The great Barbara Walters once quoted, “Taylor Swift is the music industry”. This is true. But is she low-key the marketing industry too?
Whether you’re marketing yourself, a product, or service, understanding your audience is always an absolute must. After all, how can you expect to sell anything if you don’t know who you’re selling it to? One website notes, “Understanding an audience is at the core of any brand’s growth. It’s what drives effective marketing strategies, increases brand equity, and ultimately improves a company’s bottom line.” The same philosophy applies to artists as big as TayTay.
Since the release of her breakout album Fearless, I’ve heard the same old, unoriginal criticisms about Taylor Swift: “all she sings about are relationships” and “she’s too dramatic for me.” (When you’re done reading this, HMU for a list of her songs that have nothing to do with boys, how I got our operations manager to like her music, AND my explanation about how she is constantly held to a double standard).
Sure, a lot of her songs are about love, but THAT’S THE POINT, PEOPLE! Even at the tender of age of 16, Taylor had a talent for articulating what teenagers were going through in a way nobody else in the industry could. And over the last 15 years, she’s grown up with us millennials- maturing, making mistakes, and learning lessons along the way. She takes these feelings, then transforms them into pure poetry (can you tell I’m a fan yet?). Taylor is hyper-aware that relatability is her thing, and she goes out of her way to make sure she maintains that strong connection with her core audience. According to Insider, “The singer is still communicating with fans on Tumblr daily.” In a 2014 interview with ABC she said, “When I go online and on Instagram and I see a post from Emma who lives in Philadelphia and she’s talking about how her day was at school that day, that helps me.” The icon doesn’t just stare at her 11 Grammys all day- she takes the time to research, to see what her fans are up to, to know what they like and dislike. The more experience she gains, the better she becomes at marketing herself to appeal to us.
A lot of celebrities tend to enter partnerships that really don’t have much to do with their personal brand. No judgement here- even reality stars have to pay their bills. It’s worth noting, however, that there is merit to choosing your partnerships very carefully. When your name is linked to another’s, so too are your core values and overall goals. If, for example, you were running a makeup company that is loudly and proudly vegan, you should probably think twice about collaborating with an influencer who specializes in reviewing NYC’s best cheeseburgers. You’d run the risk of losing the trust of your consumers.
I previously mentioned, Taylor caters her marketing to her fan’s interests, such as leaving easter eggs in Instagram posts and album artwork. But that’s not to say that she doesn’t remain true to herself. Although she’s become a relatively private person, she has never shied away from her opinion on an artist’s right to own their own work. She’s even in the process of re-recording her first six albums so she has full ownership of them. In 2015, Taylor published an open letter to Apple explaining why she would hold back her album “1989” from Apple Music after it announced a plan to offer a three-month free trial period. She wrote, in part, “We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.” Following this letter, Apple announced it would compensate artists for this trial period. Later that same year, Taylor & Apple announced their partnership. The tech giant would be the exclusive home of the “1989” world tour concert. Here, Taylor showed her commitment to associating with brands that align with her vision. She’s also partnered with brands such as Keds, Diet Coke, CoverGirl, and Target, appearing in fun, family-friendly commercials.
A solid brand identity is essential to business success. According to ICEF, a brand identity “reflects your values, how you communicate those inside and outside of the organization, and how you want customers to feel when they engage with your business.” If you don’t take the time to regularly re-evaluate and refresh, your business suffers from cultural fatigue. Your audience gets bored, begins to stray, and, worst of all moves on to another brand. When this happens, fear not: ease the pain by listening to a Taylor song about getting cheated on.
Us Swifties don’t just have a favorite Taylor album or song- we have a favorite era. In marketing terms, Taylor’s eras are the different phases of her personal brand, which are made up of so much more than music. With every new era comes a new hairstyle, wardrobe, and overall social media aesthetic. One can identify which era Taylor was in by just looking at a red carpet photo- is she decked out in pastel colors? That’s the “Lover” era (who else was devastated that the pandemic cut it short? RIP Lover Fest). She regularly engages with fans this way, keeping us on our toes, forcing us to perpetually speculate on what’s to come. Best of all, she continues to resonate with us throughout our different stages of life, uniting peers and generations alike through her music and – as unequivocally proven above – her marketing brand.
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