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Fearless Marketing: Insights from Taylor Swift’s Brand-Building Success

Friendship bracelets. The Eras Tour. Seemingly ranch. Travis Kelce. Most of these things have entered the cultural zeitgeist in the past year or so due to the influence of Taylor Swift.

Whether they’re fans or not, marketers everywhere can learn a thing or two from this musician-turned-icon’s approach to building and living into a brand. Taylor Swift, the 2023 Time Person of the Year, has not only captured the hearts of millions but has also achieved unprecedented success in the music industry and beyond. Billboard estimates that she grossed $1.82 billion in 2023 through various revenue streams, including music sales, royalties, concert tickets, merchandise and even movie ticket sales.

Let’s take a closer at look some of the marketing strategies that guide not just Taylor’s brand but any brand toward success.

 

1. Live into your vision, mission and values.

It all starts with knowing your purpose, establishing what you believe in and identifying where you want to go. In the food, beverage and hospitality industries, aligning the products you create, sell or promote with your vision, mission and values is crucial for forming a brand identity that mirrors your guiding principles. Embracing your values ensures authenticity and integrity in every aspect of your business, paving a successful path toward fulfilling your vision.

The same goes for Taylor in the entertainment industry. She started on the scene as a country singer-songwriter with a vision to use her music as a platform for relatable and empowering storytelling. She brings forward her experiences with love, heartbreak and lessons learned along the way, building narratives that uplift and inspire her fans. She values emotional honesty and leans into that in everything she does, for better or worse. Based on her success thus far, it’s clear that Taylor’s unwavering commitment to her vision, mission and values is paying off.

 

2. Connect with your audience.

Connecting the heart of your brand to the heart of your target is the key to achieving lasting success. When you understand your audience’s pain points, preferences, buying motivators and perceptions, you can resonate with them on a much deeper level. These insights guide marketing strategies, advertising and promotions that build loyal communities.

The more you know about your audience, the more value you can offer. This is a strategy Taylor has down pat. She’s not only able to connect with her broad fanbase, but she’s also developed a fan-first philosophy that goes above and beyond other artists of her caliber. It’s clear to see she knows the value of listening to and interacting with followers, as she’s consistently engaging with them on social media and responding to their comments. She can’t reach out to every single fan on an individual level, but she often surprises and delights with personal touches such as handwritten notes and gifts, or even attending special events like bridal showers.

By using her channels for more than self-promotion, she’s opened up a welcoming, two-way conversation. She’s even been known to host secret music preview sessions with small groups of followers. These sessions provide an intimate setting for deeper connections, and they’re also a goldmine for earned media. Who wouldn’t post about being invited to a Taylor Swift listening party?

 

3. Change over time.

Brands need to make strategic shifts as times change, target audiences grow older or new players enter the market. It’s important to keep tabs on current tastes and societal values to stay competitive and relevant—without losing sight of your vision or mission.

Like any brand, Taylor has grown and changed since she first entered the scene as a country music sweetheart in 2006. What sets her apart from many other artists is the fact that she’s evolved in an authentic way.

Her “1989” album, released in 2014, featured her signature storytelling with more upbeat melodies and catchy hooks, marking a crossover into the world of pop. With the shift, she was able to maintain most of her country fanbase while tapping into an even broader audience.

In 2017, when media scrutiny related to her personal life started bubbling up, she addressed issues through lyrics with her sixth studio album. Subsequent albums leaned into a softer and more introspective vibe, increasing appeal and creating deeper connections with a more mature audience. Her evolution continued with re-releases of favorites, appealing to superfans and new Swifties alike.

While her musical style has shifted greatly over the years, Taylor’s values have stayed the same. Her authenticity, vulnerability and unfiltered storytelling are evident in every album and in how she shows up for her fans—similar to the way a brand’s values and positioning can remain steadfast through seasons of evolution. Strategic pivots to aspects like media placements, activations, messaging and campaign creative (to name a few) are the key to navigating the ever-changing market while maintaining a genuine, consistent brand that endures.

 

4. Find the right partners. 

It’s important to make sure the people you work with, from influencers to employees, agencies and vendors, truly understand and align with your brand.

Taylor, despite her multifaceted talents, leans into strategic partnerships to generate revenue, extend reach and navigate crises. Her carefully selected PR executive, Tree Paine, has been by her side since 2014. Together, they’ve found creative ways to turn controversies into opportunities. Taylor’s successful collaborations with Apple Music, Stella McCartney for a clothing line and Capital One for the “Lover Fest” tour showcase her ability to find trusted, reputable partners who lead her to even greater status.

In a marketing landscape where authenticity, understanding and adaptability are more important than ever, finding the right agency partner is crucial. While we can’t promise to build you a billion-dollar empire like Taylor’s, we can lead your brand to long-term success with our target-centric, clarity-driven approach. If you’re ready to be in your “true potential” era, reach out to David Melnick at davidm@marriner.com or 410.336.1000.

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