When you need ecommerce marketing advice, where do you turn to? You probably dig into your Twitter and LinkedIn feeds, visit your favorite brands’ websites for inspiration, or simply use Google.
The truth is, we all typically use the same sources when looking for advice on building a successful brand. Because of that, experiences from brand to brand can start to feel the same.
It’s time to search elsewhere for a change. Step outside of the ecommerce world and you’ll find plenty of unique, creative ideas. That’s what I’m going to help you do today, using an idol of mine.
When it comes to building a loyal, adoring fanbase, you should never, ever, ever underestimate Taylor Swift (like ever).
She may be mainly known for her chart-topping records and sold-out stadium tours, but Swift’s enormous following is what really sets her apart.
In this post, I’ll break down 13 methods the singer has used to amass hundreds of millions of dedicated listeners, and how you can use them in your own marketing approach.
Why 13? It’s Swift’s lucky number. Derived from the day she was born, December 13, she often works it into music videos, social media posts, and album release dates. Oh, what a shame it’d be if we didn’t somehow work 13 into this article!
Are you ready for it?
1. Hide a secret message
Taylor rarely gives away the stories behind her most personal songs. Instead, she leaves almost invisible hints behind for fans in the form of liner notes included with her albums.
One hidden message, spelled out by sporadic uppercase letters throughout the lyrics of All Too Well on 2012’s Red, read “maple lattes.” This is an allusion to infamous paparazzi snaps of Taylor and then-partner Jake Gyllenhaal walking in Brooklyn with coffee cups in hand.
Your customers likely aren’t all too interested in your love story, but you can steal this technique by incorporating secret messages or discount codes into your emails.
For example, Keymaster Games used the latter in a pre-Black Friday sale email, which saw a 49% open rate and a click rate of 6%.
Not only does this method engage your audience with a puzzle to solve, it makes them feel like they’re in on something exclusive.
Note: This isn't shown in the image, but for accessibility purposes, Keymaster Games does share the code with users lower down in the email so they don't have to play the game.
2. Connect with your biggest fans
Other celebrities: Here’s an autograph
Taylor Swift: Hold my Grammys
Taylor’s fans have dubbed themselves “Swifties,” but the singer typically refers to them as her friends. That might seem disingenuous coming from a world-famous celebrity, but she truly treats her fans like besties. From sending out personalized Christmas gifts to making surprise appearances at weddings, Swift goes out of her way to return the love she receives.
How can you use this idea for your ecommerce brand? Take Olipop, for example. This brand makes sparks fly for their customers often, surprising them with merch, free testers, and more. In fact, after one customer sent the Olipop team a letter about how much their mother loved the brand (and who had recently passed away), Olipop sent flowers to express their thoughts and as a token of their appreciation.
It’s a kind gesture, and shows how much effort the Olipop team puts into their customer relationships, which is a significant driver behind their great retention rates.
3. Rebrand (authentically)
In the nearly 16 years since her debut album, Swift has seamlessly transitioned from country star to pop diva to cottagecore singer songwriter. Still, she’s stayed true to who she is while managing to evolve her style and grow as an artist.
Brands can do the same with gradual, logical changes in order to maintain the audience’s trust.
I especially loved cocokind’s direction when they decided to begin again. In the past few years, they’ve updated their design style, swapped their slogan, and expanded their line of clean beauty products.
Even though they have undergone a few transformations, they still hold the same mission and values—just like T-Swift
4. Relate to your audience
Taylor may be one of the most successful singers of all time, known worldwide, and worth hundreds of millions of dollars, but she’s still relatable. She’s unashamed to forever and always be the girl who has multiple cats, watches way too much Law & Order, and dances funnily at award shows.
It’s difficult for celebrities to be relatable, but even more treacherous for brands. The wrong messaging can easily come across cold, faceless, or just plain forgettable.
Braxley Bands fights this with a fun, friendly voice. The brand presents content in a way that makes sense for their young audience. Just take a peek at one of their recent email campaigns.
In other words, just be your most unique self. In fact, having a personality and showing it off is a great way to avoid blanding.
(Blanding is creating a generic brand look and tone to follow what's trendy and modern, but at the expense of authenticity and differentiation.)
5. Engage on social media
Another way to be perceived personally and not as a corporate entity? Genuine social media interactions. This is nothing new for Swift. She surprises fans regularly by showing up in their DM’s or TikTok comments.
The lesson here is to resist the urge to solely use your online presence to promote your product. Instead, think of social media as holy ground where you can connect with your followers in an earnest and sincere way.
PJ-purveyor Little Sleepies is always leaving sweet comments on the photos their customers tag them in. Even the smallest kind interaction can make a big difference when building a relationship with your audience.
6. Keep your friends close
From filling music videos with dozens of cameos to featuring artists like Ed Sheeran and Haim on her albums, Taylor knows the power of a good collaboration.
But you don’t need superstar power to pull this off. Link up with a like-minded business in your industry and collab for a bundle or giveaway! A little teamwork goes a long way in bringing awareness and new customers to everyone involved. Plus, it’s nice to have a friend.
One pairing that works perfectly is Premama Wellness and YO Sperm, who offer a package deal when you buy their respective fertility supplements and at-home test kit.
7. Don’t be afraid to try new things
Much like her ever-changing style, Swift has taken unexpected, but still sensical, steps in her career. Just in the past few years, she’s taken on acting roles, created a documentary for her 2020 album folklore, and wrote and directed a short film.
Don’t be afraid to take your business in a different direction that still aligns with your mission. Remember, it can be beneficial to do things that don’t always scale—especially when you don’t have a lot going on at the moment (real Swifties will get this joke).
