Branding 101 with Taylor Swift

Welcome to Branding 101, our new series where we examine celebrities and companies who are dominating the news, and what we can learn from them. First up: pop star turned snake, Taylor Swift.

Photo by  Kelly Sikkema  on  Unsplash

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash


Taylor Swift is a snake. Her detractors say so. She says so in her latest music video. What she once ignored and shied away from, she’s embraced with seemingly open arms. The “old Taylor” is dead and a new, “edgier” Taylor has emerged. She wears black. She does choreography. She likes knee-high boots. Goodbye guitar; hello generic beats.  

Reinvent Yourself

There is nothing wrong with reinventing your brand as it evolves. It’s logical to refresh your logo or name, simplify your aesthetic, and reexamine your services and values. Most brands announce the change on social; others throw a relaunch event. Some go the Taylor Swift route (tread lightly).

Taylor’s recent reinvention involved deleting all traces of the “old Taylor” from her social. The anticipation built as fans waited for her next move. When her promos and single were released, all hell broke loose.

Her name has been on every feed, radio station, and news outlet. She’s polarizing, Ms. Swift. Love her or hate her, everyone has joined in the conversation – whether to applaud or to mock, we’re talking. It’s been a little over a week and I’m already sick of her, but that’s the point.

When you reinvent your brand, it should get people talking and paying attention. But why you reinvent yourself is important (and where Taylor seems to miss the mark). The change needs to feel like progression.

Be Authentic

Most critics call Taylor calculated and fake. It wasn’t always this way. She was America’s Sweetheart and her social game was on point – she interacted with fans, sent personalized gifts, held intimate listening parties, and could seemingly do no wrong.

But a shift occurred. To some, it became too obvious how calculated her persona was. From her #squad, to the “OMG I won” face she’d make at award shows, to her “I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative” response to her feud with Kim and Kanye, there was something inherently inauthentic about her.

Disclaimer: Mean Girls references to follow.

I am of the opinion that Taylor Swift has always portrayed herself as Cady Heron, but secretly had a burn book.

Maybe now, she is embracing her inner Regina George, but is she as self-aware and badass as she’s proclaiming? Who is the real Taylor Swift? Right now, her latest is treading into Katy Perry territory who said Witness would be “woke” and “purposeful pop” and then released the abysmal “Swish, Swish”.  

Every brand should be calculated to a point. It’d be silly not to strategize, but it’s important to develop a reputation for being a brand who is true to itself and its customers. Once your transparency is questioned, it’ll be difficult to convince anyone otherwise.