The Value of Swift Thinking
Who knew Taylor Swift is an expert in agile and engaging marketing? Yesterday, the singer published an OpEd in the Wall Street Journal on the future of music, but many of her points ring true for all industries. We’ve dissected the piece and listed the four biggest lessons marketers should take to heart.
Know Your Worth
“In recent years, you’ve probably read the articles about major recording artists who have decided to practically give their music away, for this promotion or that exclusive deal. My hope for the future, not just in the music industry, but in every young girl I meet…is that they all realize their worth and ask for it.”
There is a line of thinking that people only engage with brands because of the opportunity to get something for free. I’m here to tell you that is not true. Let’s look at a brand with one of the largest and most active fan bases: Apple. If the people who love Apple products and dedicate their time to discuss Apple rumors were doing it in order to get a free product from Apple, well, Apple would probably be out of business by now.
“Like An Arrow Through the Heart”
“I’d like to point out that people are still buying albums, but now they’re buying just a few of them. They are buying only the ones that hit them like an arrow through the heart or have made them feel strong or allowed them to feel like they really aren’t alone in feeling so alone.”
The brands people become fans of are the ones who make them feel something. Take the recent #LikeAGirl campaign from Always or this video from Burger King during San Francisco’s Pride festivities. Brands who show passion, who take a stand for something they love, who give people something to get behind (even if it’s a battle of best fast food breakfast, in the case of Taco Bell’s anti-McDonalds ads) are the ones who stand out.
“In the YouTube generation we live in, I walked out onstage every night of my stadium tour last year knowing almost every fan had already seen the show online. To continue to show them something they had never seen before, I brought out dozens of special guest performers to sing their hits with me…My generation was raised being able to flip channels if we got bored, and we read the last page of the book when we got impatient. We want to be caught off guard, delighted, left in awe.”
We have left the world where a catchy jingle or slogan are all you need for marketing success, and we are never going back. Today’s world features people’s names on Coke cans, men jumping to Earth from space, wireless providers as feminists, and fanart as music videos. In this world, the most powerful marketing tells a story, is timely, and gets people involved.
Many brands have initiatives to be publishers – to have their own newsrooms and journalists. But “publisher” isn’t the right word. Publishers create content that appeals to the masses – content that tells many stories without one cohesive message. Instead, strive to take the entertainer approach. As we’ve said before: know who your brand is, craft your identity, and then stick to it. The content that you create, curate, and amplify should all ring true to that identity. Being a publisher means lots of content to tell many stories; but what brands really need is lots of content to tell their story so it’s relatable and emotional.
“I haven’t been asked for an autograph since the invention of the iPhone with a front-facing camera. The only memento “kids these days” want is a selfie. It’s part of the new currency, which seems to be “how many followers you have on Instagram.
A friend of mine, who is an actress, told me that when the casting for her recent movie came down to two actresses, the casting director chose the actress with more Twitter followers. In the future, artists will get record deals because they have fans—not the other way around.”
One of the more interesting parts of the article is the social graph at the very end showing the number of Twitter followers a musician has vs. their album sales – and there’s a pretty obvious correlation. We’re seeing this in other areas too with Youtube musicians and personalities getting mainstream deals thanks to the communities they’ve built. John Green (author of The Fault in Our Stars) has become a New York Times bestselling author with two more of his books being turned into films thanks in part to the massive following he and brother Hank have fostered over the past few years. The days of Internet communities being niche groups is far behind us – they’re now the majority, and brands should take notice.
What I’ll leave you with is this: none of this really works unless it’s authentic. People, especially millennials and the following generation, are acutely aware of insincerity. They will sniff it out and make fun of you for it (as some brands who have tried advertising on Tumblr without understanding the Tumblr community know all too well). This means staffing your teams with people who don’t just see the value in social platforms or awe-inspiring marketing, but who love it themselves – people like Taylor Swift.