Since the announcement of “The Eras Tour,” Taylor Swift has been having one of her most viral moments yet. It feels like all anyone can talk about is if they got tickets to her concert, what they’ll be wearing, or which songs she played at the latest show.
I’ll come right out and say it: I’m over it.
That’s right. Bravely, I announce that I am not a Swiftie. But before anyone can get too defensive, I will say that I respect and appreciate her music, I’m just not a legitimate fan (as far as Taylor Swift fans go, which we all know, is intense). So while her music doesn’t speak to me like it does to many, I still find myself writing this to sing her praises in another respect.
Taylor Swift has talent, but she also does a killer job of marketing herself.
For someone to stay so relevant and popular in the music industry for so long (17 years, to be exact), across multiple genres, she must be doing something right. I’m here to catalog just a few of the best marketing tactics throughout her career to prove that she owes her fame, at least in part, to an A+ marketing and P.R. team.
Let’s start with one of her most impressive maneuvers. Taylor Swift has reinvented herself numerous times throughout her career, changing the style of her music and fashion across multiple genres. Just looking back at a few of her album covers over the years, you can see clear differences. She made a complete switch from country to pop just between her albums Red and 1989!
She released her first album, Taylor Swift, at the age of 16 and has been releasing new music ever since, putting her at 33 years old now. That fact alone makes these moments of metamorphosis feel genuine, allowing young fans to “grow up” with her, experiencing the same growing-pains put into song along the way. And maybe it is genuine… but it’s also a stroke of self-promoting genius.
By continuing to evolve, taking on these unique personas and creating music for them, Swift opens herself up to new audiences every time. Some Swifties are loyal to her edgier sound in an album like Reputation, while others only got on board when she released her more indie side with albums like Folklore and Evermore. If the goal is to keep growing your fan base until even the Linc seems little, Taylor’s really figured it out.
Album Teasers and Merchandise
Now, not only does her sound vary from album to album, but each Taylor Swift release has shown a better, more evolved promotion plan. Like many artists following suit after Beyonce’s Lemonade, she left some albums as surprise drops with little to no warming (Folklore and Evermore), but was much craftier when it came to building excitement for other album releases.
Taylor adopted the use of social media early in her career and continues to use it creatively to hint at new music for her fans to decipher. In her own words, she’ll often drop “cryptic clues” when telling fans about new music. Leading up to her release of 2022’s Midnights, for example, she leaned into TikTok to tease a few song titles. In this case, she was a bit more straightforward in the reveal, however, you’d only catch this tidbit if you’re on TikTok, which is a strategic way to ensure followers. Can’t miss that next hot reveal!
She also got clever with her merchandise for Midnights. Four different editions and art covers of the album were released on vinyl, including the ‘Jade Green’, ‘Blue Moon’, ‘Mahogany’, and ‘Lavender’ editions. When all four album covers are put together, they form a clock.
Not only does this give fans more buying options, but it gives them additional incentive to invest in all four editions (for… a clock). The fact that it’s an original idea from Taylor herself is just the sort of thing to make her fans say “I have to have them all.”
If fans aren’t excited enough about albums when they come out the first time around, Taylor Swift has also found ways to give them a second life of hype (and thus give herself a chance to keep capitalizing on it). Taylor released her first re-recorded album, Fearless (Taylor’s Version), in 2021.
The album contained all of the songs on the original record, along with six brand new songs. Even though most of this music was familiar to fans, the album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, and became the first re-recorded album in history to do so.
There’s genius behind this move for both old fans and new: old fans who might’ve fallen off the Swiftie bandwagon have incentive to get back on, while new fans who might not have explored this earlier era can now be formally introduced. She went on to release Red (Taylor’s Version) later in 2021, calling back to a different era altogether.
If that reference to an “eras” wasn’t enough of a hint, the next shout-out goes to her current tour, “The Eras Tour.” Rather than touring a new album, Taylor decided to go on tour honoring all ten of her studio albums, including “surprise songs” which change for each show. The design of this tour offered something to every single subset of Swifties since it has a little something from every album. Not only did this create an absolute craze when tickets went on sale, but fans started streaming her past hits as a result and increased daily streams of her music. Marketing. Genius.
Relationship-Building with Her Fans
This one exists across all of the tactics I listed before but deserves its own discussion, as Taylor Swift is probably unmatched when it comes to connecting with her fans. While some may not consider this a “marketing tactic,” it’s hard to argue that at least some of her popularity cannot be attributed to her ability to build authentic-seeming relationships with fans. I mentioned earlier that she was an early adopter of social media, but she doesn’t use it just to share content. Taylor often uses social to create personal moments of connection with fans and followers.
One of her first efforts at this was way back in 2014, when she sent Christmas presents to 32 of her followers on Tumblr, during what fans call “Swiftmas.” All of these individuals were fans with whom she had interacted with on Tumblr or in-person. The presents reflected said relationships with that trademark Taylor Thoughtfulness.
She continues to regularly find and chat with her fans through social media and will stay in touch with them years later, like an old friend. She’s even invited fans to her own home to listen to unreleased music with her, in what she calls “Secret Sessions.”
This kind of above-and-beyond effort to know her fans has made her not only famous, but beloved dearly by her fans. I guess there’s a reason the Swiftie’s go so hard.
And while I don’t see myself getting converted anytime soon, I have a lot of respect for how much strategy, effort, and thought Taylor Swift puts into her career. Between finding, listening to, and engaging with her audiences to create a sense of personality, mystery and excitement around her work, I think we all stand to learn a thing or two from Taylor Swift’s marketing. (Her latest move? Distancing from Matt Healy. Though I’m still curious why she publicized a relationship with someone so starkly in contrast with the values she claims in the first place.)