I am absolutely NOT what one would call a “Swifty” (AKA Taylor Swift super fan). In fact, I’m quite the opposite. I was one of the more than 230,000 people who retweeted Kim Kardashian’s National Snake Day tweet, which she posted the day she exposed Taylor’s verbal approval for Kanye West to use her name in the song Famous (more on this later).
Even though I’m not a fan of hers, Taylor has seemed to become a master marketer of her brand in recent years as the result of a major rebrand. She’s someone we marketers can look at as a retention marketing genius.
In her beginning, Taylor branded herself as a sweet, innocent and down-to-earth country singer. During this time, she won five American Music Awards – including Artist of the Year and Favorite Country album. She won the 2009 Billboard award for Artist of the Year. Taylor Swift was a household name and was reigning the country charts.
But then, after her famous breakups with Taylor Lautner and John Mayer from 2009-2010, her reputation took a hit. She became known as a serial dater who would write a hit break-up song about a new ex-boyfriend every year. People began viewing her as a media manipulator – someone who consistently staged publicity stunts for more fame.
Then in 2014, Taylor rebranded. She hired a new publicist and made the announcement with her album 1989 that she was changing from country to pop music. Taylor had already built a loyal following of fans and gained respect in the country music community, but would that stay the same with her transition to pop? It did, and her debut pop album won a Grammy for Album of the Year among other major awards.
Flash forward to 2016 when Kim Kardashian caught and exposed Taylor in a lie. Taylor had feuds with celebrities in the past like with Katy Perry and ex Calvin Harris, but people shrugged them off. But this time was different – she was caught red-handed. The snake emoji started popping up on social media when people posted about Taylor.
In response, Taylor basically fell off the face of the earth. She deleted all of her social media and wasn’t seen in public for months. Then she released a new song that positioned her as a “bad girl” – another rebrand. A risky move to some, but she had done this before and like before, it broke records. In just 24 hours, the single sold 200,000 digital copies.
How to rebrand like Taylor Swift
So how does she do it? How can a brand change so drastically and not only retain its fan base but also GROW it?
Interact with your fans to gain a cult-like following
Taylor is great at interacting with her fans on social media. She created the hashtag #TayLurking that she consistently checks. She’ll randomly reply and like fans’ posts with the hashtag. She also actively interacts with fans on Tumblr.
Interacting and personally responding to fans/followers gives them a sense of positive association and trust. Not to mention, you can also learn a lot about the way people think of your brand by just doing a little social media snooping.
Rewarding highly valued followers
Taylor often rewards her fans and followers and she even created “Secret Sessions” for her die-hard fans. Taylor sought out her biggest and most loyal fans and influencers and invited 89 of them to a secret listening session hosted by Taylor herself. Most recently for her Reputation tour, the singer announced that she will use Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan program. This program requires fans to register and participate in certain activities to boost their spot in line to obtain tickets for her upcoming tour.
Rewards programs are proven to boost growth and loyalty, and they give your followers a sense of instant gratification.
Create partnerships with other well-respected brands
Like many celebrities and influencers, Taylor has partnered with some of the most well-known and loved brands in the world. She has partnered with Diet Coke and Target to promote her album 1989 and most recently, she partnered with UPS.
UPS added Taylor’s new Reputation album art to its trucks with the hashtag #TaylorSwiftDelivery, so when fans order their albums, they know what’s about to arrive at their door when the truck is rolling by their house.
Partnerships broaden your reach to help continue growth and in Taylor’s case help build excitement around her new album. Plus, creating partnerships with big brands helps build trust among fans.
Personally, I like and respect artists who are themselves, are passionate about their music and have a genuine personality that’s not all business… which is probably why I’m not a Taylor Swift fan. But Taylor, I will tip my hat to you. You truly are a marketing genius.