As anyone who’s been bombarded on social media for the last couple of months and all die-hard Swifties know, Taylor Swift launched her new album, Reputation, on November 10th, 2017.
While the new album as a whole may not be that remarkable and nowhere close to the phenomenon that was 1989, her Reputation album’s promotional campaign has been the real game changer.
Beginning with the Kimye/Tay Tay saga in 2016, the “he said/she said”-feud culminated in what most people figured was Kim Kardashian throwing some shade Taylor’s way on Twitter:
Taylor-haters took to Twitter with the hashtag #TaylorSwiftIsaSnake, complete with countless snake emojis. Taylor responded with an Instagram post which also went viral, giving birth to the now-infamous “I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative” meme.
With Reputation’s promotional campaign, Taylor has now fully reclaimed the snake narrative in an ingenious way. On August 18th, all of her social media channels were wiped. She deleted every follower and every post – starting to reclaim her narrative by the simple fact that the “blank space” she created went viral in itself.
Then came the three cryptic Instagram videos released over the course of three days, which turned out to be a snake when viewed together. The videos were teasers for Reputation, making #TaylorSwiftIsASnake work for her instead of against her this time.
This promotional approach was the first step toward redefining her own reputation, instead of excluding herself from and letting others control the narrative.
The first music video from the album, Look What You Made Me Do, further set the stage for this new narrative. The video acknowledges her past feuds, gossip mag headlines, and even calls out her own behaviour – from mocking the Tom Hiddleston “I love TS” shirt and her own squad manufacturing plant, to literally wearing snakes.
The music video ends with all of Taylor’s previous video personas mocking each other for their past behaviour, and claiming that the “old Taylor is dead”. It was an authoritative move, not to mention wildly effective (breaking all first-day records on both YouTube and Spotify), and is a good example of effective digital reputation management.
Reclaiming a brand’s reputation
So, how does Taylor’s promotional campaign for Reputation apply to brands and their reputations? It seems a lot can be learned from her strategy: Taking ownership of a negative connation consumers have with the brand, and flipping it by making fun of themselves to reclaim it as a positive narrative.
While this strategy might not work for all brands, some have already given this same approach a go – to great online success thus far.
KFC South Africa, for one, has quickly gone viral locally by reclaiming their fried chicken reputation in a new ad:
Making a complete mockery of everything a fried chicken ad ever was, KFC has channelled their inner snake to give similar brands a run for their money (think Nandos and Chicken Licken).
In the end, whether you love her or hate her, Taylor’s Reputation has opened the door for brands to not give a damn about their (old) reputation.
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