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  • Writer's pictureBrianna Duckworth

Taylor Swift - Marketing Genius or Just Lucky?

Love her or hate her, there is no denying the hold Taylor Swift has on the world right now. Between the Eras tour, her re-recorded albums and the newfound relationship with Kansas City Chiefs tight end, Travis Kelce, the press can't seem to get enough of this 12-time Grammy-winning pop star. Here at Go Duck, many of us blast Taylor Swift's music through our headphones while devising marketing strategies for our clients. Naturally, we couldn't resist joining the excitement to explore what propelled Taylor Swift to a level of fame reminiscent of iconic artists such as Michael Jackson and Elvis. It's easy to talk about her lyrics and pay attention to the storylines she weaves throughout her tracks. But even without the thought-provoking lyrics and exciting tracks, would she still succeed based on her marketing strategies alone? Let's dive in.

Her Early Career to Now

At the core of Taylor Swift's marketing brilliance is an unwavering commitment to authenticity. From her early days as a country ingenue to her pop anthems and beyond, Swift's genuine persona resonates with fans across the globe. Her lyrics, often drawn from personal experiences, serve as a bridge connecting her to millions who find solace and kinship in her music. But before any record label signed her on, Swift was just 13 years old walking into record labels and dropping off CDs she has burned herself with the songs she had written. This eventually led to being signed by Big Machine Records at just 14 years old.

Taylor Swift and Tim McGraw marketing early career

Back when MySpace became popular, Taylor Swift was among the early artists to set up her own MySpace page. This happened right after her first album, featuring tracks like "Tim McGraw," which she confidently performed in front of Tim McGraw himself on national television. It's safe to say her dedication to her music was an inherent aspect of her character from a young age. This early exhibition of fearlessness, coupled with her dedication to her craft, laid the groundwork for the strategic marketing maneuvers that would later define her trajectory in the music industry.

Strategic Album Unveilings and the Element of Surprise:

Taylor Swift has elevated album releases to an art form, employing strategic unveilings and the allure of surprise to captivate audiences. Instead of following conventional norms, Swift has ingeniously structured her album releases as distinct "Eras," marking a deliberate evolution in her sound and style. This unique titling approach, seen in albums like "1989," "Reputation," and "Lover," not only highlights her commitment to reinvention but also fuels anticipation among fans eager to explore the next chapter of her music. The decision to treat each album as a new era allows Swift to create a narrative around her music, encompassing the album cover art, promotional materials, and even her personal style during the corresponding eras.

Swift's engagement with her fans is further exemplified through her exclusive "Secret Sessions." These intimate gatherings, where Swift personally invites a select group of fans to listen to her unreleased music before its official release, foster a sense of community and exclusivity. By involving her fans in the creative process and treating them as trusted confidantes, Swift not only deepens their connection to the music but also turns the album release into a shared experience.

Taylor Swift at one of her many "Secret Sessions" marketing
Taylor Swift at one of her many "Secret Sessions"

Taylor Swift transforms each album release into a global event, solidifying her reputation as a masterful storyteller and a trailblazer in the ever-evolving landscape of the music industry.

Baby, Let the "Games" Begin:

Swift's genius lies not just in her masterful storytelling but in her ability to involve her fans in a way no artist had done before. By weaving intricate clues and Easter eggs into her music and accompanying visuals, Swift adds an exciting layer to the anticipation surrounding her releases, turning the experience into a captivating game for her ardent fanbase.

Swift's penchant for dropping subtle hints, whether through cryptic lyrics, hidden messages in music videos, or symbolic references in album artwork, has become a hallmark of her creative process. Fans have embraced the challenge of decoding these clues, creating a global community that eagerly collaborates to unveil the hidden meanings behind each element. Sharp-eyed fans scrutinize everything from the color scheme of her Instagram posts to the jewelry she wears, searching for potential clues about upcoming projects or themes within an album era.

Swifties trying to figure out when Taylor is going to release Reputation (Taylor's Version)
Swifties trying to figure out when Taylor is going to release Reputation (Taylor's Version)

As Taylor Swift continues to embed these delightful surprises in her work, the anticipation and speculation leading up to her album releases have become as much a part of the experience as the music itself. The lesson all brands should be taking away from this? Interactive storytelling.

Reimagining Ownership with Re-Recorded Albums:

In a strategic maneuver aimed at regaining control over her discography, Taylor Swift undertook the bold initiative of re-recording her earlier albums. This endeavor not only enabled her to reclaim ownership but also became a rallying point for fans worldwide. Within these re-recorded albums, Swift introduced a compelling concept known as "Songs from the Vault," featuring tracks she had written during the original eras that remained unreleased until now.

One notable instance that stirred excitement among fans was the inclusion of the extended version of "All Too Well" in the re-recorded "Red (Taylor's Version)." Originally a fan-favorite from the Red album, the song had gained a dedicated following who expressed their disappointment at the absence of a music video during its initial release. In a remarkable move, Taylor Swift not only responded to the fans' desires by releasing a 10-minute version of the song but also directed a Grammy-winning short film accompanying the re-release. This instance exemplifies how the re-recorded albums have become a platform for Swift to not only revisit her musical history but also address the specific wishes and sentiments of her fanbase.

The re-recorded albums stand as a testament to Swift's commitment to her craft and her ability to turn a mere legal battle into an engaging experience for fans worldwide.

Taylor Swift's fame wasn't an accident. She has a penchant for making the most out of any negative experience her career has had (see Kanye West). Now we come to the Superbowl where Swift's global stardom has catapulted the NFL's numbers. More specifically, 24% Gen-Zers and 20% of millennials say they're more interested in football this year because of Swift's relationship with Kelce. It should be reiterated...this is just for showing up. Due to her exceptional marketing strategies, her fame is now being used to propel the sales of other entities. Just to name a few from 2023:

  • NFL - received significant sales hikes thanks to Swift's attendance of their games

  • Tour Cities - financial analysts coined the term "TSwift Lift" to describe the economic effect cities saw when her tour came to town, small businesses saying they saw within one weekend the type of sales they usually get in a year

  • Air New Zealand - when the eras tour didn't make it to New Zealand, the closest tour for Kiwi fans was Australia. The demand was so high that Air New Zealand added an additional 14 flights, some of which were designated with the flight number 1989, commemorating her birth year and one of her notable albums.

Think what you want about Taylor Swift but her $4.6 billion economy boost really speaks for itself. If the dads, Brads and Chads are wondering how she's become such a phenomenon, we invite them to take a page out of her book when it comes to their own marketing skills. Swift has created a brand that has solidified her, not only as a musical icon, but as a masterful marketing maestro. It really gives the lyrics "My pennies made your crown" a whole new meaning.

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