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Era to Era: 6 Lessons You Can Learn From Taylor Swift’s Marketing

Published on Jul 19, 2023

Era to Era: 6 Lessons You Can Learn From Taylor Swift’s Marketing
Emily Noel
Emily Noel studioID

As Taylor Swift rolls into the final leg of what is on pace to be the highest-grossing concert tour in history, there are dozens of marketing lessons to be learned. For months, Swift’s Eras Tour has dominated our TikTok feeds, news cycles, and Spotify playlists. The global superstar, musician, and mogul is (seemingly) at the height of her stardom with millions of superfans doing anything to attend her concerts — to the point of the tour being credited with boosting the U.S. economy — creating madness, mayhem, and plenty of traffic jams. 

While Swift’s own creativity and business savvy are essential elements to her success, her empire wasn’t built alone. Behind every move Swift makes is a powerhouse team that has evolved alongside her through every era. There’s no denying that Taylor Swift’s marketing team has created an empire, from brand to demand. Read on to explore the lessons you can learn from Taylor Swift’s marketing team — era to era.

Lesson #1: Keep Your Core Values, But Allow Your Brand Image to Evolve 

Source: Official Taylor Swift Eras Tour Website

How Swift’s Team Does It

The Eras Tour is an amalgamation of Taylor Swift’s life’s work, combining her best tracks across 10 albums. Beginning her career as a bubbly country star at the young age of 16 to now a pop mega-star selling out the biggest stadiums across the U.S., Swift is not the same artist she was 17 years ago. And neither is her brand image. Yet the core values of what sold us on Swift way back when — squeaky clean, idealistic, heartfelt, and as American as apple pie — remain largely intact. 

Swift, who began creating country music, has experimented with pop, folk, electronic, rock, and alternative genres. While some artists pigeonhole themselves into one genre of music, Swift did the opposite, evolving with music trends and collaborating with the hottest artists, songwriters, and producers at the time. By combining all of her albums into one tour, Swift’s marketing team does not alienate any fan, including something for everyone, no matter which era is your favorite.

In a survey conducted by Morning Consult, respondents who consider themselves “avid fans” are largely made up of millennials (45%) who grew up listening to Taylor Swift and have maintained fandom to this day. And it’s this practice of evolving your brand image with your audience that makes the difference between a flash-in-the-pan brand and a legacy brand.

What it Means for Your Marketing

As marketers, we know the importance of maintaining a consistent brand identity from tone and voice to aesthetics. But as time passes, both internal and external factors shape the way you portray your brand to your target market. 

Evolving your brand doesn’t mean losing your identity. It means refining it, amplifying its strengths, and adapting to the changing expectations of your target audience.

Lisa Roberts, Manager Global Operations, NBCUniversal Media

Evolve your brand alongside your target audience based on factors like changing needs, preferences, and behavior. This can be achieved through market research, surveys, social listening, and engaging in meaningful conversations with customers. Keep an eye on trends and be willing to experiment with new strategies, platforms, and communication channels that can help keep the brand relevant — all while maintaining the core values your brand was built on. 

Lesson #2: Use Strategic Timing and Surprise to Create Buzz 

How Swift’s Team Does It

Behind every marketing campaign is a robust marketing strategy. And Taylor Swift’s marketing team knows a thing or two about using timing to their advantage. The promotion for The Eras tour was flawlessly crafted, leaving just enough time between the announcement and ticket on-sale to create a digital frenzy. So much so that when tickets did go on sale, the unprecedented demand effectively broke Ticketmaster and brought the ticket giant’s practices under federal scrutiny. 

Even The Eras Tour itself is meticulously timed and paced, with an episodic cadence, moving from album to album, era to era. Not to mention, Taylor performs at least two surprise songs at each show. Although fans know the songs are coming, they don’t know which songs she’ll pick from her catalog of hits.

This clever tactic makes for a marketing one-two punch:

  • It creates a guessing game that furthers digital buzz on social media
  • It gives die-hard fans a reason to buy tickets to multiple shows

In fact, surprise and mystery are a hallmark of the Swift brand. Across all of her digital channels, Swift and her team expertly leave a trail of easter eggs, hints, and codes to crack to tease every new album release and big announcement. This practice has created an environment where promotions themselves have become a part of Swift’s storytelling, leaving fans hanging on every word and creating a clamor of anticipation, conversation, and demand well in advance of release. 

