Aug 7, 2023

4 Lessons Digital Marketers Can Take From Taylor Swift’s Marketing Genius

Written by Dan Hughes

Taylor Swift is a household name and a powerhouse in the pop world today.

In addition to her incredible singing, songwriting, and performing talents, Swift is a marketing genius who embraces the power of emerging digital technologies. Yes, you read that correctly: Taylor Swift is a marketing genius.

As one of the planet’s most prolific social media influencers, Taylor Swift has built a personal brand that has led to global domination since bursting onto the scene with her first album in 2006, when she was just 14. A consistent award-winner (including 11 Grammys) her musical talent ranges across genres, and audiences, and her 2023 re-release of her album ‘Speak Now’ (Taylor’s Version) broke a host of sales records

Indeed, such is her power, that in July 2023 her fans (known as Swifties) caused a seismic event at a concert in Seattle, while global media has covered how millions of fans have been devastated by the difficulty in purchasing tickets for her much-lauded and critically-acclaimed Eras tour. 

Here we’re going to consider what digital marketers can learn from Taylor Swift’s marketing genius—starting with brand evolution and reinvention.

1. Be prepared to build & reinvent your brand

One of the reasons Taylor Swift has remained so successful over the years is her universal appeal. Beloved by young digital natives and Baby Boomers alike, Taylor Swift’s brand aesthetics and eclectic back catalog offer something for everyone.

But, how has Taylor Swift built a personal brand that resonates with so many, and stay so popular in the face of constant cultural shifts and industry changes? In short, she studies her fans intensely.

Taylor Swift creates a continual feedback loop between herself and her fans. Working with her team, the pop star adds a personable human touch to the marketing mix: through using data-driven trend-based insights to create musical arrangements, video content, and engaging social media campaigns that appeal to a wealth of audience segments.

Leveraging user-generated content (UCG) to her brand-boosting advantage, Swift keeps a close connection to her fans, gathering the deep level of insight required to move with the changes while maintaining maximum levels of engagement.

Here are three striking examples of Taylor Swift paying close attention to her fans and going that extra mile:

  1. Taylor Swift visiting a fan in hospital and playing air hockey with them to boost their spirits 
  2. Writing a check for $1,989 to help a fan struggling with their student debt
  3. Inviting her fans to dance in her wildly popular ‘Shake It Off’ video
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These well-placed acts of authentic fan engagement, coupled with the fact that Swift frequently comments on and shares fan content is one of the biggest drivers of the superstar’s enduring brand success. 

Lesson: Engage with your audience regularly and use those interactions to guide your branding and marketing decisions. Read our guide to four great examples of user-generated content for inspiration on keeping your brand fresh and relevant through audience interaction.

2. Place value in the right collaborations & partnerships

During her epic career, Taylor Swift has indulged in many musical collaborations that have helped her push the creative envelope while reaching previously unexplored audiences.

Much like traditional brand partnerships, musical collaborations are cross-promotional, empowering both audiences to expand their brand reach beyond their existing genre or fanbase.

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The versatile artist has embarked on an eclectic mix of musical partnerships, from Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody to Kendrick Lamar, ZAYN, Ed Sheeran, HAIM, and others.

Taylor Swift teamed up with singer, Ice Spice, on a musical collaboration that earned droves of fan engagement.

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As one of the most exciting elements of Swift's album, Midnights, the hit ‘Karma’ has further extended Swift’s brand reach to droves of highly-engaged fans. 

In addition to the stellar music and video, the two teamed up to create and cross-promote a series of compelling social media content using head-turning visuals while spreading a positive message of freedom and body positivity to maximize the value of the collaboration. 

Instagram screenshot of Karma video
Instagram screenshot of Karma video

Ice Spice is an influential star on the rise and with a timely collaboration with ethical underwear brand SKIMs, this brand partnership nearly broke the internet.

To keep the marketing momentum going between collaborations, Swift has also teamed up with brand partnerships that align with the artist’s personal values—including notable collaborations with eco-conscious beauty brand CoverGirl and Apple Music.

