Unless you’ve been living in isolation for the past decade, you’re familiar with singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. Whether or not you like her, or her music, there’s no denying her brilliance in making personal connections with her fans.
Swift released her fifth studio album, 1989, in October 2014. The album sold 1.3 million copies in the first week—the largest sales week for an album since 2002. In an evolving consumer landscape, Swift continues to have a major impact on her fans, using a variety of methods to stay connected to those who are engaging with (and investing in) her brand.
As marketers, we’re tasked with building brands that connect with consumers. That said, I think we could all learn a few brand marketing tips from Ms. Swift.
1. Be exclusive
Swift said that 1989 lived only on her phone for about a year and a half because she was so concerned about leaks. She pulled all of her songs off Spotify, and her bonus tracks were only available on albums she sold at Target. She went through extensive efforts to keep her album confidential and offered exclusive content for fans who were willing to go the extra mile to get it.
Creating custom content is important when building a loyal consumer base. If you provide the same information over and over again, it becomes a boring commodity to your consumers. Create unique and exclusive ways to reach your consumers. The more exclusive the experience, the more customers will go out of their way to get it. A simple way to do this is by limiting access to what’s available, thus creating demand.
2. Create a personal connection
Before 1989 was released, Swift held a series of “1989 Secret Sessions.” Fans were secretly invited into her homes all around the world. Fans mingled with other fans, ate cookies that were baked by Swift herself, and got to preview the entire album before anyone else. She went out of her way to spend quality time with her fans and connect with them on a meaningful level.
Marketers must do the same to create more personal experiences for their consumers. For example, Walmart has turned the world’s largest consumer database into a more connected and personal experience. They communicate with their customers using tailored messaging that is truly relevant to their customers. The retailer delivers “fresh alerts” to its most frequent buyers whenever a new delivery of fruit arrives at their local stores. The result? Customer loyalty has increased, and shoppers have expanded their purchases by buying more.
3. Show authentic appreciation
Swift understands that her fans are an enormous part of her success. Giving them a private listening party was a meaningful and original way to thank them. Fans got to hang out with the superstar and take personalized photos, giving them a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Get to know your consumers and show appreciation for their support. Start a “Thank You” campaign. Create a photo album, an infographic, or a video; and feature real employees from your company saying “thank you” for the business. Use social media to display gratitude by posting on Facebook or Twitter. Customers who feel appreciated are more likely to refer your brand to their networks, give positive feedback, and keep coming back for more.
4. Build strong relationships
Celebrities like Lena Dunham, Ed Sheeran, and Lorde publicly endorsed 1989. That’s because these influential people are some of Swift’s best friends. Supermodel friends like Lily Aldridge and Karlie Kloss also encouraged the masses to buy her CD via social media. This enabled Swift to increase her audience tremendously, while simultaneously establishing credibility for 1989 and exciting consumers about her new songs.
Take Target and Missoni, for example. In 2011, Target partnered with high-end Italian luxury brand Missoni to develop an exclusive, yet reasonably priced, fashion line for the retailer. The launch of the new line caused Target’s website to crash several times, and items sold out in less than 48 hours. Target benefited with increased traffic and sales, increased attention from the press and consumers, and further reinforcement of the brand message: great fashion for less money. Missoni also benefited through fostering aspiration and increased brand awareness for couture houses.
5. Don’t be afraid of change
Swift boldly changed direction in her music with 1989, completely breaking out of the country genre by creating a pure pop album. She said, “I want to make music that reflects all of my influences, and I think that in the coming decades the idea of genres will become less of a career-defining path and more of an organizational tool.” Her album was the first of the year to go platinum in the U.S.
In business, what worked for your brand five years ago might not work today. As society, pop culture, trends, and technology evolve, so should your brand. Apple embraces the need for constant change as a principle of success. Continuous evolution creates innovation. It is important for brands to embrace change to stay relevant and to avoid being left behind.
In the end, it’s all about connecting with the consumer. Making powerful and meaningful connections are keys to building strong brands and steadfast relationships. These relationships don’t just happen overnight—they take a lot of time to build. Find them, nurture them, and watch your brand grow.
Just ask Taylor Swift.