In her most recent effort to cash in on her brand, Taylor Swift wants to trademark the word ‘Swiftmas’ and several other phrases from her song lyrics.
Taylor Swift has always been aggressive in protecting her intellectual property, but she’s taken it to a whole new level with her ambitious trademark campaign. Taylor is a gigantic star, so it comes as no surprise that she takes gigantic measures to protect everything that made her the phenomenon that she is.
Simply put, Taylor Swift is a “billion” dollar brand. But Taylor isn’t just a singer/songwriter. She’s a shrewd business woman with a shrewd team behind her. She never misses an opportunity to commercialize her celebrity and protect the integrity of her brand.
We all could take a page out of her playbook and protect our brands (both personal and business) with the same level of intention and respect that she does.
Protecting Brand Value
Taylor’s recent uptick in trademark filings for catch phrases from her songs, and now potentially books, reflects a sophisticated understanding of the power of a brand.
When consumers (in this case her fans) hear certain phrases, like “This Sick Beat,” they immediately associate them with Taylor Swift. If another artist were to start incorporating that phrase into their live shows or promotional materials, for example, there is a good chance fans might believe that Taylor and that artist have some sort of relationship which may or may not exist. Chances are the other artist’s star will rise based on this association, but Taylor’s may be tarnished if she doesn’t support the artist or want any affiliation with him or her. By turning these phrases into brand names, rather than simple sayings, she gives herself the authority to claim exclusivity in them.
Phrases as Trademarks
But not all phrases are or can be trademarks. Only when consumers connect a particular product or service with a particular name, phrase, logo, sound, etc. does it become a protectable brand name.
A perfect example is the Life Is Good Company and their now incredibly well-known LIFE IS GOOD mark. As the company founders began to use the phrase LIFE IS GOOD, it gained traction in the marketplace. While the phrase has an inherent meaning and positive connotation on its own, when used in connection with T-shirts (the company’s flagship product) and other merchandise, it takes on a whole new meaning. It becomes the symbol for a social movement to spread the power of optimism, which the company defines as “a pragmatic strategy for approaching life.”
When Taylor Swift breathes a different meaning into her lyrics, and her fans jump on the bandwagon, those lyrics also take on an entirely new meaning apart from any inherent meaning they may have in a different context. When regular words are used in a different context, outside of their ordinary meaning, they become protectable as strong trademarks.
THIS SICK BEAT is just one example. It is currently the subject of 16 U.S. trademark applications owned by Taylor individually, NOT by her record label, Big Machine Records. With these applications, Taylor seeks to register THIS SICK BEAT as a trademark for entertainment services, fan club services, contests, sweepstakes, housewares, promotional items, a whole manner of tchotchkes, and an incredibly long list of other items.
THIS SICK BEAT is no longer just a lyric. It has become the brand name for just a tiny slice of Taylor Swift’s musical empire.