • The way you do business with your customers?
  • The personality of your business?
  • Who you service?
  • What you guarantee or what you promise?
  • Overall experience your customers have? 

Well, it is ALL OF THE ABOVE AND MORE! Most business people think that branding is just your look or your logo. Wrong!  It encompasses your purpose and what you are trying to accomplish as a business. If you do not know your brand, you are in big trouble! If you don't brand your company your customers will, whether you like it or not. So brand first or be branded later! Unless you figured this all out right from the start, you are probably already too late, but that doesn't mean you can't fix it!

A proper branding exercise will allow you to create a great marketing strategy. It will:

  • Rehabilitate your purpose as a business owner.
  • Help you train your employees.
  • Make it clear about what is right and wrong for your business, saving you time and money

So take a look at your business and all the points above. What do you need to work on? Getting those points in will put you on the road to a better brand. We will be doing more parts to this series that will give you tips and exercises about creating your brand. So stay tuned!