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A post shared by Taylor Swift (@taylorswift)

What It Means for Your Marketing 

Timing is often overlooked, particularly when marketing teams are small and spread thin. Taking the time to plan out your marketing efforts, campaigns, and goals over a year clearly outlines what you and your team are working toward. Whether your goals are increased event registrations, MQLs, or social media engagement, you’ll be working toward a shared vision for the year ahead. With a clear roadmap and long runway, you’ll be able to master the timing of your own campaign drops, product launches, and major announcements. 

For example:

  • Promoting your latest webinar? Start drumming up excitement and sign-ups at least 4 weeks in advance of the live date. Tease a different element of the webinar with each promotion, revealing just enough to get users to tune in. 
  • Hitting the airwaves with a new podcast? Get 4-6 episodes recorded. Tease the new podcast series a few weeks before the first episode release. Release a new episode every week, and tease the upcoming episode across all of your distribution channels the week prior. Hint at a mystery guest before coming back with the big reveal. 

Timing will vary by effort, but it’s essential to creating hype and driving demand. And take a note from Swift’s book and see how you can inject a little surprise and mystery to create anticipation. 

Each quarter, reflect on your previous efforts and goals to see how you’re pacing and how you should adjust for the quarter ahead. Factors to consider when planning a campaign calendar are:

  • Project allocation
  • Team bandwidth
  • Budget
  • Time of year
  • How you plan to hold yourself accountable. 

Lesson #3: Avoid Overexposure and Inauthenticity

What Swift’s Team Did 

Public discourse turned on Swift in 2017 in her “Reputation” era when her marketing team showed their cards a bit too much. Fans were on board for Swift’s slow evolution from country to pop. But her sharp turn of brand image from bubble-gum pop sweetheart to a revenge-seeking woman scorned felt feigned and disingenuous. And for a minute there, it seemed like there were more Taylor Swift haters than fans. 

Source: Buzzfeed

At this moment in time, Swift had been a fixture in pop culture for years thanks to continuous albums, tours, highly publicized romantic relationships and celebrity friendships, brand endorsements, and a myriad of merch for sale. This Swift-overload followed by an abrupt ditching of her ‘good girl’ image were all likely contributors to a sense of overexposure and fatigue. The curtain was simply pulled back too far.  

What it Means for Your Marketing

For brands, this is a lesson that there can be too much of a good thing. Although we want to serve up content to constantly keep our audience engaged, the gold standard of ‘quality over quantity’ applies. Focus on providing high-quality, valuable content to guide your audience through their buyer journey. Engaging with your audience too much can lead to a dilution of your brand identity that creates an environment where consumers are just plain sick of hearing from you. 

For example, a challenge for demand-generation marketers is standing out in email inboxes, as they’re more saturated than they’ve ever been. But less can be more.

In a study conducted on marketing agencies, those that emailed their contacts once a month received the highest open and click-through rates. 

Followed by those sent 2-4 times a month, with the lowest open and click-through rates from the campaigns sent approximately daily.

And in the same vein, a shake-up of your brand image can be a great way to breathe new life into your brand to bring in newcomers and re-engage loyalists alike. But be extremely careful to not take it too far to the point of inauthenticity and disconnection with your brand’s core values.

Swift’s marketing team was quick to correct. During her last tour in 2018, Swift’s marketing team heavily decreased her public presence, leaving her fans thirsting for more content. And every era since Reputation has been a ‘back to basics’ reversion in terms of returning to core Swift brand values. Five years since she last hit the road, Swift announced The Eras Tour — and well, we all know how that’s going. 

Lesson #4: Be Relatable, Consistent, and Transparent 

How Swift and Team Do It

Swift is often hailed for her uncanny ability to tell a story through song. Swift’s lyrics paint a raw yet poetic, unfiltered picture of her life, relationships, and experiences. In times of skepticism, it’s more important than ever to take a page out of Swift’s book and prioritize building trust between the brand and your audience. The hyper-competitive landscape requires marketers to not just reach your audience, but foster genuine connections with them.

Swift has never been afraid to reveal aspects of her personal life, making her relatable and endearing to fans going through similar experiences, strengthening the fanhood. Her genuine songwriting has stayed a constant throughout her career. And consistency like this leads to trust between a brand and buyers. 

