Why Bad Blood is Good Business

For some time I’ve wanted to write an article on the Taylor Swift brand, but I struggled to find an angle that didn’t turn into a 5,000-word analysis. I find her brand so interesting and there’s so much you could write on. Then came “Bad Blood” and I had my defined angle.



The genius of bad blood

Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” premiered this year at the Billboard Music Awards and literally stole the PR show. Mostly, it came out of the blue.

Swift’s new…ish album wasn’t really that new and a number of singles had already been released. Bad Blood came out of nowhere as likely her biggest budget release to date filled with stars, special effects and Hollywood size post production. The media went crazy reading into every subtle and hidden comment that the video echoed from Taylor’s life. It’s a pretty impressive music video.

But the video itself has opened wide a conversation that goes past its ‘no dollar spared’ approach or its star studded cast. It’s impressed the fans, the haters, the media and the business world and reinforced that Taylor Swift is here to stay. No longer just a country music artist, she is a force to be reckoned with.


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The story of a transformation

So how did this happen? It’s a really unique situation. It’s not news that Swift’s latest album has been her reinvention but for me “Bad Blood” finalised her transition her from the cute, goofy, romance song writer to an empowered pop icon with confidence and strength. These kinds of videos are important for careers because they shape the perception the audience and fans have of a star and perceptions are very difficult to change without drastic actions. Unfortunately for some ‘coming of age’ stars, they go about it in ways that damage their reputation for the long term (I won’t drop names…Ok I will…Miley). I actually think Taylor has done it really well.

As much as we hate to admit it to ourselves, we are all in some way wired to perceive Taylor Swift in certain ways because of the past, and that perception formed from years of country albums impacted her ability to move forward as an artist. It had to change because that ‘boy crazy’ teenager thing was getting old. She’s not the first to hit this career roadblock. The press became almost negative in some ways (I.e. Remember all the stories about how many breakups and boyfriends she’d had?)

So what does she (or her team) masterfully do? Well they move her to New York. They make a big deal about it. They launch her new album. It has a song about moving to New York (just in case you didn’t hear about it in the news). They make it pop without one banjo plugging away in the background. New photos and stories position her as a female empowered girls-girl with a strong empowered group of celebrity females by her side. And she stays very engaged with her fans to bring them along for the ride mostly through fostering a deep understanding of who they and utilising social channels to speak to these fans in their language, authentically and consistently.

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Closing question

I do wonder though, How much is orchestrated? I really don’t know. It seems so perfectly executed or perhaps it was just lucky. Either way, it’s working and Taylor Swift has quickly transformed into more than just a melody writer who sells a large volume of albums to a powerful global personality. Transformation complete. If you’re interested, I found this article from Katie Fetting really insightful on the marketing lessons we can learn from Taylor Swift.



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