By some of Spawn’s Swifties (Siobhan Johansen, Adrianna McCoy, Kitty Tankard)
Taylor Swift is in the middle of a record-breaking tour and just released her third re-recorded album, Speak Now, on July 7th. Besides her musical talent, Swift is a marketing mastermind. Intentional, yet authentic, she’s mastered the art of timing and audience engagement. Let’s dive into seven ways we’re inspired by Taylor Swift as marketers. Because it’s clear, she’ll never go out of style.
#1 Easter eggs
After releasing 10 original albums, and three re-recordings, Swifties are constantly begging their pop queen to release more music. They are speculating when the next re-recording will be released or even what her eleventh album will be. Long story short, Swift knows how to keep her audience wanting more. She is constantly weaving messages within her lyrics, music videos, Instagram post captions, and even her outfits. Swifties love decoding her cryptic messages, and she loves sending them out! In a 2019 Entertainment Weekly interview, she stated, “I love that they like the cryptic hint dropping. Because as long as they like it, I’ll keep doing it. It’s fun. It feels mischievous and playful.” The satisfaction of solving her lyrical puzzles gamifies the listening experience and makes the audience feel a part of the releases.
Key takeaway: Keep your audience/customer base engaged and wanting more by teasing product releases in fun ways or switching up how you promote your brand.
#2 Social listening
While Swift does not frequently post on social media, she is always listening to what her fans are saying. When her Lover song “All Of The Girls You Loved Before” was leaked on TikTok, she promptly responded hours before opening night of the Eras Tour by releasing four tracks, including the aforementioned song. Swifties are also known for making jokes about how the artist doesn’t love her ninth album, evermore. Her fans noticed she does not acknowledge the album nearly as much as its sister album, folklore. However, during the evermore set of the opening night of the Eras Tour, Swift made this pointed statement to the audience: “We are in the middle of the evermore album, which is an album I absolutely adore, despite what some of you say on TikTok. I’ve seen it, I’ve seen all of it.” This encourages her fans to keep posting videos and comments, because there’s a chance she’ll see it. Even the smallest chance of being noticed by your favorite artist is hope enough to stay engaged.
Key takeaway: Making an audience feel seen encourages users to post more about your brand in the hopes of fostering a connection.
#3 Audience engagement
Taylor Swift takes engagement with an audience to the next level. Prior to the release of her fifth album, 1989, she hand-picked and invited fans to a personal living room house party to listen to her new album early. She mingled with fans and even made them cookies! These were known as the Secret Sessions. While her secret sessions have come to a halt, she still finds ways to interact with her fans and make sure they are noticed. She incorporated this fan’s viral dance into her performance of “Bejeweled.” The fan even received Swift’s hat during her performance of “22” at the show he attended! Swift knows exactly how to make each of her fans feel special.
Key takeaway: Reward your most loyal customers with custom content, giveaways, or discounts.
#4 Changing up your brand
Swift is the queen of eras and reinvention. She has based her whole tour around it this year. Each of her album releases has been accompanied by a specific aesthetic, like the edgy, snakeskin theme of reputation and the pastel rainbow scheme of Lover. Swift knows how to keep things fresh and interesting for her fans. By constantly changing up her brand, while staying loyal to her fanbase, she’ll never go out of style. Her songs have remained diaristic and relatable throughout every era, and she is just as connected to her fans, no matter what era she is in. She recognizes that a good brand will keep evolving to stay relevant while staying true to its customer base. Just because you’re successful at the moment doesn’t mean you can become complacent. True success is being able to authentically keep evolving, while keeping your core consistent.
Key takeaway: Follow trends in the industry and invest in research, so you’re always future-thinking and don’t become stagnant. And also, even if your company or brand hits a rough spot, doesn’t mean you can’t come back stronger than a 90s trend, as long as you’re savvy.
#5 Content repackaging
Content repackaging is a skill well-known to content marketers, and Swift sets the ultimate example with her re-recordings. After the rights to her music were sold to a private equity firm, Swift set out to reclaim ownership of her music, re-recording and re-releasing songs and whole albums, dubbing these new renditions of old songs, “Taylor’s Version.” If you thought fans had enough the first time around, you’re wrong. The hype remains just as real, as Swifties respect the hustle to reclaim ownership, and because the re-recordings always have a new exciting spin, they inspire fans to count down the days for the re-releases. Her re-recorded albums include never-before-heard songs from “the vault,” and many songs have a new spin lyric-wise. Famously, the re-released Red album contained a never-before-heard (but often speculated on) 10-minute version of “All Too Well,” accompanied by a music video. The re-recordings are always similar enough to evoke nostalgia, but different enough to keep the audience guessing what’s next.
Key takeaway: Don’t get bogged down in always creating new content. Take advantage of your existing bank of content. Put a new spin on existing blog posts, photography, and videos, then reshare it on a different platform (or even the same platform!).
#6 Public relations
Swift consistently leverages her owned and earned media. For the announcement of reputation, she deleted all her existing Instagram posts and caused a huge stir without having to make any kind of official statement. The world was buzzing off of that action alone. She also didn’t do the usual press tour with the album. An Instagram post was poignantly captioned, “There will be no further explanation. There will just be reputation.” Another example of how she takes advantage of owned media is through the songs themselves. She leaves messages in music videos and lyrics to shape narratives and combat media perceptions. Like the use of “Blank Space” to address the obsession the media has with her dating life. Or the songs she has since released that address the drama surrounding her relationship with Kanye West and Scooter Braun. And we can’t forget the song and music video for “You Need to Calm Down,” which was a clear representation of her support for the LGBTQ+ community.
With her new album Midnights, one of the most popular songs, “Anti-Hero,” is possibly one of the most brilliant PR moves she’s done on an album. By acknowledging she isn’t perfect and doesn’t always say or do the right thing, she certainly won some extra favor with her fans in a she’s just like us moment. Plus, being able to scream-sing, “It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me,” is a cathartic moment for all of us.
Key takeaway: Be authentic. Swift herself has had ups and downs when it comes to PR, but the main thing we can learn from her is that when it comes to PR or damage control, it has to be genuine and authentic to be received well. Young fans especially are savvier and more sensitive than ever when it comes to social issues, so this is key in your messaging.
Swift has gathered artists from a variety of genres to collaborate and make music with her. Pop, country, rap … she has a song for whatever genre you’re into. She’s collaborated with artists on over 30 tracks! Her first duet was on her second album, Fearless, on “Breathe” featuring the pop-country artist Colbie Callait. Since then, she’s gone on to collaborate with artists such as Ed Sheeran, Kendrick Lamar, Bon Iver, and most recently, Ice Spice. Swift has formed an interconnected community of artists, supporting them through features on her albums and winning over otherwise skeptical audiences through features on theirs. She understands what it takes to create a strong partnership.
Key takeaway: Choose partners and collaborations strategically to help you reach, and win over, new audiences.
There’s a lot to learn from Taylor Swift’s marketing genius. But don’t take it from us. Schools like NYU, The University of Texas, and the University of Kansas are offering courses to study her marketing acumen. Similar to a business marketer, she has built her brand.
Studying her tactics with each new album announcement and Instagram post can inspire new and meaningful ways to reach audiences. And the best news? (Marketers, take notes.) There’s always more to look forward to.