fbpx

Taylor Swift might not have a college degree, but she has been working on her Master’s in Marketing since she was nine. And when I say “you could argue” I mean “that is what I’m going to spend the next 5,000 words pointing out.” 

Swift has been the driving force behind her career. Yes, she has always worked with teams of supportive business professionals. But her shifts from country (self-titled to Red) to pop (1989 to Lover) to folk (Folklore & Evermore) to Re-Records (Taylor’s Version series) are all deliberate choices made by Ms. Swift. 

Does the idea of marketing a business make you feel like a little kid wearing a big lab coat?

Join over 1,000 other mad scientists. Download our FREE Experimental Marketing Guide.

Taylor Swift has managed to continuously change her product (music) to suit different market positions (genres) all while maintaining a continuous but evolving brand (public image). 

Like I said. Master’s in Marketing. 

If you are a Swiftie, then you’re going to love this article. But if you are a skeptic, still read – you can learn a lot of marketing lessons from Taylor Swift that you can apply to your own ventures. 

Let’s talk about how Taylor Swift took on the music industry and won.

Table of Contents

Taylor Swift: An Overview

(Familiar with her work? Skip here to learn how she ditched Big Machine Records.)

Taylor Swift is a savvy businesswoman who saw an untapped music market and ran for it. While she has always worked in a team, she is her own creative director, publicist, marketer, writer, and content creator. She engages directly with her followers to cultivate a loyal fan base. She’s a philanthropist with clear moral values. And she makes tricky business decisions in order to stick to her brand. 

But before we talk about all that, it’s important to talk about her relationship with Big Machine Records – the record label that signed her when she was 15 years old.

A Tumultuous Relationship with Big Machine Records: Taylor’s Version

Despite being 32 years old, Taylor Swift has had a long and full musical career. She’s changed a lot, but some important things remain constant. Taylor made – and has always made – a lot of her own choices, including writing all of her lyrics and co-producing every album except her first. 

Big Machine was a small record company that took a risk on 15-year-old Taylor Swift. The relationship ended up being mutually beneficial. Big Machine Records helped Taylor skyrocket to celebrity status and Taylor put Big Machine Records on the map. Sounds like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

By Dwight McCann / www.DwightMcCann.com, CC BY-SA 2.5, Link

Since Ms. Swift wanted to perform within the confines of the country music segment of the music industry, Big Machine Records set up Taylor’s brand accordingly to follow the values of country music. Basically:

  • Be a “good girl”
  • Don’t cause a fuss
  • Don’t voice any political preferences
  • Always smile

Even after Taylor moved from country to pop, she stayed true to those golden rules. After all, they had become a part of her brand cultivated by Big Machine Records. And Big Machine was taking cues from the techniques that worked to produce a rich history of country and pop music superstars.

For years, Swift smiled and gave polite responses, even as media outlets and certain celebrities made life a little more difficult. But after her masters – her creative work – were included in Big Machine Records’ sale to Scooter Braun, an enemy of hers, all bets were off. 

Taylor Swift left Big Machine and ultimately signed with Republic Records, contingent upon her retaining ownership of all masters. With that new partnership, a happier and freer Taylor Swift graced the music industry.  

Does the idea of marketing a business make you feel like a little kid wearing a big lab coat?

Join over 1,000 other mad scientists. Download our FREE Experimental Marketing Guide.

Taylor Swift: A Timeline

Once you understand her relationship with Big Machine, you can also understand the arc of her career so far. So let’s take a moment to look at key moments in Swift’s history.

(Click for full-size images.)

How Taylor Swift’s business strategy has changed over the years & why she was able to ditch Big Machine

“I thought this was supposed to be a marketing post, not a biography of Taylor Swift, penned by a Swiftie.” 

You’re right, this is a marketing blog. I started by talking about her relationship with Big Machine as well as her career timeline because you must understand both to understand why Taylor Swift is a savvy businesswoman. Being able to build a following so big that she could ditch the record label that made her a star, re-record her music, and sell it again to her happy fans and newly won-over critics cannot happen in a day. It was over 15 years in the making.

The term “marketing” can be too easily thrown around but also is that far-reaching. Recently I wrote a post that defined marketing, PR, and advertising and how they’re different but with a lot of overlap. And while I was writing that post, I kept thinking of Taylor Swift’s marketing team. How every album is its own unique experience to be enjoyed in that moment and that moment alone. I thought about how Taylor Swift’s continuous reinvention was such a big win for her marketing. 

Her career can be segmented into four phases – the country years, the pop years, the folk years, and the re-recordings. Beyond that, each album can be further dissected both for unique musical themes and for business lessons.  

Taylor Swift started as a country star (with a twist) between her self-titled debut and Red.

Big Machine Records was handed an enthusiastic 14-year-old and was told to turn her into a star. The target audience was young country music enthusiasts. Well, Taylor was young, and the market was young, so Big Machine Records knew to not change Taylor Swift too much. She just needed a little polishing, some training, and she was ready to go. 

