“You can schaeden your freude all over the celebrity she reputedly sings about, but on the best day of your life you will never inspire a song as great as‘All Too Well.’ Or write one.”
And this is not an unpopular opinion. Every Swiftie knows that“All Too Well” is an absolute masterpiece. It’s on her fourth album, RED, and it happens to be one of her longest songs at 5 minutes and twenty-seven seconds.
From the first line, you cling to her every tragic word. Taylor said she loves screaming the lyrics together with her fans at her shows.
As someone who has always been in awe of Taylor’s writing, I wanted to analyze what makes“All Too Well” her best work. She has over 150 songs in her catalogue, so what’s different about this one?
Storytelling Through Lyrics in“All Too Well”
I recently read a book called How to Write Short by Roy Peter Clark, which has an entire chapter about storytelling through song lyrics. It’s fascinating to see how songwriters are able to paint storylines, evoke emotion, and illustrate such vivid details through a single line or verse.
But it was another book that really helped me understand what“All Too Well” gets right.
In Stories That Stick by Kindra Hall, she explains the components that make a great story. One of them is this: great stories ZOOM IN on the details.
A common storytelling mistake is speaking in generalities, which makes our writing too vague. When you zoom in, you drill down to the specifics. This is where the magic happens.
It’s one thing to write a song about love or heartache, but the story escalates when the listener can envision the details — faces, places, objects, and everything in between.
This is the entire premise of“All Too Well”. The title itself speaks to how Taylor remembers specific moments of her relationship“all too well.”
Rumor has it, the song is about Jake Gyllenhaal.
Right from the first verse, Taylor sets the scene and tells us about a scarf she left at Jake’s sister’s house.
I walked through the door with you, the air was cold
But something’bout it felt like home somehow and I
Left my scarf there at your sister’s house
And you still got it in your drawer even now
She could have simply mentioned that she left some of her stuff there, but she zooms in on the scarf. It inspires us to think about what the scarf represents. Why would he keep the scarf? He must miss her, and the memories they made. This simple item now has meaning.
Taylor continues to illustrate objects and moments in the lyrics:
We’re singing in the car, getting lost upstate
Autumn leaves falling down like pieces into place
And I can picture it after all these days
‘Cause there we are again on that little town street
You almost ran the red’cause you were looking over me
Wind in my hair, I was there, I remember it all too well
Photo album on the counter, your cheeks were turning red
You used to be a little kid with glasses in a twin-size bed
And your mother’s telling stories’bout you on a tee ball team
You tell me’bout your past, thinking your future was me
‘Cause there we are again in the middle of the night
We dance around the kitchen in the refrigerator light
Down the stairs, I was there, I remember it all too well, yeah
And then, in a heart-wrenching turn of events, Taylor zooms back in on the scarf:
But you keep my old scarf from that very first week
‘Cause it reminds you of innocence and it smells like me
You can’t get rid of it,’cause you remember it all too well, yeah
Although it may seem like a small detail, the scarf adds so much color and context to this love story. It helps us gain a deeper understanding of the characters and their feelings.
This same logic needs to be applied to your own writing.
You may think no one cares about a scarf, or the minute details of your experiences, but they transform a story from ordinary to extraordinary. Don’t leave them out.
How significant can a small detail be? The Rolling Stone article said Taylor’s scarf should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
A Swift Tip: How to Zoom in on Your Own Storytelling
Whether you’re writing a novel, a song, or the copy for your“About” page, details are powerful.
So how do you pack more of the them into your writing?
It starts with remembering them… all too well.
This is why Taylor Swift has been journaling since she was a teenager. She writes entries about her daily life, which makes every moment and emotion crystal clear.
All of her songs start off as rough drafts in her journal, including“All Too Well.” With the purchase of her latest album, Lover, Taylor included scans of her original entries. As a fan, it was fascinating to see her process, chicken scratch and all.
Take it from one of the best songwriters of our generation: journaling is one of the simplest things you can do to improve your writing and your life.
