A Secret Session: How Taylor Swift Marketed 1989
7 Grammy awards, a stadium concert tour grossing just over $100 million and a net worth of $200 million in 2015.
These are only just a few of Taylor Swift’s achievements.
Since the release of her 1989 album and the kick off of her world tour, Swift has continued to gain momentum, cementing her place as one of the most successful recording artists of the modern era. As a business woman, there’s a reason why the 25 year old artist has accomplished so much and the marketing behind her latest album has been a fundamental driver of her success.
We all know, or have at least heard of the genius that is the Secret Sessions – a brilliant loyalty program implemented to reward some of Swift’s most dedicated fans. Swift and her team spent a significant amount of time going through various Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram accounts to select long term dedicated fans and offer them a special experience.
89 hand-picked fans (per session) were then given the opportunity to visit one of Swift’s houses, meet their idol and hear the entire 1989 album prior to its release. Not only that but they were also given the opportunity to engage in exclusive one-on-one chats with Swift herself, take selfies and pet her two cats – Meredith and Olivia Benson.
The Secret Sessions demonstrated the genuine appreciation Swift has for her fans as she attempts to give them something of high value in return for their loyal dedication to her brand. And the responses as told by fans online have been incredible:
‘Then i walked over and she [Swift] smiled so big and i gave her the biggest hug and she goes “look at your abs!” AND I ALMOST FELL ON THE FLOOR’ – Olivia, New York City Secret Session
‘During the songs she [Swift] was singing and dancing along and kept looking at me and smiling and singing parts to me I DIED DEAD.’ – Lauren, UK Secret Session
‘Taylor looked at me and said, “Are you laughing at how Meredith walks weird? Because she does.” and I laughed and smiled really hard because it was really funny and this whole night was unbelievable.’ – Selin, New York City Secret Session
More than anything, Taylor Swift’s marketing is all about finding new and creative ways to interact with her fans at a personal level. It is this kind of customer retention marketing that generates long term support for the brand, an approach that other artists should attempt to emulate.
However, despite all the hype the event generated, Secret Sessions was only exclusive to those in the US and UK. Swift didn’t intend to push the sessions outside of those regions, a blow for fans who lived in other regions of the world.
Nonetheless, Swift did try to tackle this problem by offering one last Secret Session event during the release of her album which, in collaboration with Yahoo and iHeartRadio, was live streamed online to a global audience. This gave her other dedicated fans the opportunity to hear a live performance of her newly released album 1989.
Whilst the Secret Sessions served mainly as a reward program for loyal customers, it was also used to generate buzz for 1989. Swift employed the Secret Sessions as a strategically veiled vehicle to showcase her full transition from country to pop music. Fans who heard the album before its release then had the chance to spread the hype surrounding Swift’s new musical aura. Taylor Swift 2.0 if you like.
Secret Sessions helped display the evolution of her brand, steadying the wavering confidence of fans who doubted Swift’s ability to produce an entire pop genre album. In doing this, Swift was able to not only acquire new fans, but maintain existing ones.
Secret Sessions was only one part of Swift’s 1989 campaign. She also delved into social media heavily by creating a Tumblr account, generated other reward programs such as ‘Swiftmas and collaborated with other brands such as Target.
The results? 1989 became one of the two (the other being the Frozen Soundtrack) best selling albums in 2014 despite being launched in late October. Additionally, 1989 became 2014’s first platinum album just one week after its release. Insane. This then makes it the third time that a new Taylor Swift album has gone platinum within a week. Just another thing to add to her list of achievements. Swift is also expecting to earn over $100 million for the 1989 tour with 2 sold out shows already in Melbourne and a third one recently being announced.
Over Taylor Swift’s career only two things have remained constant: her quest for evolution, and her unwavering focus on her fans. She has stated that her followers are ‘the most important factor of [her] life’. When we talk about marketing we often say that the customer is king. It looks like Taylor Swift got that right.