You might know her from catchy tunes like ‘Shake it Off’ and ‘The Man’, but besides being an award-winning singer-songwriter there is something Taylor Swift and her team are incredibly good at. Personal branding, and especially rebranding, aren’t terms that immediately come to mind when talking about an artist like Taylor Swift. However, it is something we can most definitely learn from her.
Taking control of your own narrative
A quick backstory: 2016 was a tough year for Taylor Swift. She was being called out after an, now proven to be edited and tempered, audio recording. Instigator Kim Kardashian and most of the internet rebranded her as a snake, commenting and harassing her on social media with a simple yet offensive snake emoji (🐍). Eventually, these snakes slowly started to disappear from her Instagram comments. Not because people realised this name-calling was harmful, but because slowly after the harassment began, Instagram introduced a new and improved comment filter. Taylor’s comments were the first test case, and it was a success. However, Swift was definitely not over it and proved this by completely wiping out her Social Media accounts one year later. She unfollowed everyone, deleted every post, and even her profile pic was gone. The world was buzzing, what could this mean? Was there a new album coming? This was proven right when one week later a cryptic video on her Instagram, Facebook and Twitter appeared daily, together forming none other than a snake. Surprise: Taylor was completely reclaiming the snake as her own by releasing her new album ‘reputation’. This showed that completely going dark on your social media might be the best way to completely reinvent yourself. You could even go as far as using name-calling to your own benefit and to take control of your own narrative like Taylor Swift did.
A complete change
After the success of her rather dark album reputation, Taylor showed she was ready for something new when she posted rather joyful pastel posts on Instagram in 2019. She kept posting things her fanbase most likely wanted to see, like pictures of her adorable cats. This also was in complete contrast to her posts in the reputation era, showing something new was coming. On the 26th of May she released the song ‘ME!’ accompanied with a pastel fever-dream video clip. Said clip starts with a snake, referencing the previous era, but after slithering around for a bit it explodes into a cloud of butterflies. This shows Taylor completely rebranding again. Replacing the powerful and dark songs with upbeat and positive songs on her new album Lover. This might have been a complete change, but it definitely worked. Changing your brand entirely doesn’t mean you have to completely wipe out your socials and start again. You can use it as a way to show the contrast between your previous branding and your new one.
Going back to your roots
2020 was a strange year for everyone, Taylor Swift included. After just releasing a new album and having planned a huge summer tour, she was ready to celebrate the positive and joyful Lover era. But when everything had to be cancelled, she had to be isolated, just like the rest of the world. While we were all making whipped coffee and home-baked bread, unlike us, she was writing songs. Those songs lead to an album called folklore. With eleven black and white posts on social media Taylor announced she would release an album the next day. This was completely different from the previous ways she would announce her albums. It usually takes weeks or even months of build-up before being able to listen to it on streaming platforms like Spotify. Because of the release of Lover in 2019, no one expected an album release in 2020. This is why platforms like Twitter absolutely exploded. The hashtag folklore gained more than 300.000 original tweets within a day after the announcement. After release it was received very well, getting loads of great reviews and even getting a grammy nomination for best album of the year. The out of the blue release wasn’t the only thing surprising about the album, people we’re the most surprised by the genre. It wasn’t an album with pop songs like she had released the previous years. No, folklore was packed with indie-folk music with a hint of country. The same country she had to say goodbye to when releasing a full-on pop album in 2014. For many, including me, listening to ‘folklore’ felt like listening to the old Taylor, the Taylor they grew up with and loved. For brands this could feel the same way. By branding yourself like you did in the past, you might bring a bit of nostalgia to your oldest brand fans. They could be positively surprised.
Whether you have had a hard hit or just feel like your brand needs a change, like Taylor Swift, you have multiple ways to rebrand. You could go back to your roots and surprise your oldest and most loyal fans or use earlier name-calling to your advantage. You could wipe out your social media completely and start over, or show a contrast between the current way and the previous way you brand. Because of the constant change between albums, Taylor Swift can teach us a lot about branding and rebranding. The next time you think about a complete change of your brand, maybe try it the Taylor Swift way.