Swift’s team has mastered PR and appropriate transparency. It’s pretty remarkable that (except for a few more minor transgressions) she’s avoided major scandal or controversy — despite being one of the biggest stars for nearly two decades. This is a true masterclass in divulging just enough to authentically uphold a brand image while suppressing and minimizing anything that could tarnish it. 

What it Means for Your Marketing

According to Lieu Pham, VP of Strategy, studioID, trust is about “playing the long game…it’s thinking through what it takes to build trust:

  • Honoring your commitments
  • Delivering value
  • Being consistent and reliable”

Not only does transparency build long-term trust with consumers, but it allows them to develop a relationship with your brand. And in the long run, trust is really what makes the difference in someone choosing between one brand over another.

So, find ways to straddle the line and give your audience the transparency and authenticity they need to rely on your brand. 

Lesson #5: Activate Products and Services With the Customer in Mind 

Source: Official Taylor Swift Merch Store

How Swift’s Team Does It 

If you walk down the street these days, odds are you’ll pass someone wearing Taylor Swift merch, sporting album covers from 2016 to 2022. But Swift’s merchandise is more than just a band tee. Over the years, Swift’s marketing team has created a lineup of merchandise that — similar to her promotion strategy, has become a part of her storytelling — and is the perfect fit for Swift’s target audience. 

Each of Swift’s merch lines seamlessly fits into the narrative of each album:

  • A knit cardigan from Folklore
  • A snake ring from Reputation
  • Four separate vinyls forming a clock from Midnights

…to just name a few. 

So much so that narrative and merch have gone so far as to merge as of late. Swift’s release of ‘All Too Well (10-Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version)’ includes the lyrics “‘f*ck the patriarchy’ keychain on the ground…” which was quickly followed by the release of a, you guessed it, ‘f*ck the patriarchy’ official Taylor Swift keychain for sale. Taylor Swift’s marketing team does an excellent job of creating an emotional connection to her merchandise, making it feel as though users have a piece of the story, rather than just an article of clothing or a knick-knack.

What it Means for Your Marketing

Products are often created to solve a specific paint point. As marketers, it’s not our job to create the product, but it is our responsibility to show the product’s value to our target market. This requires alignment between product, marketing, and sales teams — not to mention leadership. 

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

– Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek, the widely known marketing expert, expresses that the narrative behind a product, service, or even a brand holds more weight than you may think. While the functionality of a product or service is of the utmost importance, how it is communicated elicits emotions, attachment, and ultimately relationships with a brand. So, wherever possible, ensure your marketing is leaning into both the emotional and rational sides of the brain to create connections that drive conversion.

Lesson #6: Diversify Your Distribution Channels

How Swift’s Team Does It

Social media is abuzz with Eras Tour breaking news, outfit planning, and surprise song predictions. But social media is just one of the many channels Swift’s marketing team utilizes to create hype around the Eras Tour. Swift’s marketing is a masterful look at distribution that effectively blankets earned, owned, and paid media channels. 

Between Swift’s website, fan events, newsletter, YouTube channel, and constant PR/coverage by reputable outlets — Swift’s marketing team reaches fans of all levels and demographics with the latest news and promotions to keep them enthralled — even after the concert is over. Even for non-fans, if you’ve been online in the past 4 months, you’ve likely encountered some type of Swift media coverage. 

Source: Official Taylor Swift Eras Tour Website

What it Means for Your Marketing

Your hard work put into creating content won’t reach its full potential if your distribution strategy is half-baked. The crucial link between content and a campaign’s success is distribution. A healthy mix of distribution channels allows you to reach your audience while avoiding oversaturation or cannibalization of other campaigns.

📚 Related Reading: The Only Content Marketing Distribution Strategy Worth Doing

The key to successful marketing is to embrace a multichannel approach. By diversifying your distribution channels, you can engage with your audience on their preferred platforms and maximize your reach.  

— Neil Patel, CMO and co-founder of Neil Patel Digital

Not only does this expand the potential for audience reach, but it also mitigates risk from algorithm changes, shifts in consumer preferences, policy modifications, and more. By utilizing multiple channels, you can gather data from various sources, gaining a comprehensive understanding of your audience, their preferences, and their behavior. Then, you can use this information to refine your marketing strategy and optimize your campaigns in the future.