Why Taylor Swift is a Marketing Genius

Okay. So you read the title and you’re thinking, “What the… Taylor Swift?! Again?! I can’t escape this girl. I’m not reading this.” True, you can’t seem to escape Taylor Swift. She is currently on the cover of almost every magazine at the supermarket checkout and you can’t turn on the radio without hearing her new single ‘Shake It Off.’

 And now…
she is living on the KEEN Creative blog.

I’m not here to write about how many guys she has dated or who she wrote her latest song about. I’m here to tell you about how Taylor Swift has marketed the **** out of herself and her new album, 1989, by making connections with her fans and telling a story. Many would argue that the key to successful advertising is the human connection and story-telling, and by-gosh Taylor has nailed it.

The music industry is said to be a dying industry with it’s short-lived singles and quick turnover, however Taylor thinks it’s here to stay. In July, 3 months before Taylor released her latest album, she wrote an op-ed column for the Wall Street Journal. In the article she acknowledged that fans aren’t purchasing albums like they did in the past. But this shouldn’t discourage artists, she said. “It isn’t as easy today as it was 20 years ago to have a multiplatinum-selling album, and as artists, that should challenge and motivate us.”

From a creative’s perspective, she nailed it. The same goes for design. Trends come and go (This current fascination with the hipster trend will die folks.) and we shouldn’t become stagnant in our work, we should be excited by the challenge and always keep a fresh perspective. Critics questioned Taylor Swift’s switch from country to pop, however 1989 is turning out to be 2014’s best-selling album with 1.287 million copies sold in the first week. Offering an exclusive deluxe edition of the album at Target with 3 extra songs and voice recordings of initial tracks also helped raise physical CD sales higher than average. Pushing the envelope is a good thing people. Trust your gut and take risks. Staying comfortable will only get you so far, Swift has just proven it. She recognized people were calling her music style repetitive, so she listened to her critics and stirred the pot. Even more impressive is she did it strategically without totally shocking her audience once 1989 came around. On her Red album she tested the waters by adding tracks like ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ with the expected pop-country sounding tracks like ‘Begin Again.’ Breaking out of the norm takes hard work, but the end result is well worth it if it means longevity. There is no denying every company wants to have lasting power.

Perhaps foreshadowing her marketing strategy for 1989, Swift offered an example of the importance of always generating an element of surprise in her Wall Street article. She wrote, “I walked out onstage every night of my stadium tour last year knowing almost every fan had already seen the show online. To continue to show them something they had never seen before, I brought out dozens of special guest performers to sing their hits with me. “We want to be caught off guard, delighted, left in awe.”

The same statement rings true for any marketing campaign. Catching your audience off guard is what makes you memorable, what keeps them coming back for more. Prior to the release of 1989, Taylor held private listening parties she called the 1989 Secret Sessions.

She quietly stalked her fans through social media outlets such as Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr and invited 89 of them to each of her homes in L.A., New York, Nashville and hotel room in London. Swift baked them cookies (Yes, she made them herself. She is committed people.), took the time to take candid Polaroid photos with each individual fan and generally acted on a super personal level. Amazingly, through all of this not a WORD was spoken about the album. NOTHING leaked. Polaroid photos of the fans posing with Taylor popped up on Twitter and mass jealousy spread, but all the guests remained tight-lipped about the specifics. This code of secrecy demonstrates the incredible connection Swift has made with her audience. They trust her and love her no matter what. Talk about brand loyalty.

Taylor has made herself out to be a normal 24 year-old. A master of storytelling through both her music and social media, Swift is incredibly active on social media. Sharing photos of her two cats, baking sessions and multitude of famous friends, her connection with her fans is more personable than any other celebrity. She doesn’t have a PR team operating her Twitter, Instagram or Tumblr accounts, she posts everything herself and actively comments on fans’ Instagram photos and Tumblr posts. Think of Taylor Swift as a company, offering generous free samples at the grocery store, exclusive money-saving deals, tickets to private events and being readily available to make customers happy whether it’s in person or actively responding to tweets. Everybody wants a piece of the action. It’s a recipe for success. (Ya, I made those pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. And you know what? They were amazing.)

So what should we take from all of this? In the end, it’s all about the end user, the customer. The human connection is key to successful marketing and we should always have our audience in mind. Be as personable and honest as possible, take (smart) risks and your end user will remain engaged and loyal.


Photo credit: instagram.com/taylorswift

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