CAUSE NOW WE’VE GOT ‘BRAND LOVE’: Lessons in Marketing from Taylor Swift

February 27, 2021

Whether you love her, hate her or lie somewhere in between, it’s impossible to deny that Taylor Swift is so much more than a musician – she is also a brand and a true force of nature. She’s reinvented herself with each new album, going from an innocent and sweet country performer to a pop culture icon. 2020 was a major year for Taylor, having written, recorded and released two studio albums while in quarantine, filming and releasing a Disney+ documentary and re-recording her old masters. No matter your personal feelings about Ms. Swift, there is no denying that she is a brilliant businesswoman and a master marketer that brands can learn a lot from – especially when it comes to how she introduced Folklore in July 2020.

A Holistic Campaign is Key

Taylor’s extremely strategic decision to announce Folklore a mere few hours before the album dropped, paired with the call-to-action to download at midnight created a literal global craze. Within 24-hours of the album dropping, she also released an official music video for Cardigan along with behind-the-scenes of the video, lyric videos for the remaining 15 songs on the album, re-designed website, merchandise and more.

When launching a new product offering or SKU, it is important for brands to do like Taylor and ensure you have a holistic marketing strategy and ammo prepared to ensure you don’t lose consumers between teasing the product and the actual release. Gone are the days when a brand can simply issue a press release and a single Instagram post and expect success.  This brand strategy agency recommends all campaigns touch on owned, earned and paid components that fall into three buckets: storytelling, content and community. An example of storytelling is earned media – which is ultimately third-party validation – highlighting your brand story, what makes your product so incredible and how it plays into innovation. Next, we’ll talk a bit about content. Content is everything that touches the consumer. Examples of owned content are the images and content that you publish on your social channels. Finally, we have community – and when planning for a new product launch it is key to think about what will translate well on social from an advertising and social calendar perspective.

Assemble Your Fans

During the craze surrounding the launch of Folklore, Taylor sent copies of the signature “cardigan” to some of her celebrity fans + friends, such as Ke$ha, Jonathan Van Ness, Ruby Rose, Reese Witherspoon, Blake Lively and more. Many of the recipients shared this on their social channels, which ultimately went on to be shared by hundreds of thousands on social media. As a result, the cardigan instantly became the most sought-after item of merch, driving so much traffic to her website to buy it that it crashed.

When launching a new product or SKU, in addition to having a multi-pronged and holistic strategy, this digital marketing agency recommends that you leverage your existing assets. It is important to take a close look at your arsenal of brand partners and influencers and superfans, as they may be able to provide organic word-of-mouth for your new product out of sheer excitement and genuine love for your brand. While you likely don’t have Ryan Reynolds on your speed dial like Taylor does (one can wish, right?!), a great way to get people excited for the new product is by sending a beautifully curated media and influencer mailer, as it lends to unboxings, etc. Additionally, while many will post organically, when it comes to social media marketing, paid partnerships with influencers are also key as you can control messaging, when the post publishes and more.

Develop Meaningful Content

In addition to the famed cardigan, we’ve already talked about, Taylor also developed a wide variety of merchandise, including hoodies, phone cases, t-shirts, a lithograph and more that depict the Folklore storyline. She also got the most out of her various photoshoots at different sites, creating a wide assortment of photography that kept Folklore’s marketing initiatives up to date. From her photoshoots for Folklore, Taylor developed eight different album covers and merch offerings along with a press release, music streaming and social media content, video content and more.

Simply put, one of the most effective methods to bring your brand story or product to life is via meaningful and creative content. Thoughtful content will lengthen the life of your marketing campaign, sparks conversation among your community and ultimately helps incite trial of your product or service. Here at Konnect, we recommend your content strategy includes a mix of sharing user generated content, promotional content and fun/added value content. Within your content mix, promotional and sales-y content should be only a small percentage of your feed + stories, while fun/educational content that keeps your fans engaged, such as sneak peaks, recipes, how-to’s should be posted more frequently. Additionally, user generated content should be shared regularly within your stories. Ultimately, your content should convey the brand/product narrative.

Create Memorable Moments

In addition to releasing exclusive limited editions of physical single and album copies, Taylor also introduced four collections of Folklore songs via Spotify, describing how each of the tracks go together in carefully curated chapters, based on how they complement each other from a thematic standpoint. The chapters include: The Yeah I Showed Up at Your Party Chapter, The Sleepless Night Chapter, The Saltbox House Chapter and The Escapism Chapter. This gave the “Swifties” the opportunity to dive into her mind of how each song tells a story. By doing this, it not only increased her streams in a super innovative way, but also created memorable moments for her listeners – to escape, to party, to ruminate in sadness, etc.

While you are not releasing a multi-platinum album – and more likely a new product – a key takeaway for brands is that they don’t stop with a singular SKU. We recommend that you re-use and repurpose your content for different moments of consumption for your community.

At the end of the day, when you’re getting ready to introduce a new product or marketing campaign, Taylor Swift has taught us to apply the following:

  • Have a Full-Scale + Holistic Strategy
  • Assemble Your Fans
  • Develop Meaningful Content
  • Create Bespoke Moments For Your Customers & Fans

– Shelby Robinson

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