Five Lessons Marketers Can Learn From Taylor Swift
In a recent article, Taylor Swift confessed that the feud with Kim Kardashian when the reality star called the award-winning singer a snake was the "lowest point" of her life. Fast forward one year, and Taylor Swift is more successful than ever. Her Reputation Tour broke the record for the highest-grossing U.S. tour, with a 63-foot inflatable cobra named Karyn rising above dozens of thousands of raving fans and all the negative noise that surrounded the singer in the past years.
With innovative marketing, talent, around-the-clock effort, and taking deliberate chances, what are the key lessons marketers can learn from Taylor Swift?
1. How To Bounce Back After A Downfall
Kanye West’s 2009 MTV VMAs moment that ignited the feud (later fueled by Kim Kardashian’s snake comments), was a true test of Taylor Swift’s character. Instead of giving into the wave of negativity, Taylor used it as a fuel for her creativity. The snake was front and center of her Reputation album and became a powerful symbol of the singer’s fabulous comeback. "I learned that disarming someone’s petty bullying can be as simple as learning to laugh," she commented later.
Whether you are marketing a brand or an individual, being on the receiving end of negative feedback is never easy. While I certainly do not advocate that brands that face fair online criticism laugh it off, you have to pick your battles. If your brand makes a mistake, acknowledge it and roll with it rather than try to ignore it or make it look like it never happened.
2. How To Be More Relatable Through Embracing Vulnerability
For many years, every little detail of Taylor Swift's life was heavily dissected and criticized. The new Taylor dialed down on public appearances and would only resurface to personally address the issues that were affecting her. She turned the headlines and public speculation around by addressing them in her music videos and later on her tour. By owning her reputation, Taylor got her power back.
As a brand, a perfect shiny image can prevent your customers from connecting with you, making it hard to relate. Openly discussing and addressing the challenges that your brand faces, while scary, can be a powerful way to connect with your customers over the causes that matter to them. Corporate radical transparency has been on the rise, with companies like Everlane, Patagonia, Rothy's, Buffer and Chobani leading the way. It demonstrates that people can relate more to your brand when you pull the curtain and show what it takes to solve your customers' problems.
3. How To Be A Social Media Pro
While she can get any help in the world, there is one thing Taylor Swift does not delegate: being present in her fans’ lives. Taylor Swift listens to, responds to, and retweets her fans, showing that she genuinely cares about and appreciates them, even though she is incredibly busy. Taylor has been "caught" on multiple occasions peeking into fans' live broadcasts, commenting on their posts and even bringing her best fans to real-life events.
Many companies dread daily social media interactions, opting for social media "management" instead. They schedule posts and broadcast their news rather than proactively communicate with their followers and have a conversation. Having a hands-on approach to social media can help your brand connect better with your audience, build relationships and show a human side of your brand.
4. How To Create An Unforgettable Experience
As a part of the Reputation Tour, Taylor Swift partnered with PixMob to provide LED wristbands for concertgoers. The technology utilizes infrared transmitters to get the bracelets to sync to the music and motion of the crowd. As the bracelets lit up during the show, the fans felt a deep connection to the overall experience. They were not simply watching the show; they were part of it!
While the dot-com era brought many businesses online, real-life experiential marketing is making a comeback. Casper launched a showroom where customers can experience the product. Red Bull made history with its endless events and the unforgettable "Stratos" jump. Volkswagen’s Piano Staircase made people move more and entertained over a million people on YouTube. Brands get creative connecting with their customers in real life by creating and sharing fun memorable experiences.
5. How To Use Technology For Better Business Outcomes
Taylor Swift does not shy away from tech innovation -- from the LED wristbands to facial recognition software to identify and prevent stalker invasion during her shows. Upon the Reputation Tour launch, the singer prompted fans to register on her official platform in order to improve their chances of getting concert tickets and in an effort to fight ticket resellers.
Fans had to complete a variety of tasks to prove that they were not bots (some of those included buying $60 merchandise, so this approach was certainly targeted at die-hard fans!). She also implemented dynamic pricing when the concert tickets, similar to airline and hotel tickets, changed prices continuously to adapt to the market demand.
While Taylor Swift’s 2015 "1989" Tour almost immediately sold out, there were still seats open for the Reputation Tour. Some industry experts noted that if you sell out fast, you did not set your ticket prices right. While the system is confusing for fans, professionals see it as an essential method to retain profits while the industry undergoes a sea change.
While adopting new technology innovations often comes with a learning curve for marketers, it’s important to embrace the opportunities that it creates. Experiment with different tools and approaches. Explore which ones work best for your brand and, most importantly, keep learning and innovating.
Taylor Swift has mastered strategic partnerships, consistent branding and customer engagement, making it to Forbes’ 2018 America's Richest Self-Made Women List, with a net worth of $320 million at the age of 29. Shall we simply crown Taylor Swift as a marketing genius?
The article was originally published in Forbes.