Despite her lyrics claiming otherwise, Taylor Swift can have nice things.

Why? She’s a master of rebranding. She’s able to adapt to circumstance and turn it to her advantage, mobilizing an important part of any brand or business: image.

In a small business context, you might think image is just about logos, names or social media. But it runs much deeper than that, affecting traits at the heart of your brand:

Taylor Swift does all three so well, she’s considered a master. So in celebration of her upcoming album “Midnights,” let’s fill in some “blank space” and learn how you can apply her approach to your business’s brand.

She’s a Master of Reputation Management

In 2017, Taylor Swift shocked everyone when she deleted her entire social media presence.

On Instagram, Facebook, even Twitter, everything disappeared. There was no trace of Swift. She had wiped the slate clean.

Prior to this, the infamous feud between her and Kanye West / Kim Kardashian led to online abuse, bullying and criticism of her work. Many took this as a sign that maybe the criticisms were correct. People began commenting with snake emojis whenever referring to Swift.

But as we were about to learn, Swift was employing patience, dedication and tolerance. She wasn’t departing social media — instead, it was a metamorphosis happening before our eyes.

Later that year, Swift claimed the snake image — as her own — in her sixth studio album, “Reputation.” She deployed the symbol as a tool to warn people about what can happen when technology and toxicity meet.

The album was an incredible hit — it was the best-selling album by a female artist that year, selling more than 4.5 million copies.

Turning It Into Something Positive

There’s a lot in this example that businesses can use to their benefit.

The first is patience and restraint. Swift could have easily lashed out against the growing scorn lobbed her way. Instead she chose to wait and bide her time, to take stock of herself and her plans and refocus. Swift demonstrated an understanding that things take time, and jumping the gun can lead to regrettable outcomes.

She refocused her image to be about her music, rather than her personal life. And she eventually changed how she interacted with the public.

We’re not saying delete your business’s social media accounts, unfollow everyone and start again. But there’s something to be learned from taking stock of feedback, centering yourself and updating your business plans.

Swift demonstrated that even negative reviews can be turned into something positive. If your image is plummeting and sales are dropping, step back and assess the situation with patience and as much objectivity as you can muster. In the end, showing resilience is the best thing you can do.

She’s a Master of Active Listening

Having an audience isn’t a one-way thing. They’re listening to you as much as you should be listening to them.

Active audience listening is what sets Swift apart from many artists. She’s an avid “Taylurker,” a term she coined describing how she follows fan social media accounts to see what they post about her.

This isn’t an exercise in narcissism, but a proactive way to keep customers happy.

You don’t have to wait for reviews or feedback forms. After all, your customers actively discuss the things that they want, need or hate on many platforms. It’s just a matter of engaging in some social listening, and understanding that negative feedback is sometimes good.

Swift usually rewards fans who actively talk about her and give her feedback. She’s known to invite fans to her home and even include them in secret shows.

You can engage your customers in a similar way. Reward those who actively provide feedback across multiple channels, not just in Google reviews or a feedback form. Is a customer posting pictures of your product? Thank them, maybe give them a 10% discount on their next purchase.

When customers see you actively listening to what they say, they’ll feel appreciated. And they’ll make an effort to continue the positivity trend themselves.

She’s a Master of Forecasting Trends

Taylor Swift understands her fans so well, she has the ability to tailor her products to their trends.

After her “Reputation” album, she realized fans were over the “snake-era” Swift, and that it was time for a change.

Bridging musically between “old” Swift and the “new” image she wanted to build, she released “Lover,” a poppier sound filled with ballads and catchy bridges (but then again, when doesn’t she use them?).

But that’s not all. The album’s more upbeat tone set a precedent: Swift was back as the Queen of Pop.

That is, until 2020, when COVID-19 hit.

Surprising fans with a completely unexpected release, “Folklore” Taylor’s eighth album — was a resounding hit, skyrocketing her to a fame unprecedented, even for her.

Compared to her other works, the album was a much slower affair, tapping into a folksy vibe. But it was also raw and full of an emotional energy that effectively captured the feeling of living through a life-changing situation.

Her fans, suffering through lockdowns and uncertainty, clung to her new album in a way that felt necessary. She followed through with another surprise album a few months later, releasing “Evermore” in December 2020.

Building a Good Relationship With Your Fans

Because of the relationship Swift has with her fans, listening to their wants and needs and situations, she was able to cater to their musical and emotional needs. Her last two albums became anthems of hope against the pandemic.

Much like Taylor Swift’s music, your business has a direction and a “sound.” This is how your products and services resonate with your customers. Considering your customers’ situations — financial, circumstantial, even emotional — will help you craft your offerings to reflect what they feel.

If you know there’s a recession coming, for example, you can tailor your message to be more sensitive about people’s spending. You can even provide payment options that better cater to a tighter wallet.

You can use upcoming holidays or seasons in the same way. If you know Christmas is a busy time, for example, you can adjust your processes to match.

Taking your customers’ situations into account can also help you avoid being tone-deaf and making choices that negatively affect your brand’s image.

Become a Master of Rebranding, Too

Swift’s experience in turning negative situations into a positive is famous for a reason. By following her steps — managing your reputation, actively listening to your customers and forecasting what they might need — you’ll have better luck in creating a positive business image as well.

And if you’ve suffered from reputation loss, then take heart from Swift’s successes. She demonstrates nothing is too difficult to crawl back from. Use her metamorphosis as evidence of a brighter future.

Because even if you experience setbacks, you now know how your business can come back stronger than ever.

Photo credit: Raph_PH

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