The Secret to Effective Journaling
Does anyone else have a bunch of empty notebooks lying around?
I admit, I’ve picked up journaling many times in my life, but it never stuck. I’d get super excited, and write every day for a week, then stop.
That all changed when I received a journal as a gift for my 30th birthday. I hadn’t recorded my twenties the way I wanted to(or maybe that’s a good thing!), but my thirties would be different.
Here’s how to make your journaling habit stick:
Get a journal you like.
This is another small detail that makes a big difference. I felt so uninspired to journal in ratty spiral notebooks and composition books.
There are so many beautiful journals that suit your personality and get you in the mood to write. Choose a color, style, and format that you love.
Do it your way.
Most people perceive journaling all wrong. It’s not meant to be stressful — it should actually reduce your stress. But it starts with giving yourself permission to do it your way.
No, you don’t have to write every day.
No, you don’t need long entries.
Yes, you can draw and add stickers and have bulleted lists and do all the things that make it yours.
Set a trigger.
If you really want journaling to be a habit, you need to keep your journal in sight and incorporate it into your routine. Maybe you keep it next to the coffee maker, so you write after you make your morning coffee. Or after you make your bed, you place it on your pillow so you write at the end of the day.
Attach your journal to something else you do every day, so it remains top of mind.
Still not sold on journaling?
Here are some of my favorite quotes that may inspire you:
“Journal what you love, what you hate, what’s in your head, what’s important. Journaling organizes your thoughts; allows you to see things in a concrete way that otherwise you might not see. Focus on what you think you need to find in your art.”-Kay Walkingstick
“A personal journal is an ideal environment in which to become. It is a perfect place for you to think, feel, discover, expand, remember, and dream.”-Brad Wilcox
“Journal writing, when it becomes a ritual for transformation, is not only life-changing but life expanding.”-Jen Williamson
“People who keep journals have life twice.”-Jessamyn West
Grumpy cat. Success kid. Condescending Willy Wonka. Memes in our social media feeds have been making us laugh for years, but only recently have brands shifted their strategy to get in on the fun. Memes can take on many forms, but are generally described as humorous images, videos, or pieces of text that communicate something about a cultural trend or social idea.
If you’re not doing mematic marketing (yes, there’s actually a term for this), you’re probably spending time and money arranging photo shoots, hiring influencers, editing video, and creating content that will look flawless in your Instagram feed. And while this is all fine and well, your audience gets bored of polish and perfection all the time. They want to consume authentic content they can relate to — content that sounds like them. This is why memes have become a digital phenomenon, and brands are leveraging this opportunity to connect with consumers.
The same way we gravitate toward people who have a sense of humor, memes help brands build relationships with their followers. Do you have an annoying colleague who never stops talking about themselves? Think of them as a brand who only posts salesy, self-promotional content on social media. How about the co-worker who makes you laugh so hard you spit out your coffee? You can’t get enough of that person! Memes have a special way of bringing you closer to your customers.
Here are seven more reasons why you need to incorporate memes into your social media strategy:
Memes are budget-friendly.
Production is typically a huge part of content creation, but crafting an effective meme doesn’t call for a costly photo or video shoot. An engaging meme simply requires an understanding of your audience, a little sense of humor, and a design that clearly communicates. It can be as easy as popping text onto a plain background, or placing a witty caption above an image.
Here’s an example from popular blow dry salon, DryBar.
You can leverage user-generated content (and it’s free!).
I’m not sure if the customer is always right, but they’re always funny. Tap into the witty things your customers say about your brand to create memes that will resonate with others. This is a simple way to spotlight your followers while also building a community.
SoulCycle takes advantage of post-workout tweets to delight their followers.
Memes demonstrate an understanding of your audience.
The best way to connect with your audience is to show that your brand understands their thoughts and behaviors. Demonstrate this with humor and you’re your customers’ new BFF. Brainstorming, discovering, and writing meme-worthy content is its own form of social listening that will help you keep a pulse on your followers.
No one does this better than Chipotle, who listens to their fanatical, burrito-obsessed customers to inspire new content.
