Anything can be branded. Toilet paper is branded. Charities and politicians are branded. Hell, even Florida branded sunshine! Sometimes when we think of brands, we think of Target, Nike, Starbucks, and Apple. The truth is, everything and everyone can be branded- even pop stars.
Branding has power over the way we perceive people, stars, and celebrities. It allows us to take a little girl originally from Pennsylvania and create a Nashville country star. Branding (or rebranding) then allows this Nashville country star to be strategically placed into the pop scene and then again into the dark, electro-pop scene with her latest album. Any ideas of who I am talking about?!
Yep! None other than Taylor Swift.
Taylor began as a good girl, a country-loving pop star with baby pink lip gloss in her first 2006 album. The old Taylor sang of love, broken hearts and all about boys she imagined a future with. Taylor in 2006, was likable, easy to dismiss and vanilla. Her brand design was soft, feminine, girly and innocent. Her music video for Tim McGraw featured a southern landscape, a pink and purple sunset with a young love interest. It wasn’t until she put out the album Red in 2012 when she began to write music that fit the bright, catchy pop scene that we are all too familiar with today. During this phase, Taylor experimented more with the red lipstick and a new found attitude and dropped the country star front.
This year, Taylor Swift recently went through a rebrand, deleting all of her Instagram photos and starting over with the dark, cryptic imagery of slithering snakes before releasing her newest album Reputation. Some say this pop star turned dark over a revenge against people like Katy Perry and Kanye West. I don’t have the time to spend Googling these relationships. I do, however, have the time to analyze the new Taylor Swift brand.
The new brand is angry, smart and out of blood. In the music video for Reputation, Taylor climbs out of the ground as a zombie, staring at the camera as if to say “Do not f$¢k with me.” She wears darker lipsticks, bondage-inspired costumes, and a whole lot more black. You can see her sitting on a motorcycle with studded leather clothing with a threatening look in her eyes. It’s a little freaky to see the girl next door transform into a malicious vixen, but do we buy it? Well, that doesn’t matter because this is the new Taylor. She can be whoever she wants to be, and she tells us exactly who that is (right now) with her new brand.
Is her brand accepted by her followers? By her fans- most likely yes. They’ve grown up and evolved along with her, so for the most part, it’s assumable that she hasn’t lost any followers (with the exception of those who are fearful of the “new Taylor” and what that seems to represent). The other question is- does it matter? Her rebrand has us all talking- whether we love her or hate her. From a branding and marketing stance, that’s brilliant.
Taylor Swift’s Brand New Look
Whether you like the new Taylor Swift brand or not, her team has worked hard to create a solid brand strategy for the singer. Her brand has shifted and evolved dramatically over the last 11 years as she has grown as a female artist and worked to stay culturally relevant. Her strategy is on par with Madonna as an ever-changing surprise package. Taylor Swift started out as a squeaky clean good girl and now she’s badass and brooding. I think we can all take a lesson from Taylor, if you never take a strong stance with your brand you will lose the interest of your followers. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what’s next…