"She has more influence than most billion-dollar companies"

Only a few celebrities can shift things at a global scale, be it politics or the economy, and Taylor Swift is one of them. Speaking as a brand practitioner whose job is to make global brands culturally relevant, Swift's numbers are wild. YouGov reports that an astonishing 97% of British adults have heard of her, the kind of universal awareness usually reserved for multi-billion dollar companies like Google or Coca-Cola. She is the top streaming artist on both Spotify and Apple Music and has had 232 songs on the Billboard Hot 100. She is the most-liked person on Instagram, with each post averaging 7.8 million likes. At her Eras show in Seattle, the jumping of fans created a 2.3 magnitude earthquake. Her influence is, quite literally, groundbreaking.

I can put a pin in the moment that things changed for her. After Kanye West interrupted her during her MTV Video Music Awards acceptance speech in 2009, she made global headlines, won sympathisers and a lot more listeners. Fan culture builds today's brands faster than ever before, and Swifties connect deeply with her relatable storytelling. From politics to trolls, relationships to anxiety, her lyrics are both true to her own experiences and reflective of what a generation is dealing with.

But it's not just popular appeal that a brand needs to thrive - acknowledgement of your craft by industry gatekeepers helps too. Fourteen Grammy awards and being the first and only artist to win Album of the Year four times says a lot in a hugely competitive category. Her activism around artists' rights and fair treatment on global streaming platforms was awesome, and when her masters were sold by her ex-manager, her fightback by re-recording 1989 (Taylor's Version) showed her resilience in the face of the status quo.

At times, though, there have been questions about whether Brand Swift is nothing more than a marketing tactic. When Trump was on the election trail in 2020, she did use her platform to back the Democrats and explicitly fight for the rights of women and Black and LGBTQIA+ people, aligning with a younger generation of voters who had only a few months earlier driven the BLM protests across the world. However, in recent months she has been heavily criticised for her wasteful private jet usage and her silence on Gaza, raising questions about what she really stands for.

There's a fine line between cynically marketing for profit and being authentic, and it's in moments like this that Brand Swift is truly put to the test. As one of the world's most influential women who has used her platform to push for change that truly helps people, this year will show whether Taylor Swift can really be both: the cultural voice of a generation and a strategic businesswoman.


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