4 Laws of Branding That Taylor Swift Has Mastered
Updated: May 22
One of the things that I love most about brand marketing is that it's all around us in one way or another. No matter where we go (besides maybe a desert or deep in the wilderness) we really can’t escape it. As the founder of a marketing firm, as well as a brand director, I believe that’s a good thing because every great brand has a story attached to it.
I also believe that everyone who supports a brand, subsequently becomes part of its story.
With all of these stories around us on buildings, billboards, store shelves, our television and phone screens, and even blasting through our headphones—we’re all able to make conscious decisions on which brands to support based on how their story resonates with us.
One artist who’s been able to tell a story that has resonated with millions of people, is pop music icon Taylor Swift.
Coming off the release of her critically acclaimed tenth studio album titled, Midnights, which broke the Spotify single-day album stream record, Swift has continued to showcase her marketing prowess to the world. The huge success of Midnights only strengthens the case of what I’ve said for years...Taylor Swift is a true marketing genius.
The 22 Immutable Laws Of Branding is a book that was written by, like Swift—two marketing geniuses, the late Al Ries and his daughter Laura Ries. In the marketing industry, the book (which is one of my personal favorites and I highly recommend you to purchase) is known as the blueprint of branding; citing 22 immutable laws that every brand marketer should abide by in order to build a truly powerful brand.
I’m not sure if Taylor has actually read The 22 Immutable Laws Of Branding, but what I am certain of—is that she’s mastered the following four branding laws from the book—which is why her brand is so powerful today.
1. The Law Of Quality (Law 7)
“Quality, or rather the perception of quality, resides in the mind of the buyer. If you want to build a powerful brand, you have to build a powerful perception in the mind.” - Al and Laura Ries
Think of some of your favorite outfits or clothing items that are in your closet right now. What are some of the things that make those items so endearing to you? I’m sure that if you were to make a list of the things you like most about your favorite T-shirt, hat, or pair of jeans—the quality of those items probably wouldn’t be at the top of the list. Nonetheless, they're still your favorites.
Law 7 of The 22 Immutable Laws Of Branding is the Law Of Quality. The Law Of Quality states, “Quality is important, but brands are not built on quality alone.”
Taylor Swift is one of the most popular people on the planet. According to Brandwatch, the “Shake It Off” singer has the 7th largest Twitter following in the world with over 91 million followers. But the reason that Taylor resonates so much with so many people as an artist isn’t because she’s the best singer, actress, or even songwriter.
The reason Taylor resonates with so many people is because she understands her audience as well as any artist that has ever reached icon status. And by having an astute understanding of her audience, Taylor has been able to craft songs that they can relate to.
Much like your favorite pair of shoes, Taylor's songs and videos aren’t beloved by her audience because they’re so superior to her contemporaries as far as production quality. Her music is beloved by her audience because it touches them emotionally—which transcends quality in the minds of consumers.
Not only that, Taylor has made a concerted effort to ensure that her image is congruent with what appeals to her audience. Which is a standard that all powerful brands adhere to.
2. The Law Of Extensions (Law 10)
“Before you launch your next line extension, ask yourself what customers of your current brand will think when they see the line extension.” - Al and Laura Ries
Something pretty amazing happens whenever a brand attains a certain level of success. All of a sudden, the brand becomes bombarded with opportunities to extend it—opportunities that those who helped build the brand could only dream of prior to its success.
I'm sure that’s something you would consider a good problem. But with every opportunity to extend a brand—comes pros and cons. And while the pros are often obviously beneficial, even the subtle cons could ruin a brand.
Law 10 of The 22 Immutable Laws Of Branding is the Law Of Extensions. Which states, “The easiest way to destroy a brand is to put its name on everything.”
You could imagine that being one of the most popular people on the planet would come with quite a number of opportunities. So it shouldn't be beyond the realm of reality to imagine that Taylor Swift probably gets pitched offers every day to endorse everything from breakfast cereal to bicycles.
But one of the reasons that Taylor has been able to sustain such a powerful brand over the last 16 years is because she’s been sagacious enough to avoid extending her brand purposelessly. You’ll never walk in a mall and see a plethora of products plastered on the walls with Taylor Swift’s image on them.
When it comes to endorsement opportunities and extending her brand, Swift is very meticulous about which brands she’ll partner with—which has prevented her brand from being overexposed, as well as overextended.
3. The Law Of Fellowship (Law 11)
“Not only should the dominant brand tolerate competitors, it should welcome them. The best thing that happened to Coca-Cola was Pepsi-Cola.” - Al and Laura Ries
In business, whenever a chief officer hears the word “competitor,” their heart rate rapidly increases (figuratively speaking of course). That’s because the word competitor often has a negative connotation in the business lexicon. But comprehensively, competition in business could be very useful in the right industry—if you can use your competitors to your advantage by adhering to the 11th Immutable Law Of Branding.
Law 11 of The 22 Immutable Laws Of Branding is the Law Of Fellowship. The Law Of Fellowship states that, “In order to build a category, a brand should welcome other brands.”
Taylor has utilized the Law Of Fellowship by collaborating with many of her contemporaries in the pop category. Instead of viewing other pop artists as competition that should be ignored or eliminated, her collaborations with artists like: Ed Sheeran, Colbie Caillat, Maren Morris, Zayn and most recently, Lana Del Rey—has helped keep the pop genre thriving.
Also, by collaborating with her contemporaries, Taylor helps herself as well as other pop artists because collaborations often generate publicity—which grows the category to everyone’s benefit.
4. The Law Of Consistency (Law 19)
“If the market swings another way, you have a choice. Follow the fad and destroy the brand. Or hang in there and hope the merry-go-round comes your way again. In our experience, hanging in there is your best approach.” - Al and Laura Ries
A big reason why her album Midnights, sold more than 800,000 copies in the U.S. the first day of its release; and garnered the largest sales week for an album since 2017, is because since the release of her self-titled debut album in 2006, Taylor’s fans have grown to know what to expect from her musically—which evokes anticipation—an extremely important facet of generating album sales.
“A brand is not built overnight. Success is measured in decades, not years.” States the 11th Immutable Law of Branding—which is the Law Of Consistency.
Swift has mastered The Law Of Consistency by remaining consistent in all aspects of her brand throughout the last decade and a half. Whether it’s aesthetically, through her song lyrics, interviews, social media posts, or her stance on social issues—Swifties (Taylor’s fans) know exactly what to expect from her. And she never disappoints them.
Instead of capitulating and following today's current era of raunchy lyrics and provocative imagery that you’ll hear and see from most female pop artists on the airwaves—Swift has remained in her own lane. Sure, she may slide in an expletive in a song or two every now and then, but through sheer consistency and by not following fads, Taylor Swift is currently on top of the pop industry because she’s stayed true to her brand.