Brand Reinvention (Taylor’s Version)
Over nearly two decades, I’ve laughed, cried, and sung my heart out to 12 studio albums, consistently in awe, not just of Taylor Swift the person, but Taylor Swift, the brand. I know every song and every lyric. I’ve spent countless hours with friends obsessing over the secret meaning behind her words or who any given song might be about. So, it goes without saying that I am a Swiftie. There, I said it.
As a marketing strategist, I’m obsessed (professionally speaking) with the intention and purpose Taylor Swift takes with everything she does. How deeply she understands her audience. The meticulously planned ways in which she shares her message. She’s not the first of her kind and she won’t be the last, but I can’t help but think of her as the latest and greatest master of reinvention.
Reinvention is defined as “the action or process through which something is changed so much that is appears to be entirely new.” But as a marketer, I’d like to challenge that. I don’t believe that to successfully reinvent yourself you need to appear as something entirely new. That’s how you alienate your base and confuse people. What I do believe is that to keep growing your business, you’ll need to broaden your appeal at some point and step outside of the box a bit. That’s where reinvention comes in.
As strategists and marketers, we’re constantly challenged to reinvent the brands we work with. Sometimes our reinventions are more foundational: a new value prop here, some updated messaging there. And sometimes they’re more visible to everyone—like rehauling a brand’s identity from the inside out. The reasons are plenty: audience growth, increased accessibility, culture shifts, changing business landscape. But regardless of the cause, here are a few helpful tips no matter what level of reinvention you’re planning on:
Think Holistically. If you’re only looking to reinvent one small element of your brand, think about how that change may impact everything else. If it’s worth reinventing one element, should you be thinking about changing others too? Do these changes align with your current value proposition, purpose, or promise? If not, revisit where you stand. And look at the big picture. When Taylor thinks about reinvention, every detail from lip color and hair style to clothing choice is considered as she ushers fans into a new Taylor Swift era.
Know Who You Are (and use it as your superpower). I’d argue that if there’s value and equity in what you’ve always been, hold on to some of that and discover a new way to lean in. Understand the importance of staying nimble and knowing when to pivot, but don’t lose sight of where you came from. When Swift released back-to-back albums in the summer and winter of 2020, she nodded to her country roots on a few songs, bringing longtime fans back to where she got her start, and introducing newer fans to fresh versions of her old sound—all while reinventing herself as an indie folk/folk pop artist.
Obsess Over Your Audience. I cannot stress how important is it to understand your audience. Reinvention should always have a purpose and that purpose should be rooted in who you’re trying to reach with your product or service and why. If you don’t know your audience, find someone who can help you get to know them immediately. Talk to your customers, talk to your prospects and gather all the research you can get your hands on. And if you can, do some of your own! Understand what’s going on culturally and how that may be impacting your brand. Taylor is constantly replying to fans on social media, pulling unsuspecting people out of the audience at her concerts for meet and greets, sending personalized presents and making donations to fan’s causes. She is a mastermind at studying her audience and knowing how to get them to engage. And it shows.
Learn To Be Fluid. This is the reason I don’t fully believe in the dictionary definition of reinvention. Brands today are tasked with so much more than they were even 5 years ago. And because of that, brands must be open to small bursts of reinvention at any moment. Whether it’s through the lens of a cultural shift or sparked by the need to get in front of an audience more efficiently, brand fluidity is a must for any brand wishing to stay current. When I think about Taylor, I think of her as the ultimate fluid brand. Tweaking and adjusting from appearance to appearance, show to show. Sometimes in small ways, sometimes in sweeping gestures, but always staying true to her core.
Over the last two decades, I’ve watched Taylor Swift slide in and out of music genres, take a stand for herself and speak up for others. I’ve watched her tear down and rebuild her image in both real life and on social media. I’ve lived through 10 “eras” of Swift (IYKYK), and although I’ve never been able to guess where she’ll be going next, I’ve never once felt alienated by her as a fan. Maybe I’ve grown with her, or maybe she’s grown with me, but either way, I can’t deny that she’s taught me a lot about reinvention.
If you’re thinking about reinvention, or rebranding of any kind, we’re here to help. Give us a call at 585.383.0380 or send us a message.
Arica Marfoglia is DS+CO’s marketing strategist.