Taking a leaf out of Taylor Swift’s brand marketing strategy

by Lyndsey Gordon

In a guest post originally published in B&T, Sefiani’s brand and comms lead Lyndsey Gordon said Taylor Swift is not merely the hottest ticket in town at the moment but there’s plenty of lessons to be learned for marketers from the whole Tay Tay juggernaut. She wrote…

I saw a friend at the weekend who had paid $3000 to see Taylor Swift in concert next February. He was thrilled to be one of the lucky ones to secure sought-after tickets and waxed lyrical about the fact they would be delivered in a box of custom-made confetti!

It’s incredibly rare for any artist, but especially a female pop star, to be at the top of their game for a decade however, Taylor Swift has done just that. She’s the biggest music star in the world right now; the hottest media headline, social media post and water-cooler conversation.

In a country that doesn’t really have a culture of celebrity like the US or UK, Swift-mania has swept the nation. Even if you’re not one of the 800,000 Australians who have tried to buy a ticket to Taylor Swift’s Eras tour, you’d need to be hiding under your doona to escape the noise.

So how has a country-radio-star become the biggest name on the planet? How has Tay Tay become a household name and what can brands learn from her marketing playbook?

Shrewd business sense

According to The West Australian, Taylor is likely to earn an estimated $35 million for the two-week visit to Sydney and Melbourne – that’s $5 million per concert. As with most successful marketing strategies, they need to ladder back up to the business objective and that is to make money.

Research by Pollstar reveals the average price to see a top 25 music act has risen by more than $30 since 2018 but Swift is putting the profits into production, ensuring Eras will be another visual masterpiece for the senses, leaving fans feeling its money well-spent, even in a cost-of-living crisis.

Bringing people together

After more than two years in lockdown due to the global pandemic, Swift has timed her latest tour perfectly. Australians have resumed international travel, got accustomed to managing covid like the common cold and are yearning for experiences and events.

In today’s digital age, where streaming dominates the music industry, live performances have become even more valuable. Swift is the biggest international act in the past five years to visit Australia, beating her competitors like Beyonce (speculated to perform down-under in late 2023).  She’s a brand who’s in tune with consumer culture and that’s a desire to come together, celebrate and create lasting memories.

Reinvention and surprise

The Eras tour is a tribute to Swift’s albums through the ages and with each release, she’s reinvented her image to keep consumers and media engaged and interested in her brand. From whimsical to rock, we’ve grown with Swift as she’s moved from teen to 30-something and related to her journey along the way.

Rebranding has given Swift the opportunity to maintain a clear distinction from her competitors, remain fresh and attract new audiences with every album release. She’s clearly adopted the mantra, “brands must adapt or get left behind”, and by changing image and embarking on new partnership deals, Swift is keeping up with design and technology trends to ensure she doesn’t become a ‘Kodak moment’.

A champion for women

Mums love Swifty as much as their daughters do. She’s an artist who has built credibility, trust and excitement across the generations, giving rise to a new wave of families enjoying quality-time together by sharing a mutual love of music, and now concerts. Taylor’s lyrics are catchy enough for Generation Alpha to understand and have enough life experience for millennials and Gen Y and X to relate to Swift’s broken hearts and female-empowerment messages.

Engaging with fans like friends

While there’s no doubt her prodigious talent, shrewd business sense and smart decision-making has played a large part in her success, credit also must go to her loyal band of Swifties, or super fans. Taylor is every brand’s lesson in social media marketing 101. So how does she do it?

  1. Making friends online as well as off. Swift has capitalised on her A-list friendships like Katie Perry to develop content and conversations on social media which build her fanbase and increase engagement.
  2. Swift joins in on her community discussion. Rather than just being a figurehead for Instagram and TikTok, Swift is noted for forging bonds with her followers from playing games, liking their photos and asking them questions. The loyal Swifties feel heard and valued. They feel they have access to their favourite brand.
  3. Surprising and delighting social media fans with unexpected events such as that one time Taylor performed at a devotee’s wedding. Teen Vogue said, “Taylor really does the absolute most for her fans”.

Smart partnerships

Swifty is enviably the most sought-after sponsorship property of 2023, yet only a handful of brands would have the money and reputation to secure a deal with her now. She has carved out a brand that goes well-beyond music thanks to successful partnerships with reputable companies like Coca-Cola and Apple.

Swift jumped on the Apple-bandwagon at a time when Apple really needed help to boost its flailing music property and offered fans an exclusive look at the 1989 tour video. It was another smart marketing move which capitalised on Swift’s positioning that artists should be paid for music content.

Media engagement

Whether its courting paparazzi or shedding light on matters which are important for her – Taylor provides well-articulated responses to her professional and personal decisions.

When in 2014, Swift removed her entire catalogue from Spotify for streaming and privacy reasons, she told the Wall Street Journal; “music is art and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for. It’s my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is.”

Two months before the New York Times expose of Harvey Weinstein was published, Swift stood up in a Denver courthouse against an ex-radio DJ who groped her in 2013 at a meet-and-greet. Taylor’s fans see her as instrumental in starting the #MeToo movement.

While Taylor’s private-jet use and carbon emissions have come under media scrutiny and she can’t be loved by all, fans seem enraptured by her ability to stand-up for causes which the Swifty-brand and her followers believe in.

Respected author, Ted Talks and marketing strategist Seth Godlin said, “a brand’s value is merely the sum total of how much extra people will pay, or how often they choose the expectations, memories, stories and relationships of one brand over alternatives.”

With Australians forking out $3000 for Taylor Swift’s Eras tickets and ecstatic that they’re delivered in a box of confetti – it’s clear the pop princess’ marketing strategy is really paying off.