A Master Class in Marketing Taught by Taylor Swift
I was performing my thrice-daily ritual of perusing iTunes when a piece of art caught my eye. It was a Polaroid photo of a girl that brought me right back to the 1980s. Coincidentally, it was the cover art for Taylor Swift’s new album, 1989, which launches at the end of this month.
Now, I am no Taylor Swift groupie. In fact I can’t, off the top of my head, name one of her many hits that have inspired some 80 million downloads. And even if you played a few for me, I’m pretty positive I couldn’t identify her signature sound. (Maybe that says more about how unhip I am when it comes to pop music, but stay with me, please. I learned a lot from “Tay-Tay” and you can too.)
Because, pop deafness aside, I suddenly have Taylor Swift on the brain. From one piece of art on iTunes? Oh, that is but one piece of an impressive marketing mosaic.
You see, Taylor Swift has been launching this new product through a variety of platforms over the last few months. And her dexterity with the marketing maze of today is only rivaled by her facile way with words and chords. Taylor is not only a music prodigy. She seems to be a marketing one as well.
Let’s take a look at what we can learn from Professor Swift.
Taylor may have earned her chops in Nashville, but she is no stranger to Madison Avenue. She has just launched a partnership with Diet Coke that features a cute spot with a proliferation of kittens. But what’s behind the fun felines is a stealthy strategy: one of her new songs plays underneath. Her album takes center stage at the close of the spot. And Taylor herself voices the call-to-action to buy her album.
Concurrently, Ms. Swift is performing another brand duet with Target, creating an exclusive Target-only edition, which comes with three bonus tracks and content.
Lesson 1: Don’t go it alone.
Why wait for the press to cover you? Create your own news program. Last August, Taylor created something of a talk show on Yahoo with a live audience and live-streamed it to the world. On the show she talked about her new album, what influenced it, and gave a sneak peek of the new video. If you were a fan, you were in heaven. Brands can do this too. Your fans want to know the stories behind your products. Look no further than the brand-programming films that Apple does with Jony Ive.
Lesson 2: Brand programming engages early.
Taylor began her prelaunch with a good old-fashioned product demo: a music video. Yep, you could “test-drive” the song for free on Vevo. And so far there have been some 185 million views. The video itself is smart and well produced, featuring Ms. Swift dancing and being playful in a variety of music genres (a not-so-subtle nod to the fact that her music is becoming one of the icons of crossover sensibility). The last masterstroke of this video is the inclusion of her fans at the end of it. That’s right. TS fans were sourced via social media and snail mail and now perform forever with their idol.
Lesson 3: Showcase the wonders of your product. (And get your fans involved.)
Speaking of fans, Taylor not only did Q&As with fans on Skype and Twitter; she also had them come to her home(s). The idea was called “Secret Sessions.” These were listening parties where the singer-songwriter played the album, threw a great party and even baked cookies. The sessions were held at Taylor’s homes in New York, Los Angeles and Rhode Island. Her parents chipped in and let folks come over in Nashville. A rented flat in London served the fans of the UK. You can bet that before, during and after, these “fanbassadors” spread the word about their idol and her great new songs.
Lesson 4: Don’t expect your fans to come to you—truly reach out to them.
Taylor Swift’s dexterity with media reminds me of Paul McCartney’s dexterity with instruments. He’s a genius with each one. And so too is Ms. Swift. Look at how she’s maximizing each one. For mass awareness, she’s using mass media: TV advertising, some print and banners. For product demos, she’s using Internet film and PR. The PR is materializing in talk- show circuit performances. She’s using filmed media on the Internet to perform and do product sampling. Fan (read: customer) engagement is maximized in two-way platforms like Skype and Twitter Q&As. She’s also being really smart with Instagram and Tumblr. On Instagram she’s revealing new song lyrics one post at a time, with nicely art-directed torn pages of a journal. On Tumblr, you can simply follow along on her life’s journey. It’s her narrative and it plays like a real-time documentary.
Last but not least, fans are able to experience her product on the oldest media for recording artists—radio. Both terrestrial and Pandora.
Lesson 5: Multimedia dexterity is the new media plan.
As you can see, there is a lot to learn for Madison Avenue from this Grammy-award-winning recording artist. Thus far, Taylor Swift’s marketing plan is nothing short of a masterpiece.
Who knows? Maybe the new record is too.