Lesson: To remain in the public consciousness, keep expanding your brand reach, invest in a mix of relevant partnerships, and interact with previously unexplored audiences. 
Our guide to successful collaboration will give you the practical tips you need to make your brand partnerships a consistent success.

3. Storytelling is vital to any successful marketing campaign

With a brand image that conveys a bubbly vulnerability, Taylor Swift continues to hold the hearts of her ever-growing fanbase.

Swift’s slightly mysterious lyrical narratives alone give the star a certain level of intrigue while conjuring up imagery that keeps her fans wanting more. Using her musical content as the driving force behind every marketing campaign, Swift often shares some nuggets of information based on the inspiration behind certain songs to build a buzz on social media.

Using this approach to promote the album ‘Midnight’, Swift took to TikTok to get creative and use a bingo calling cage to pick a track at random and announce its title to drop breadcrumbs of anticipation before the album’s release.

To complement the bingo-style track announcement series, the star released hints about the album through her Instagram, initially referring to “the stories of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout my life”.  Fans went crazy.

TikTok screenshot
TikTok screenshot

Building on the album’s strong personal narrative with creative multi channel content, ‘Midnights’ (released, of course, at midnight), broke a wealth of billboard records, emerging as one of Spotify’s most streamed albums of all time.

Lesson: Storytelling lies at the heart of any meaningful, engaging, and value-driven marketing campaign. Lead with a narrative, create a unique brand experience, and you will enjoy the return on investment (ROI) you deserve. Check out our essential guide to brand storytelling in the digital age to learn how to craft a compelling narrative for your audience.

4. Embrace emerging technologies to turn heads and improve your efforts

In addition to evolving her music and brand aesthetics, Taylor Swift and her team also embrace the power of emerging technologies to remain relevant while gaining an edge on the competition.

Taylor Swift stands up for fan-focussed issues she cares about while creating exceptional experiences for her fans—the kind that inspire lifelong fan loyalty as well as consistent brand growth.

The star, for instance, often equips fans with LED wristbands while implementing facial recognition software during her shows to assist with stalker prevention. Swift’s team also uses dynamic pricing when selling concert tickets to prompt consistent sales while moving with ever-shifting market demands and she has spoken out about Ticketmaster’s monopoly of the ticketing business.

Her commitment to emerging technologies has even resulted in droves of Swifties using online tutorials to create visual and audio-based AI clones of Swift. It also appears that Barbie-mania has merged with Taylor Swift’s personal brand, with Swifties creating video content likening the pop icon to the classic children’s toy in wake of the recent movie launch.

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These AI avatars have caused a stir by calling out Kim Kardashian for her “lame excuse of a husband” and complaining about ticket prices. While the jury is out on Taylor Swift and her team’s exact thoughts on these AI avatars—these immensely buzz-building creations are a testament to the sheer power of the star’s marketing power.

Lesson: Keeping your finger well and truly on the pulse is paramount to ongoing marketing success. Embrace emerging trends as well as technologies and you will push yourself one step ahead of the competition.

To learn about how AI is having a real impact on digital marketing, follow our AI with DMI series.

Shaking it off (final thoughts)...

“You are the only one who gets to decide what you will be remembered for.” Taylor Swift

By getting personally involved in the shape and direction of her personal brand, Taylor Swift has taken charge of her commercial destiny.

In addition to the savvy, consistent, and forward-thinking approaches to digital marketing—Swift’s genius stems from the fact that she takes full ownership of her personal brand. By recently re-recording her first six albums to re-claim ownership of her work, Swift proves that she’s a motivated powerhouse who always takes measures to control her brand narrative.

An unrivaled knack for storytelling, an unwavering commitment to her fans, and a wealth of strategic partnerships has seen Swift’s popularity soar over the years, cementing her status as a world-class cultural icon. As marketers, we can all learn a lot from Taylor Swift—use these lessons to your advantage and you will improve your chances of success in a competitive digital age.

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Dan Hughes
Dan Hughes

Dan is a content writer specializing in digital marketing, emerging tech, music and looking after a toddler. You can find out more about him and his work by visiting his Catchy Space.

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