When brands open a social media profile, they have a responsibility to engage with their followers and be, well, social. This can’t be done effectively by posting rigid, self-serving content. Memes are the perfect way for brands to express and fine-tune their voice, personality, and authenticity by switching up the conversation.
Purple, a popular sleep products company, shows their brand personality by admitting that they hit the snooze button, too.
How many times have you stopped scrolling through Instagram to pause at a hilarious meme? Getting a potential customer’s attention is the first part of making a sale, and memes tend to have more thumb-stopping power than your average social media post.
We ignore ads, but connect with content that will bring a smile to our face or make us cackle at our desk. This is because the content sounds like us. And if it sounds like us, it most likely sounds like our friends, so we’re happy to share it. That’s how you build a following.
Urban Decay brilliantly uses memes to highlight and sell their products without having to post an ad.
But perhaps the best part about memes is, you’ll have fun making them.
Rather than banging your head against the wall trying to dream up your next big social campaign, let loose a little. Get your teams together for a laid-back brainstorm session where you check out the latest trending topics or headlines. How can your brand get in on the conversation in a fun way? Browse your customers’ hilarious tweets or reviews. Find inspiration from your co-workers and their daily interactions. There are countless creative opportunities right under your nose.
So take off your marketing hat and simply be human. Laugh along the way. Your job will seem easier, and your followers will love you.
While the coronavirus outbreak has forced us to put our gym memberships on hold, people are transforming their living rooms into gyms. It’s one of the few ways we can get a sweat session in while social distancing.
But I can’t help but chuckle over the fact that seemingly overnight, at-home fitness is back. There is such high demand that dumbbells and other equipment is sold out everywhere.
There have been many at-home fitness trends that have come and go, but the best part about these fads were the commercials.
From the cheesy infomercials, to the flamboyant Spandex leotards, at-home fitness advertisements were unforgettable.
While we’re all cooped up at home, here are some of the fitness trends you probably wish you invested in right about now:
Total Gym (2003)
Considering that Chuck Norris backed the Total Gym, I’m surprised there wasn’t one in every home. When Chuck Norris tells you to buy something, you do it. And supermodel Christie Brinkley is just as influential.
I remember watching this infomercial late at night when there was nothing else on TV — before we had the luxury to choose a different show to watch on Netflix or Hulu.
Thigh Master (1991)
I’m pretty sure every woman from the ’70s to the ’90s wanted to look like Suzanne Somers. And with her Thigh Master, you could at least have gams like hers!
Shake Weight (2009)
The Shake Weight was pretty much the laughing stock of at-home fitness products. Their original 2009 infomercial went viral and amassed over 4 million views. An MSNBC commented saying it was “slightly pornographic.”
Sex sells? In 2010, the Shake Weight generated over $40 million in sales.
Gazelle Glider (2001)
If you thought the Shake Weight commercial was uncomfortable, here’s a clip to remind you just how handsy Tony Little was when demonstrating the Gazelle Glider.
He’s still actively promoting this product and has kept his signature ponytail.
Darrin’s Dance Grooves (2001)
Many families in the 90’s may not have had room in their homes for a Total Gym or Gazelle, but every household definitely had a VCR! That was the only piece of equipment you needed to watch Darrin’s Dance Grooves.
Darrin Henson was the choreographer behind some of our favorite Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, and Britney Spears music videos. He won an MTV VMA in 2000 for his Bye Bye Bye choreography, which he teaches on Darrin’s Dance Grooves. Learning a dance was a fun way to born some calories way before TikTok made it cool.
Fun fact: Sportscaster Erin Andrews is featured in the infomercial before she was famous at the 44 second mark.
All I remember about the Bowflex commercials was just how absolutely ripped everybody was. I think the results they showed were too good to be true.
I watched this commercial thinking two things:
That actually looks fun!
If I use this, will I get abs like Britney Spears?
Tae Bo (1998)
Billy Blanks made you feel like you could do anything! Here’s a preview of one of his workouts — I’m sweating just looking at it.
