How Taylor Swift Follows the SUPER Model

People at a concert making heart shapes with their hands, much like the iconic Taylor Swift gesture

No matter how great your 2023 has been, Taylor Swift’s has been… better. That’s fair to say, right?

I’ve talked about Taylor Swift in this newsletter before — not because I’m a hardcore Swiftie, but because I think everyone who is in the business of selling or marketing anything to fans (read: YOU) can learn from her decisions. With that in mind, and because she’s celebrating her 34th birthday this month, let’s break down some of the more SUPER things happening in Swift’s world lately, and what the biggest lessons are.

I can’t promise you you’ll win TIME Person of the Year next year (or land a Super Bowl champ for a significant other 🏈 ), but I can guarantee you’ll create some superfans!

First, let’s recap just a ~few~ of Taylor’s milestones from this year:  She is headlining the most commercially successful tour of all time, released one of the highest-grossing concert films of all time, was the most-streamed artist in the U.S. and on the planet, and released not just the best-selling album of the year, but also the second best-selling AND third best-selling albums of the year. No wonder she finally hit Billionaire-with-a-B status. 💸

There are a LOT more but, you get it. 

S: Start with Your Story

Superfans are created at the intersection of your story and every customer’s story. Perhaps no one can explain this principle better than 20-year-old Swiftie, McCall, who was quoted in the TIME Person of the Year cover story: 

“She’s so good at making her personal experience relate to millions of people. When I listen to her songs, I think about what I’ve been through—not what she’s been through.”

It’s true. The more personal a lyric —and, in fact any story — is, the more universal it will be in its appeal. It seems strange at first, right? Wouldn’t a more general sentiment connect with more people? No. The magic is in the details. 

Even if the details they sing about don’t match your experience at all—let’s say the “first love” an artist is singing about took place one summer at a beach in the ’80s, but your first big romance was in Arkansas in 2001—your brain makes the connection. You may be overcome with nostalgia as their words cause you to recall feelings from your past.

YOUR TAKEAWAY: Your clearly defined story is your superpower. It’s what helps you go from a potential commodity in the minds of your customers and prospects to a category of one. Remember, the more specific the details in the stories you share, the more personable—and memorable—you’ll be.

U: Understand Your Customer’s Story

You can’t connect with your customer’s story if you don’t know anything about it. 

Since the start of Taylor’s career, she has made it a priority to understand and listen to her fans on social media. In fact, Taylor Swift was one of the earliest adopters of MySpace and has carried that two-way conversation through Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and everywhere else her fans are engaging.  

Here are just a few ways that Taylor has incorporated feedback from her fans throughout her career:

  • While promoting Red (Taylor’s Version) on the Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon asked Taylor how she expects fans to react to the 10-minute version of “All Too Well.” She said “I really do feel like I know them really well. I go online. I look at what they think about things. I really care about their opinions, their theories… I really love our relationship. So I think I know what they are wanting. I think that the version that we’re putting out tonight is gonna be for them, the new, like standard version of what the song is.”
  • Before re-releasing Speak Now (Taylor’s Version), Taylor incorporated feedback from fans, who claimed that a few of the lyrics to “Better than Revenge” were misogynistic. Owning up to the mistake, Swift listened to her supporters and swapped out the lines. 
  • After a TikTok user went viral for a dance he choreographed to “Bejeweled” last fall, Swifties were ecstatic to see Taylor include the moves into her actual routine on tour. A simple nod to the TikTok trend made her fans feel appreciated and included in her success.

Not only does social listening help Taylor understand her fans’ preferences and improve the fan experience, but it also makes them feel like they matter as much to her as she does to them. 

YOUR TAKEAWAY: Social listening and search monitoring aren’t nice-to-haves: they’re mission-critical for every business that exists today. Many programs can help you monitor specific hashtags and keywords across social platforms and forums. You absolutely must know what customers are saying about your brand, your employees, your products, and your competitors.

P: Personalize

Personalization is about showing your customers they’re important enough to merit individualized attention. 

Even though Taylor Swift has about a trillion fans (give or take), she still finds ways to create personalized experiences, both individually and at scale:

  • Swift invited a few thousand fans to attend the Eras Tour Movie premiere. She surprised them by appearing on the red carpet and snapping selfies and later stopped by each of the 13 theaters at the Grove to thank audience members for their support.
  • After each city on the Eras Tour, Taylor makes an Instagram post recapping the weekend’s performances. An exceptional songwriter, Taylor makes her followers feel like she’s speaking directly to them with phrases such as, “Um. SO much to tell you.” Fans eagerly await to see what she’ll write for their city, as she always has a way of making each post feel personal.

YOUR TAKEAWAY: Personalization doesn’t have to be high-tech. You can still customize the “little” things, like asking your customers if they’d prefer to chat via phone, email, or text. When you’re able to put their needs and preferences above your own, you can make your customers feel like the most important person in the world.

E: Exceed Expectations

Taylor Swift consistently goes above and beyond for her superfans. Whether it’s through creating surprise and delight moments for her most passionate supporters or maximizing every touchpoint in her concert experience, she never settles for “good enough.” Here are a few fun examples:

  • In 2016, Taylor surprised two New Jersey-based fans by crashing their wedding and singing their favorite song, “Blank Space” at their reception. 
  • In 2018, an eight-year-old fan was forced to miss the Reputation Tour after becoming severely injured in an accident. Taylor visited the fan in the hospital and promised her that one day she’d get to see her in concert. Fast forward to 2023, and Swift kept true to her word by surprising the young fan with four tickets to the Eras tour.
  • During her Eras Tour, Taylor finds ways to elevate every production detail, including the three-and-a-half hour setlist, the LED bracelets that are synced up to her music, the immaculate sets with optical illusions and pyrotechnics, and the 16 nostalgic costume changes that transport fans back to each era. 

YOUR TAKEAWAY: Empower your team to seek out opportunities to WOW your customers. It can be as simple as asking your employees to share ways they’ve gone above and beyond for customers during your weekly meetings to instill that customer-centric mindset. 

R: Repeat

Once again, leave it to the 20-year-old fan to articulate Swift’s brilliance better than I ever could. When chatting with Sam Lansky of Time Magazine, McCall described Taylor’s consistency as “a lost art form.” 

Repetition is critical for amazing customer experiences. Taylor understands what her fans have invested in order to attend one of her concerts, so she ensures an equally exceptional experience at every single tour stop. 

For example, one repeatable moment that consistently goes viral is when she gifts her iconic fedora from her “22” performance to a young, deserving fan. Even though the special interaction happens at each show, it feels just as exciting and emotional every time. 🎩

Many fans wonder how Taylor can perform two, sometimes three, consecutive shows each week with over three hours of singing and intense choreography. 🤯

She explained to Time that her grueling, six-month training program for the Eras Tour included running on the treadmill while singing, weightlifting and conditioning exercises, and dance classes. She said, “I wanted to be so over-rehearsed that I could be silly with the fans, and not lose my train of thought.”

YOUR TAKEAWAY: Find ways you can automate or systematize certain touchpoints along your customer journey to ensure a consistently amazing experience. For example, I set reminders for mailing out birthday cards so I never forget to acknowledge a client on their special day. What is one repeatable action that you can optimize? 

As she celebrates her 34th birthday, Taylor Swift’s legacy extends far beyond the stage. Through her brilliant storytelling, attention to her audience’s feedback, use of personalization, creation of WOW moments, and meticulous repetition, Taylor has produced a blueprint for building an exceptional and enduring brand. 

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