Staying True To Yourself: The Humble Brand That Is Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift has carefully crafted a humble and accessible brand identity that’s helped her sell 16 million albums. The branding takeaways from what she’s doing right.

Taylor Swift is an excellent example of how humility can lead to success. She’s genuine. She connects and relates to her audience through her own experiences. She doesn’t go for shock value. And above all, she’s humble. Almost too humble at times–check out her reactions to winning her numerous awards. Steady, Taylor. Don’t lose your sincerity or everything might change.


Today she’s the queen of humility, and it’s working. She’s sold 16 million albums worldwide on the back of her openness, honesty, and relatability through her songwriting. The challenge will be maintaining that aura as her career progresses. She broke the mold as the first real superstar who came to notoriety through the social network revolution. She’s a poster child for millions, and for the new music business model. She wears her young heart on her sleeve and exposes her feelings in everything she does. And now, through her values and personality, she is a true, purposeful, and extremely recognizable brand.

But does she have the staying power? Can she be Dove or Olay for generations to come?

The honesty and humility at the heart of brand-Swift are her biggest assets, and if nurtured, are what will help her sustain her career. And because these pillars are rooted in authenticity, she has the power to become relevant as she ages with her fans. Taylor’s pinned on a million tween and teen girls’ walls (and some boys, too) because through her lyrics, her stories resonate with them. At the same time, she’s an aspirational example. Some might say that the biggest danger she faces is her own adulthood. She’s professes sexual purity. She doesn’t drink. She doesn’t smoke, do drugs, or show much skin. Of course, as she matures, she might give way to one or two (or all) of these. The caution, and the opportunity, is for her to understand the powerful connection she’s made with her fans, and the challenge is staying relevant to their stages of life.

Artists have never been able to forge connections with their fans to the degree that they can today. Sure, there’s still some sparkle surrounding today’s heroines and heroes–that will always be there in the eyes of fans. But there’s another dimension, too. Superstars are no longer untouchable and mythical beings. They blog. They tweet. They have two-way dialog with their fans. They publish the progress of their daily errands. Stars, they’re just like us! And whatever the artist doesn’t expose, someone else will. There’s no mystery surrounding icons like Taylor. Those days are long gone, there are no cover-ups or secrets anymore. It’s all out there for everyone to see, and this new era makes it even more challenging for artists to sustain their success. In the old days sustained success was almost wholly built on the quality of their work and their record label’s marketing efforts. Now that’s only part of the equation.

Taylor’s humility makes her attractive. But it also makes her vulnerable, and as she grows up, she’ll be an easy target. Our advice for Swift–and anyone else looking to resonate with their audience or customers–is to stick close to the personal values you started with, and continue to forge that connection with your fans. You have permission to grow, and a humble and honest approach that will keep you grounded. As a celebrity brand, you’re extendable. But be courageous in your humility, avoid the formulaic scent, clothing, and home furnishings deals and do something surprising with the permission you’ve created. Surprise us. Take it steady, and you’ll be with us for a very long time.


  • Being true to yourself ensures genuine authenticity.
  • Connection with your fans comes when you make the effort.
  • Looks fade and become irrelevant over time.

[Image: Flickr user rwoan]


About the author

Shawn Parr is the Guvner & CEO of Bulldog Drummond, an innovation and design consultancy headquartered in San Diego whose clients and partners have included Starbucks, Diageo, Jack in the Box, Taco Bell, Adidas, MTV, Nestle, Pinkberry, American Eagle Outfitters, Ideo, Sony, Virgin, Disney, Nike, Mattel, Heineken, Annie’s Homegrown, Kashi, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, The Honest Kitchen, and World Vision.