Ryan Reynolds is certainly a successful fixture in popular culture. You may love him for his movies, his looks, or his charm, but I love him for something more: his creative genius.
In February 2018, Ryan (yes, I’ve decided to affectionately call him by just his first name) acquired a stake in the liquor brand, Aviation American Gin. Alongside a small but mighty marketing team, he has helped take the company to new heights with some of the most clever advertising and social media campaigns we’ve seen in a long time.
On the latest episode of the Making the Brand podcast, I had the pleasure of chatting with Adrian Molina, the senior brand manager behind Aviation Gin, and social media expert and professor, Dr. Karen Freberg.
It turns out that other companies should be taking notes on what Aviation Gin is doing. So pour yourself a negroni (Ryan’s favorite drink!) and listen in to hear the method to their madness.
This was probably one of the BEST podcast interviews I've ever been a part of!
So many great conversations all about social, @AviationGin , and teaching!
Let’s go back to one of my favorite eras: the late ’90s.
Imagine you’re surfing Internet Explorer on your dial-up connection, minding your own business as you research fansites, games, and chatrooms. Life is good.
Then suddenly, you’re assaulted by a flurry of pop-up ads coming from every corner of your screen, flashing sales and discounts for who-knows-what in your face.
You quickly try to click the X, but the stupid ad thinks it’s funny and moves across the screen as you hover.
I’m glad those days are over, but I’m afraid history is starting to repeat itself.
In the age of social media, many brands still have trouble adapting to the type of content their audiences expect and actually want.
With traditional media, like brochures, radio spots, billboards, or commercials, brands had one shot to get their message across. Their time, space, and budget was limited, so their marketing was straightforward and promotional. Its only goal was to make sure your audience knew about your company, products, and services.
This is pretty much the complete opposite of how social media works. We’ve said it time and time again — social media is not the place to plaster your digital fliers. It’s a place to be social.
Remember, social media started as a place for people to connect with friends and family. If you want your audience to add your brand to their feeds and social circles, you have to fit in and be a brand worth following. You won’t accomplish this if all of your content is promotional.
Instead, your audience seeks a brand personality that is entertaining, helpful, and relatable.
Popular Culture = Trending Topics
So if brands shouldn’t constantly talk about themselves, what else is there to say?
That’s where pop culture and trending topics come in.
If something is trending, that means people are talking about it. We’re tagging our friends, retweeting to our followers, or contributing original content of our own.
Well, as a brand, you want to pull up a chair at the proverbial dinner party. You need to be where the people are.
Thanks to social media, brands can join the conversation and share points-of-view on trending topics surrounding things like:
Viral trends, challenges, and memes
Again, all of the above are topics that brands probably wouldn’t waste time discussing on traditional media. But since social media is an ongoing conversation in real-time, it creates countless engagement opportunities.
6 Reasons to Use Pop Culture in Your Social Media Strategy
I don’t advise brands to brush up on popular culture or trending topics just because it’s fun to chime in with a cheeky meme, remark about celebrity news, or contribute to a viral dance challenge. I do it because this approach is one of your strongest marketing strategies.
Here are the benefits of incorporating popular culture into your social media content:
1. It humanizes your brand. You don’t want your audience to see you as a rigid company up in their corporate ivory towers counting stacks of cash. You want to demonstrate that you have a personality and multiple dimensions.
Here’s a tweet from lululemon that lets their audience know that despite being an activewear company, they too, enjoy a lazy day.
2. You’ll build relationships. You know that feeling when you find out you have something in common with someone and you immediately hit it off? Brands and their potential customers can recreate this spark. Demonstrate a shared interest in what your audience loves, and they’ll feel more connected to the brand.
Popular grocery store chain, Publix, makes it clear just how much they love pets, too. How can you not bond with this brand over these adorable photos on #LoveYourPetDay?
3. It challenges you to know your audience better. Choosing trending topics to contribute to requires you to understand your customers beyond demographics. You need to know their lifestyle, including the TV shows they watch, the movies they like, or the places they frequent.
