Lessons from a Likeable Celebrity: Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift garnered seven Grammy nominations, including album of the year for 1989 and song of the year for “Blank Space.”  She’s a major talent, but there are a ton of Grammy winners who haven’t had the financial success of Miss Swift. 


What makes her so different?  What business lessons can we learn from T Swizzle?


1. She Controls Her Image: According to Sumi Kim, product manager at Quora and #1 Taylor Swift fan, “Swift has cast herself as the relatable, best friend you wish you had: she's pretty, but in a “girl-next-door” kind of way. Many of her songs reference being unpopular, what it's like to be an ordinary teenager, and staying true to yourself . She's totally embraced this image; even now, when she's super popular, she still makes fun of herself.”


This image has helped make Taylor one of the entertainment business’s top earners in 2015.  According to Zack O'Malley Greenburg, of Forbes, Swift was the 4th highest paid entertainer last year, making approximately $80m.


So Taylor’s image is translating into real money, what about your company’s image? Is it working?


Take a look at your mission statement.  A good mission statement will remind your team what your company is all about.  It helps to form the identity of a company, provides a guide to decision making, and determines the strategy and direction going forward.


You can also conduct regular interviews with your business partners, employees, and customers to get an idea of how your company is perceived. 


Finally, if you want to improve your company’s image and reputation, you need to have systems in place to be able to measure them.  You can use surveys and other means to track your customer satisfaction scores over time.


Swift looks at ticket and album sales to see if her image is working and you should have your own metrics to track yours. 


2.  She’s Likeable:  Swift’s image has made her extremely likeable.  This is reflected in her Q score, which shows the likeability of a celebrity.  A high Q Score, says Henry Schafer, executive vice president of the Q Scores Company, implies trust, integrity, believability and strong emotional bonds. Miss Swift’s is among the highest of all celebrities, with 82% of all consumers knowing who she is and 20% naming her as one of their favorite personalities. 


What would your company’s Q Score be?  What percentage of your potential customers know who you are?  How many would name you as one of their favorite companies to do business with? 


In the days of social media your company faces much more exposure.  Gone are the days of being “average.”  You need to be a likeable business.


According to David Kerpen, author of Likeable Business: Why Today’s Consumers Demand More and How Leaders Can Deliver, “The five principals of a likeable business are: listening, responsiveness, authenticity, transparency and delight.”


One of the ways that you can accomplish all five principals is by telling a story.  Just like a good Taylor Swift song, “a good story needs an introduction, some conflict, and a conclusion.” 


Companies can ask themselves, “What are some conflicts that we have had with our customers and how did we positively resolve them?”  You can then create content around this and share them on various social media channels, your company’s website, or in print and video advertising.



3. She Rewards Her Loyal Customers:  Swift is the master of this.  Not all customers are created equal so they shouldn’t all be treated the same way.  Pareto’s Principal, named after economist Vilfredo Pareto, states that, “For many phenomena, 20% of invested input is responsible for 80% of the results obtained.”


When applied to business, this means that 80% of your company’s business comes from 20% of your customers. 


Taylor has successfully marketed to her hard-core fans, known as “Swifites,” for years.  On her recent “1989 World Tour, she had no fewer than five VIP packages which offered everything from the best seats to limited edition memorabilia. These hardcore fans helped her to top Pollstar's list of worldwide tours of 2015, grossing $250.4 million.


But if we “80/20” our customers, aren’t we going to be ignoring a lot of people? 


Yep, that’s the whole point.  It’s not easy, because it goes against our nature to keep everyone happy. 


Perry Marshall, in his book 80/20 Sales & Marketing, has several suggestions on how you can start to target your most loyal customers.  “You should start by mining the data.  Find out what customers bought most recently, bought more frequently and spent the most money….Focus on them.  Send them nicer Christmas gifts, etc.”  You can also study geographic and niche markets to find out where your most profitable areas are.


Finally you’ve got to fire your problem customers.


“Inevitably, there are another 10-20 percent of customers who rack up support tickets and chew up phone time, and take away from you servicing your most lucrative 20 percent.” It’s OK to fire them.  You’ve got to do it politely, because you don’t want bad reviews, but you’ve still got to do it.


Taylor Swift didn’t think that music streaming services appropriately valued her art, so in late 2014 she decided to pull all of her music off of Spotify. 


Did it upset some people? Yeah, but Taylor didn’t sweat it.


Remember, “A hater’s gonna hate, hate, hate but I’m gonna shake, shake, shake it off.”







InspirationTom Ward