Rosita USA did this just last year, branching out from their line of best-selling fish oils to offer Wild Bee Bread. While it may not be wild-caught from the sea, it’s still a perfect fit for the brand with its sustainable nature and myriad health benefits.
8. Stand up for your beliefs
For most of her career, Taylor stayed silent on delicate topics, which earned her negative attention from both sides of the political spectrum. That’s when she finally chose to speak out, she put her money where her mouth is.
In 2019, Swift released a pro-LGBTQ+ single, You Need To Calm Down, accompanied by a donation to GLAAD and a petition for the U.S. senate to pass the Equality Act.
Long story short, taking a stance will likely garner disapproval from some, but it’s well worth the appreciation you’ll receive from those who share your beliefs. And, above all, it allows you to use your platform to help make a positive difference.
Here’s an example from Briogeo. Following the murder of George Floyd, the brand wanted to use their voice to show support. But rather than simply post on social media in support of Black Lives Matter, their response was to encourage others to support BIPOC by bringing attention to other black-owned beauty brands.
Every brand has a mission and story, and it’s key to be consistent with your beliefs and show customers how they can participate in certain causes with you.
9. Don’t mind the haters
If someone isn’t fond of you sharing your viewpoint? Just shake it off! Swift has millions of fans, but she’s also got more than a few vocal critics who dislike her music and personality.
There will always be people who loathe your brand or products. Even seemingly well-loved (and extremely successful) businesses, like Rothy’s, have their critics.
You can’t please everyone—and trying to is like death by a thousand cuts.
Instead, focus on the customers that do love and support you, and continue finding ways to improve their shopping experience so you can make sure they stay stay stay by your side long-term.
10. Host an event
In 2014, Swift gave some of her biggest fans an experience out of their wildest dreams: a private listening party at her L.A. home. Attendees of the 1989 Secret Sessions got to have the best day, hearing the new album before anyone else, taking polaroids with Taylor, and enjoying baked goods made by the artist herself.
Getting your audience together in one place helps you learn more about them, form personal relationships, and build community.
One of the ways Ministry of Supply has maintained a human presence is through events they’ve held as well. For example, last year, they invited local customers to join them for a reopening party at their flagship store in Boston.
And, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, they put on virtual happy hours where anyone could stop by via Google Hangouts to connect with other people during an isolating time.
11. Give your fans what they want
Taylor long teased a 10-minute version of a fan-favorite deep cut from her 2012 album Red, All Too Well. For nearly a decade, Swifties were ok, but not fine at all as they speculated about this elongated version and begged for Swift to release it.
In just a few months, it garnered nearly 200 million streams on Spotify alone and unseated Don McLean’s “American Pie” as the longest #1 hit of all time.
What’s your All Too Well (10 Minute Version)?
For Glossier, it was the “Solid You” perfume they exiled a few years ago. Since its disappearance from the skincare and makeup brand’s site, customers have pleaded for its return. And to the delight of fragrance fans everywhere, the brand finally brought it back in January 2022.
If your audience is asking for something reasonable, they’re going to be thrilled (and happy to make a purchase) if you deliver it.
It sounds simple enough—you just have to listen to your customers, right? However, many brands don’t.
The bar is low when it comes to taking time to hear your customer’s needs and actually implement changes based on them. Take time to do this; it will mean a lot to shoppers.
12. Tell a story
Whether she’s recounting her own experiences or crafting fictional characters to express another point of view, Taylor is a master storyteller. One of the reasons her fanbase is so passionate is because they can closely identify with the singer’s fearless, poignant lyrics.
Leveraging your brand story can create that emotional connection with your customers.
Here’s a great example from MADSEN Cycles, which embodies the first rule of marketing: sell the experience, not the product.
In their promotional images, this family-owned business doesn’t simply show off their well-engineered bucket bikes. Instead, they weave a narrative of families going on adventures together, enjoying the daylight outdoors and making memories.
13. Get back up
In 2019, Swift’s old record label sold the master recordings of her first six albums, meaning she no longer owned over a decade of her own work. Rather than take the loss, she got herself out of the woods.
Just two years later, the singer released Fearless (Taylor’s Version) and Red (Taylor’s Version), which are rerecordings of her 2008 and 2012 albums. Not only did this allow her to regain the rights to her intellectual property, she also broke records and received critical and commercial acclaim.
Failure is inevitable, but it’s how you bounce back that really matters.
Just take Ring Doorbell, a well-known home-security product. Back when the business was named DoorBot, founder Jamie Siminoff took his invention to Shark Tank and walked out without an offer from the investors. Since then, everything has changed, with Siminoff selling the business to Amazon for $1 billion in 2018.
Key takeaway: think like Taylor Swift
While it may seem like Taylor Swift has been a staple in the zeitgeist forever, she didn’t come to prominence until about fifteen years ago. And while she certainly has talent and charm, it’s her fans who ultimately skyrocketed her to stardom.
So, whether you’re just starting out like early-aughts Taylor or known worldwide as the singer is today, your audience is the 1 biggest asset you have.
It’s time to go, but, before I do, here are a few key takeaways:
- Focus on your fans: Your customer relationships don’t begin and end with a sale. Connect with your audience on a human level to build loyalty and trust.
- Be authentically yourself: It won’t resonate with everyone, but you can make peace knowing those you do connect with will appreciate your genuineness.
- Have fun with it! Creating a brand can be stressful, so remember to take a step back and breathe. Don’t be afraid to take a new approach, rebrand, or try something no business has done before.
Oh, and long live Taylor Swift.