Here’s a tweet from Tarte Cosmetics, which comments on two shows that are popular among their target audience. Notice that the post has nothing to do with their makeup products.
4. Your content is more likely to gain traffic. The goal is to quickly capitalize on a trend as its gaining traction online. You want to post while the topic is still relevant in order to pique interest at the right time. Author and viral marketing expert, Jonah Berger, says what is top-of-mind is tip-of-tongue.
There’s no better time for the TODAY show to share this article Jennifer Aniston’s cleaner margarita recipe than on #NationalMargaritaDay.
6. It fills your content calendar. Add some variety to your content calendar by including pop culture moments. It’s not uncommon to see brands tweeting during the Super Bowl, award shows, or even amidst historic milestones. Who could forget this viral tweet from MoonPie during the 2017 solar eclipse?
There’s a lot of potential for brands in pop culture! If you want to take part in pop culture trends on social media, it’s imperative that you and your teams are constantly monitoring conversation. You don’t want to miss your big moment! Invest in social listening tools and be mindful of what is in the news. This approach will bring you closer to your audience than any heavy promotional strategy.
Want to incorporate pop culture into your content strategy?
From Taylor Swift’s adoring “Swifties,” to Lady Gaga’s feisty “Little Monsters,” Justin Bieber’s dedicated “Beliebers,” and Beyonce’s fierce “Beyhive,” there are lots of passionate fan bases out there. My favorite has to be J.Lo’s sassy J.Lovers, or the new crowd of Lizzo’s unified “Lizzbians.”
But cutesy names aside, these music superstars have built a tribe of loyal supporters who will unconditionally stream their albums, buy their concert tickets, don their merchandise, and spread the love for years to come.
If brands want to grow their audiences, they should be singing from the same song sheet as these musicians.
Rather than always chasing down new leads, companies should strive to build a community of repeat customers who become enthusiastic brand ambassadors. By deepening their connection with the brand, they are more likely to come back, refer their friends, and market your company on your behalf. Yes, please!
This approach fosters something called social proof — a psychological phenomenon indicating that people are especially influenced by the actions of others.
With this strategy, everybody wins! You spend more time nurturing your existing customers, thus making them happier with their brand experience. Your referred leads walk into the brand relationship with a higher level of trust, and more trust means more conversions.
Personalize the experience. Whenever you can, demonstrate that you know your customers. Make notes in your CRM to help you keep track of their birthdays, special milestones, or life happenings.
Go beyond automation. Any brand can use their email automation system to trigger a happy birthday email. Make a lasting impression by sending a handwritten card with a small gift, or comping their order. Set aside a small budget called “surprise and delight” to cover cards, balloons, or gifted items. You will earn your money back 10x over simply through your customer’s enduring loyalty.
Remember your customer’s name, and use it often. Dale Carnegie, the author of the iconic book, How To Win Friends and Influence People, once said:“A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Address your customer by name every chance you get. It’s a small gesture that means a lot.
Put their name in lights. Any opportunity to feature your customer on a large scale will make them feel special. If you know they’re visiting your brick-and-mortar shop for the first time, write their name on a welcome sign. Feature their photo on social media or ask for a quote for a quick testimonial and tag them in your post.
Unify your audience with a branded hashtag. User-generated content is one of your most powerful social media tools to leverage. Add fuel to the fire by collecting all of your UGC via a branded hashtag. This gives your audience an easy mechanic to create a brand impression. Plus it will make them feel like they are part of something bigger. It creates a hangout space for members of your tribe to connect. Bonus idea: create a Facebook Group vs. a Business Page.
Your Tribe is the Gift That Keeps on Giving
Community really is everything if you want to create a brand that spreads and lasts. Stop brainstorming ways to sell to your audience, and instead look for ways to serve them, Their appreciation will manifest as more loyalty, more referrals, and more sales.
Now go stream your favorite artist and make a list of how you can go the extra mile for your customers! Your superfans are out there waiting to cheer you on.