Personal Branding Lessons from The Brand of Taylor SwiftAug 18, 2023
As a mother of two and a Co-Founder of a global personal branding agency, I often talk about my life under the endearing term of “struggle of the juggle.” I am sure you can relate. As I travel across the world to deliver keynotes and to host workshops, I often feel guilty that I am not around for breakfasts and dinners, drop offs and pick-ups. As much as I love my “job” and despite all the travel, I want my kids to know that they are my key priority. What matters to them is a priority to me. Even if I don’t quite understand why it actually matters to them.
Cue Taylor Swift and her highly publicized Eras Tour. I am not a “Swiftie” and the reasons behind her mind-blowing popularity have not been crystal clear to me. And yet, my daughter is a fan. And on a beautiful August morning, when Taylor announced that she was adding Canada as a stop on her tour, my 13-year old mentioned that she would love to go.
So, there I was, not a Swiftie, but a mother who wants her kid to know that she is a priority. I decided there and then that I would move mountains to secure the tickets. The task seemed insurmountable, with reports coming out about each show selling out immediately after ticket release. The tour is predicted to break all world records with ticket sales of 1.3 billion dollars. With no connections to help and no strings to pull, I set out on the journey of following the process and hoping for the best.
Throughout the days that ensued with each step I took that seemingly brought us closer to success, I kept wondering. What is the enigma that is Taylor Swift? Why does she resonate so deeply with so many?
As an owner of a personal branding agency, I naturally looked at Taylor’s overwhelming success through the lens of personal branding. I was curious to see what lessons we could all learn as we build our own leadership brands.
After a lot of analysis and reflection, I identified 4 key pillars of her personal brand that you can apply to your own.
Taylor Swift is a master of weaving personal anecdotes into her songs. From heartbreaks to celebrations, her lyrics provide a window into her soul. Years ago, I coined the term “Radical Authenticy” as a key component of a strong personal brand. Taylor embodies it and it has garnered her millions of dedicated fans. They don't just hear her; they feel her.
Insights for you
Many business owners believe that personal branding is rooted in phoniness and narcissism – doing anything and everything to grab some “likes.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. Personal brand building is an exercise in authenticity and starts with an inside-out process of introspection. When you decide to build your leadership brand, you make a decision to share with others the real you, not a crafted PR version that others will simply see through.
Evolution and Adaptability
Swift's journey from country to pop, and then a mix of indie, can be puzzling to many. How can she pivot so drastically and yet maintain (grow!) her fan base? You see, pivoting does not damage your brand perception, as long as you are clear and consistent with 2 key components of your brand: its essence (“positioning” in branding-speak) and how you want to be perceived.
Insights for you
As entrepreneurs, we all pivot. We add verticals, we exit our businesses, we shift gears. As long as we have a clear brand positioning, it will act as an umbrella for all of these changes. As long as the brand essence is clear and remains unchangeable, the pivots we make will not confuse our audience.
Swift is known for her cult-like relationship with her fans. From surprise visits, personal replies on social media to secret album listening sessions, she understands that her brand isn't just about her music but the community she nurtures.
Insights for you
Although we are not looking to build a “fan base” as business owners, building and maintaining an audience is rooted in understanding the importance of two-way engagement. When you create content on social media, for example, you absolutely need to reply to the comments you receive. And no, that is a piece you cannot outsource – people are commenting and looking to interact with us, not the bots we plug into our platforms, not our assistants, and not our marketing teams.
Over the years, Swift has championed various social issues, using her platform to advocate for change. Whether it's LGBTQ rights or political endorsements, she makes her stance clear, intertwining her brand with her beliefs.
Insights for you
When building your leadership brand, you cannot make it all about the business. What you do is crucial to building credibility and serving the business through your enhanced visibility, but who you are is what builds a true connection with others. It is what humanizes your brand to others.
Getting a ticket for Taylor Swift’s concert is an exercise in tenacity and commitment, powered by some serious luck. After signing up on Ticketmaster, a platform brimming with millions of eager fans, all vying for the golden access code, I waited days for the confirmation email. To my astonishment, among millions of hopeful fans, I was chosen. An email sparked the hope, and days later, a text brought the highly coveted access code.
With the access code in hand, the real challenge began. Logging in 30 minutes early on the day of the sale, I found myself in the waiting room. The wait stretched on, and as I was ushered into the queue, a staggering number flashed on the screen – over 8,000 people ahead of me. As the minutes turned to hours, the number dwindled, paving the way to the virtual sale.
Inside, it was akin to playing the virtual game of whack-a-mole. Every time I clicked on seats that appeared as available, a message popped up "Sorry! Another fan beat you to it." Eight times hope surged, and eight times it was quashed. Just as disillusionment began to set in, a beacon of hope shone. Perfectly priced tickets emerged, perhaps a glitch, perhaps fate, and I seized them. After a heart-stopping wait, the confirmation: "You're in! You got the tickets."
And there I was: a mother about to tell her kid about another business trip in the works, but first the big news to share – coveted tickets in my e-wallet!
Amidst the hustle of business and scaling, sometimes it's the most personal of stories that lead to the most profound of insights.
Discover the full narrative in our article for Entrepreneur.
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