Few have orchestrated their journey to success as masterfully as Taylor Swift. With nearly two decades of music industry domination under her belt, she has crafted a billion-dollar brand identity that has captivated the hearts of a global audience. Not only has her musical prowess and expert storytelling skills helped her forge a highly successful career, but she has also successfully crafted a brand firmly rooted in authenticity. And it’s that authenticity that sells records. Because she positions herself as the opposite of “untouchable” as many celebrities are, she has the gift of relatability. She’s someone who knows she has power, but because she’s not afraid to use her voice to speak out about what she feels is unjust, we trust that she will use her power as an ally – something today’s generation pays close attention to. She’s not afraid to hold others accountable and stand up for those who are treated unfairly or don’t have a voice. She has leveraged her visibility to address social issues, champion equality, and, most notably, advocate for artists’ rights.
If you look at the most successful brands out there, you’d see that what they share most in common is that they make their customers feel valued. Taylor does this masterfully by engaging with her fans on social media, meeting with them backstage at events, and even inviting them into her home for informal gatherings featuring cookies, dancing, and reveals of her new music. This personalized touch fosters a strong community that extends beyond her music.
We also know that the best brands are addictive, and I can’t think of anyone more addictive than Taylor (though you may argue that Beyonce comes pretty close!).
And even better, in this history lesson of Swift’s career, you may recall that her success these last two decades took on many different forms, spanning different musical genres, such that her brand has evolved alongside her. She first hit the scene as a country sweetheart, writing mostly about high school heartbreak and first love. Her authentic storytelling became her trademark through her first country albums. Her inflection point can be seen most clearly in the release of her more edgy album, reputation, which took quite a departure from her previous albums that featured heavy country and pop influences. As her lyrics stated, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now… she was busy rebranding! In today’s era, Swift’s brand has matured as she has. And after some legal battles and professional betrayals, she began to take back her reputation, her name and her work by re-recording her songs owned by her previous record label. This paved the way for other artists to defend themselves and take ownership of their work.
There’s a lot to learn from Taylor Swift’s story of building her brand. It’s hard not to be enchanted by her work (see what I did there?). She’s a branding expert, and we should all be taking notes from her.