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Steady Swift, Stay True To You: Lessons In Branding From Taylor Swift

Steady Swift, Stay True To You: Lessons In Branding From Taylor Swift
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Always a humble star, the pop songstress can teach us a few lessons about how to create a positive public image.

Shawn Parr, Bulldog Drummond
  • 22 september 2011

Taylor Swift is an excellent example of how humility can lead to success. She’s genuine. She connects and relates to her audience through her own experiences. She’s inoffensive, but above all, she’s humble. Almost too humble at times—check out her reactions to winning her numerous awards. Steady Taylor. Don’t lose your sincerity or everything might change.

Today she’s the queen of humility, and it’s working. She’s sold 16 million albums worldwide on the back of her openness, honesty and relatability through her songwriting. But Taylor needs to stay true to herself and her fans as her career progresses. She broke the mold as the first real superstar who came to notoriety through the social network revolution. She’s a poster child for millions, and for the new music business model. She wears her young heart on her sleeve and exposes her feelings in everything she does. And now, through her values and personality, she is a true, purposeful and extremely recognizable brand.

But does she have the staying power? Can she be Dove or Olay for generations to come?

The honesty and humility at the heart of brand-Swift is her biggest asset, and if nurtured, is what will help her sustain her career. And because these pillars are rooted in authenticity, she has the power to become relevant as she ages with her fans. Taylor’s pinned on a million tween and teen girls’ walls (and some boys too) because through her lyrics, her stories resonate with them. At the same time, she’s an aspirational example. Some might say that the biggest danger she faces is her own inner self. She’s saving herself. She doesn’t drink. She doesn’t smoke, do drugs or reveal much of her body. Of course as time goes on, she might give way to one or two of these. The caution, and the opportunity, is for her to understand the powerful connection she’s made with her fans, and the challenge is staying relevant to their life-stage.

Think about it, this is a new trend. Artists have never been able to forge connections with their fans to the degree that they can today. Sure there’s still some sparkle surrounding today’s heroines and heroes—that will always be there in the eyes of fans. But there’s another dimension too. Superstars are no longer untouchable and mythical beings. They blog. They tweet. They have two-way dialog with their fans. They publish the progress of their daily errands. Bummer, they’re real like the rest of us. And whatever the artist doesn’t expose, someone else will. There’s no mystery surrounding icons like Taylor. Those days are long gone, there are no cover-ups or secrets anymore. It’s all out there for everyone to see, and this new era makes it even more difficult for artists to sustain their success. In the old days sustained success was almost wholly built on the quality of their work and their record label’s marketing efforts. Now that’s only half of the equation.

Taylor’s humility makes her attractive. But it also makes her vulnerable, and as she grows up, she’ll be an easy target. We say stick close to the personal values you started with, and continue to forge that connection with your fans. You have permission to grow, and it’s your humble and honest approach that will keep you grounded. As a celebrity brand, you’re extendable. But be courageous in your humility, avoid the formulaic scent, clothing, and home furnishings deals and do something surprising with the permission you’ve created. We dare you Swift, surprise us. Take it steady, and you’ll be with us for a very long time.

UNCOMMON SENSE OBSERVATIONS:

  • Being true to yourself ensures genuine authenticity.
  • Connection with your fans comes when you make the effort.
  • Looks are fading and irrelevant over time.
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