In the article Taylor Swift wrote for the Wall Street Journal, the star emphasized the importance of surprising fans and staying inventive to please the “YouTube generation.” Well, we’ve been paying attention to Swift’s efforts to surprise and delight her own fans, and this year she has consistently made headlines for her tactics, not only keeping her name in the spotlight, but also building buzz for her new album. So whether or not you like her ear worm hits, brands could learn a few marketing lessons from Taylor Swift (seriously):
1. Get Personal.
In April, Taylor Swift surprised a super-fan at her bridal shower in Ohio, bearing multiple gifts and impressing the internet with her devotion to the Swifties. In September, she responded to another fan’s Instagram post with a heartfelt message about her experience with bullies. Last month, it was revealed that she invited hundreds of fans to her homes for secret listening sessions of her new album “1989” before its release. They baked cookies, listened to the album, and played with her cat. She has called these fan parties the “1989 Secret Sessions,” and they have garnered her tons of press.
We know that young Millennials are drawn to celebrities they feel could be, or even are, their friends. Swift’s intimate fan gatherings and sympathetic messages make everyone watching feel as if she has a personal relationship with her fans. Perhaps more importantly, it makes the fans feel like she really cares about them, which is something that every brand should be making their customers feel. We have written in the past about the rise of personalized marketing — reaching out to a smaller focused group of consumers can make a big impact and create a compelling story.
2. Master the Tease.
Taylor Swift might be the master of the social media tease. In August, before her new album had been announced, she posted a video on Instagram of an elevator button being pushed six times. The button was for the 18th floor, and the video was posted with the message, “So, here’s your first clue…” which led to a slew of speculation over what the video meant, and if a new album was forthcoming. Swift continued to post clues about the album’s release over the course of the summer, building buzz and anticipation with fans and earning healthy press about the potential album in the meantime.
So what can brands take away from all this teasing? Swift emphasized the importance of surprising fans, and it’s clear she knows how to use her own fan following to make even the most typical move — an artist releasing an album in this case — feel like it is full of surprises. Why not borrow from her anticipation-building approach when launching new products or campaigns to potentially increase awareness and make the mundane feel more exciting?
3. Embrace Your Competitors.
After teen singer/songwriter Lorde was quoted saying some negative things about Taylor Swift, the two went to great lengths to make it known that they had patched things up, and make the story of their friendship the focus in the media. Their relationship has become a well-publicized series of joint outings and messages of support on social media. Swift’s “cool friend” roster also includes Lena Dunham, and pop stars like Demi Lovato.
These friendships, and the clear “we all get along” message that is broadcasted with every Instagram post of hangouts and sleepovers, have earned as much coverage as any starlet feud would have in the past, while establishing a reputation for Swift as someone who interesting people want to be around and work with.
Okay, I understand that most brands are not going to become "best friends" with their same-market rivals, but Swift’s bestie-approach can work wonders for brands of differing categories. Millennials want brands to work together to make their lives easier; and smart, fun partnerships between brands they might not expect to be in the same corner will gain their attention and likely their support.