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Tay wins (another) award

(The power of personal brand marketing)

by Peter Spann

Just in case you’ve been under a rock, don’t have teenage daughters or know nothing about music Taylor Swift is a music phenomenon and the highest earning musical artist in the world in 2013, and Forbes estimates her worth at around $220million.

Swift has been the recipient of seven Grammy Awards, fifteen American Music Awards, eleven Country Music Association Awards, six Academy of Country Music Awards, and twelve Billboard Music Awards. As a songwriter, she has been honoured by the Nashville Songwriters Association and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2013, she became the second person (and first woman) to receive the Country Music Association’s Pinnacle Award.  Additionally, she has received two Golden Globe Award nominations.

For those of you who don’t know I fell in love (and no I am not exaggerating – I hope she doesn’t start a cult because I would certainly drink any Coolaid she offers me) with Taylor (Tay to her friends) when I met her at Sound Relief (the concerts to aid bush fire victims).

I ran into her backstage with her band, not knowing who she was.  I’d heard her songs before (and loved them) but had never seen a film clip so didn’t recognise her.  She was dressed in all black so I actually assumed she was a roadie.

We joked about my time in “The Low-Down, Hoedown, Get Down Country Music Bush Band” when I was young and about life on the road.  I was in fine form and kept her entertained before she went on.  I followed her to the stage thinking she was supposed to hand out guitars to the artist or something and it was only when somebody shoved a mic in her hand and dragged her away that I realised she was the artist.

Her single “Love Story” holds the record for the highest paid downlands of any song in history.    Her concerts can sell out in minutes (Madison Square Garden sold out in under a minute) and she headlines with acts like Keith Urban.

Wikipedia says “Fearless has topped the Billboard 200 in 11 non-consecutive weeks, a feat no album has spent more time at number one since 1999-2000.”

She has the Number one selling album in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013, with over 11 million copies sold, and 75 million paid downloads of her singles.  She has 53 million facebook friends, and in a highly controversial upset won the MTV video music award, has been featured on “Saturday Night Live” 3 times and is now being credited with inspiring a generation of people to sing.

Oh, and she’s 23.

She is always ridiculously polite and friendly.  She seems genuinely mortified when her handlers move her away from crowds seeking autographs unless she has signed every piece of memorabilia she has shoved into her face and comments on every gift to every person who gives them to her – and there are a LOT.  In June 2008, at the CMA Music Festival held in Nashville, Swift signed autographs for nearly eight straight hours.

She’s immensely talented, writes all her old songs and infuses them with an ethereal quality that is well beyond her years even if it is a typical teenage ballad about getting dumped.

She’s seriously funny to talk with and kept me in stitches, and appears fiercely loyal to her friends.

But more than anything else she is a marketing phenomenon.

And this is the point of this article (yes I know I took a while to get there but name anybody else at 23 who has such a serious of accolades – I wanted you to take this seriously).

She and the people around her have mastered the art of personal brand marketing in the modern age.

If you are going to be successful you need to understand your brand – how you project yourself, market yourself and sell yourself to others is critical.

And Taylor is a master of it.

She has convinced her fans that she is just like them except extraordinarily lucky.  She understands she is talented and beautiful but she has mastered not rubbing that in other people’s faces.

And she uses all modern forms of media (facebook, Myspace, YouTube, Twitter) masterfully.   She has attached herself only to things that are complimentary to her brand and even though she has dated some of the hottest young stars around she has avoided any scandal against her name.

She talks a lot about living her dream, being passionate about what she does, focusing on her music and loving her fans.  She even “invented” a heart symbol with her hands <3 that indicates how much she loves the people who love her.

Now it’s easy to be cynical and say this is all part of a calculated branding and PR exercise and I guess that’s possible.  In my limited experience of her I would describe her as single minded but not calculating.

I hope she stays that way – she is, currently something very rare in a fast rising star – talented, successful and genuinely nice.  I don’t think you can fake that for long.

But more importantly we could all learn something about marketing from Ms. Swift.

Understand what you stand for and stick to those principles.

Have a dream – and go about living it.

Get yourself out there in a positive way.

Don’t be afraid of tooting your own horn.

Develop your talents and don’t rest on your laurels.

Be gracious when things go wrong or the unexpected happens.

And be nice to your mum.

If we could all master personal brand marketing like Tay we’d all be as successful as she is.

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For those of you who are interested here is her (self written) Bio from facebook when she was 19 (she’s updated it since but this one is still my favourite):

Hi 🙂

I’m 19.

I’m the girl who is best friends with a guitar and writes songs about everything and everyone that happens to me. Names included. 😉

Class of 2008.

In my spare time, I like to conduct random baking experiments in my kitchen and write letters to people.

I really love people who like my music. They’re number 1 on my favorite things list.

I’m not a big deal. At all.

I love people who are nice to me.

Because I’m not that complicated. My complications come out in my songs. All you need to do to be my friend is like me.

My middle name is Alison.

And I’m extremely tall. Like, I’m that really tall person that is blocking your view at a concert. On behalf of all of us, we’re sorry.

My ideal outfit is a sun dress and cowboy boots.

I love surprises and hardwood floors.

I like people who are excitable. I think it’s endearing when people cry when they’re happy. I’m pretty excitable too.

I’ve never been the kind of girl who needs a boyfriend. Plus, guys don’t ask me out because they know I’ll write songs about them.

In life and love, you learn that there comes a time to let go and move on. It’s a lesson I learned recently.
I wear too many bracelets and I can’t concentrate on the conversation if the TV’s on.

I grew up on a Christmas tree farm. Seriously.

I’m fascinated by black and white pictures, I have them hung up everywhere.

I like people who can be sarcastic and laugh about tense situations.

I never assume someone’s not being honest with me.

I don’t like making decisions when I don’t have to. So right now my toenails are painted 5 different colors.

I will never straighten my hair to impress a guy ever again.

There’s never going to be a time when I’m annoyed by compliments about my music.

I need everything to be organized. All the time.

I think little kids are awesome.

I’m a thinker and an over-analyzer. I’m not jaded.

I’m a fan of fans. You are absolutely wonderful to me. I’ve got your back, just like you’ve had mine. To anyone who has gone out and bought my CD, or come to a show, or even turned my song up when it came on the radio, all I can say is thank you.

Oh yeah.. My name’s Taylor.


Talent, grace and a personal brand master

Talent, grace and a personal brand master

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