Anything But an Anti-Hero: What Taylor Swift Can Teach Us About the Power of a Brand

Whether you were introduced to her as the 16-year-old country sweetheart or the spunky pop star she is today, Taylor Swift is a name everyone knows. As the queen of modern music, she is the first ever artist to claim all top 10 spots of Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart and her Eras Tour is expected to gross $4.6 billion. Hundreds of thousands of fans are packing stadiums to experience a three-plus-hour retrospective of Swift’s journey as an artist over the years.

But the tour also epitomizes why she is the mastermind of building (then evolving) a brand that lasts the test of time. Her success lies in authentic storytelling, alignment of values with actions and a willingness to continuously adapt. Marketers should follow suit as they develop or refresh corporate branding. Here’s how.

More than Folklore: Be an Authentic Storyteller

Swift’s debut album showcased her storytelling abilities, proving that even as a teenager, she was able to emote an extreme level of authenticity and vulnerability that would help cultivate her career. This ability to create relatable and memorable narratives carries over into fan interactions, from engaging with those who are active in online communities to personalizing concert experiences, which has created deep loyalty from her audience. The authenticity and genuine interest Swift shows is a good reminder that being real and staying true to yourself is better than anything you could make up.

Authenticity + vulnerability = relatability. Swift’s equation serves as a guideline to allow your audience to connect and empathize with the brand message. It creates transparency that binds you to your consumers. By recognizing the importance of audience connection, you can add another chain in the link that bonds you to them directly.

Speak Now: Be Values-Driven

Openly and unapologetically communicating her values – then consistently behaving in ways that align with them – has furthered Swift’s success. This was never clearer than when she directly opposed Scooter Braun by making “Taylor’s Version” of the songs he previously owned and led the way for artists to defend their artistic property.

Research has shown that 82% of individuals want a brand’s values to align with their own. Capturing interest and purchasing power requires knowing your audience, clearly communicating your overlapping values and making sure that every company action ladders back up to those values. Be bold about expressing what your brand believes because it can differentiate you from competitors while appealing to clients.

Embrace Your Reputation(s): Be Adaptable

Just as she keeps up with her audience, Taylor Swift keeps her work ever-changing with the times. By channeling criticism and responding to it in positive ways, Swift has stayed interesting and relevant for more than 15 years. Her country debut album (Taylor Swift) established her style in 2006, then her more pop-style album (1989) changed her sound. The unexpected “bad girl” arc (Reputation) of 2017 switched to a bubblegum pink aesthetic (Lover) only two years later.

Throughout all her adaptations, Swift has still been able to retain her image of “Miss Americana” by staying true to herself and the things she believes in.

When you proactively adapt a brand to changing environments, you can control your own narrative and create brand loyalty, all while keeping up with the trends. When there’s brand loyalty, customer or client loyalty will follow. The key is to stay relevant while staying true to core values. Even if Taylor Swift doesn’t dominate your playlist, she should be the first in your queue for brand building inspiration.

By Kat Macioce