Retention Marketing Tips from Taylor Swift

Whether or not you’re a fan of sugary pop princess Taylor Swift’s music, one thing can’t be denied: the woman is a pro at retaining her customers.

Did I say customers? I meant fans. Or Swifties, as they prefer to be called. Before we get into some marketing tips, some bit of background on Miss Swift.

Swift has always been canny about building her brand, and it has paid off ‘ she’s one of the highest-paid female artists around, and came in third on Forbes’ list of highest-earning celebrities under 30¬†with a cool $64 million last year.

Her newest album “1989,” however, posed some risk. Most of Swift’s following were fans of her country-pop music roots. “1989” marked the “official” transition into pure pop. Swift had to tread carefully to cross genres without losing her original audience; complicating the issue was the fact that she hadn’t released new music for over a year.

If her dilemma sounds strangely familiar, it should. eCommerce companies face similar issues on the daily, whether it’s winning back about-to-churn customers after a period of inactivity or dealing with fallout from rebranding.

As it turns out, not only do eCommerce marketers have problems similar to those of country/pop stars, they should also be taking notes. What followed from Swift and her team was a flawlessly executed master class in Retention Marketing. The campaign and accompanying media blitz around her album cemented her fans’ brand loyalty through research, personalization, and a killer loyalty rewards program.

Here are the top Retention Marketing tips all digital marketers should learn from Taylor Swift:

Marketing Tip 1. Use data to understand your customer (#Taylurking)

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eCommerce companies have the built-in advantage of having access to customer data. That data provides marketers with the information needed to truly understand customers and create personalized experiences. If they choose to, that is ‘ according to a recent Harvard Business Review report, only about 11% currently do.

In Taylor Swift’s case, there is no doubt that her management leverages available data to gain insights on her consumer base. That said, Swift’s above tweet shows that some old-fashioned (and then strategically publicized) cyber-stalking also gets the job done.

“Taylurking” was a smart move on multiple levels. For one, it was an interaction that surprised and delighted fans whose photos were included in the tweet. Secondly, it was a great way to showcase Swift’s interest in her fans. Finally, doing so allowed Swift to collect data on her audience through their social media accounts.

Marketing Tip 2. Deliver personalized messaging and offers (Swiftmas)

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As it turned out, Swift and her team really did some lurking. They then put the data they’d gathered to good use: to create personalized offers that catered to each fan’s needs and preferences.

Though the concept should ring some clear bells, this wasn’t through optimized email marketing. Instead, Swift’s team combed through select fans’ social media pages to figure out what each of them wanted for Christmas.

These presents were then purchased and delivered, wrapped by hand and adorned with handwritten notes from Tay Tay herself. Swift unveiled “Swiftmas” via YouTube, and fan reactions flooded the Internet with literal tears (see above).

Although obviously on a much smaller scale, Swiftmas and its results are a perfect example of why and how personalization works. The celebrity element helps, of course, but it’s clear to see that a mass-produced gift of an autographed CD would not garner nearly the same reaction.

Marketing Tip 3. Reward high-value customers with perks (Secret Sessions)

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Finally, Swift took “surprise and delight” to a new level by rewarding key loyal customers. Carefully selected fans, ranging from the die-hardiest of Swifties to influencers in social media, were invited in groups of 89 ‘ as in “1989” ‘ to participate in a vaguely worded “amazing opportunity.”

These Secret Sessions turned out to be album listening parties hosted by Swift herself, complete with home-baked cookies (baked by the pop star in a cutesy apron, natch). Fans spent the day with Swift in her own home, who interacted with each person and posed for dozens of Polaroids.

This provided fans with the ultimate reward of “hanging out” with their idol, cementing their adoration of both her and the new album that facilitated this miracle in one fell swoop.

For Swift and her team, the key to retaining her fanbase during the transition was to emphasize Taylor herself as the main brand, and her music as secondary. A highly personalized and personal approach to engaging with Swifties helped them feel as though they’d forged a personal bond with their idol. With brand loyalty so firmly established, Swift probably could have released a reggae album and kept the majority of her fanbase intact.

As it was, the campaign was hugely successful: “1989” went platinum almost instantly, with 1.287 million copies sold in the first week. Despite being released in late October, it was the first album to go platinum in 2014.

Now that’s retention-based ROI.


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