Could the marketing team ask for a better subject? Tall, spunky, blonde curly hair with blue eyes, excited to be starting an adventure, and close with her family. She practically has “Girl Next Door” tattooed on her forehead (although that would be very anti-girl-next-door). To the suits at Big Machine, she screamed “product-market fit.”

The team took the raw materials they were given and ran with it. Everything that worked for other country artists of the like (ahem, Carrie Underwood) was practically copied and pasted for Taylor Swift, with a few minor tweaks.

Jennnnnyf, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Big Machine was smart – they did not want to turn Taylor Swift into Carrie Underwood, but rather Carrie Underwood’s little sister. Someone who could sing about relatable topics like being the new girl at school, making friends, and crushing on the boy in your class. 

Personally, I think her country albums sound similar and I find it hard to tell the difference between them. But as she continued to mature both as a person and musician, so did her marketing tactics (or “good ideas and power moves”). 

Taylor Swift started as a country music star for teen girls with her self-titled debut
  • Product: Country music
  • Market/Audience: Young female fans of country music
  • Image/Brand: Girl next door

Marketing the very first Taylor Swift album was 90% safe and 10% risk. Overall, it is a basic country album with basic country marketing. Personally, I think it did so well because it did just one thing differently. It was one of the first country albums written from the perspective of a 16-year-old. The intended audience went bananas over lyrics they could truly relate to. And the older audience members could appreciate the freshness and well-crafted lyrics. 

In terms of how to cultivate the Taylor Swift image, teen versions of country classics were applied.

✔️Big Blonde Hair

✔️Cowgirl Boots

✔️Sparkly Dresses

✔️Big Acoustic Guitar

At this point and through Speak Now two albums later, she was playing the role assigned to her by Big Machine, an arrangement which both she and the label found mutually beneficial. She didn’t feel the need to pressure Big Machine to change their ways.

Taylor Swift doubled down on a successful strategy with Fearless
  • Product: Country music
  • Market/Audience: Young female fans of country music
  • Image/Brand: Girl next door in love
  • Symbols: Sparkle knee high dresses, special acoustic guitar, jumping around, classic country performer

After the unimaginable success of Taylor Swift, the entire Big Machine Records team needed to both not change anything substantial while also upping the ante just slightly from the previous album. More singles were highlighted, beautiful music videos were produced, and Taylor Swift earned public appearances far and wide. Big Machine Records had their star and they just needed to continue pulling at the working marketing levers until Taylor Swift the person matched Taylor Swift the marketable product.

Does the idea of marketing a business make you feel like a little kid wearing a big lab coat?

Join over 1,000 other mad scientists. Download our FREE Experimental Marketing Guide.

Speak Now gave Taylor Swift her reputation for “break-up albums” even though she was still firmly in the country music category
  • Product: Country music with some pop
  • Market/Audience: Both country music and pop fans, as her hit singles from Fearless were being played on both radio stations
  • Image/Brand: Heartbreak, but fashionable
  • Symbols: Sparkly bigger dresses, big curly hair, girl next door but with more confidence and smiles

By the time Speak Now was released, Taylor Swift was 20 years old and had felt the harsh sting of media criticism. She had dated many a beau, and learned a lot both personally and professionally. 

Since Taylor’s songs up until this point were heavily influenced by her own life experiences, it came as no surprise that Speak Now would include songs about exes. What I want to know is, how many other songs were cut from the roster as they did not pertain to exes? I think Big Machine Records knew the audience loved her writing about real experiences, and positioned the album to be a “tell-all”. 

I was a junior in college when Speak Now was released, and I remember Taylor Swift saying in her interview with Target that she was not holding anything back in this album, and would be calling people out. And called them out she did, but in a relatively safe way.

This was the beginning of her public desire for a change, even if she wasn’t yet making career choices to support that.

Red gave Taylor Swift the green light to start experimenting with pop
  • Product: Country, but began experimenting with new beats and genres
  • Market/Audience: Pure heartbreak
  • Image/Brand: Hipster, very “not a girl, not yet a woman
  • Symbols: Signature red lip, hat bangs, straight hair 

The album Red is an interesting one to me. As a Swiftie, I’ll admit that I never connected with Red until the rerelease. I thought it was supposed to be in a similar vein as her prior pieces, where there were peppy songs and whimsical songs and some sad songs that were clearly sad. Since I had not experienced full-on heartbreak at that point, I could not connect with the album Red. But I remember telling my friend how Taylor just seemed sad, like something had happened that she didn’t want to talk about. 

So first off, it says a lot for a musician to cultivate such a strong relationship with her fans that they show genuine concern for her well-being and feel that they can tell if something is off. That right there is a mere sliver of the power of the Swifties. 

But secondly, that sadness, that quietness, was the theme for Red. There were songs that had passion and fire, but the overall marketing of the album was reserved. The colors were contrast-heavy, almost to the point of being spot-colored. Her colors of choice? Black, white, and red. 

I don’t have a lot to say on the marketing of Red, except that I do feel that this album played a bridge in Taylor’s movement from the country space to full-fledged pop. Her previous three albums each had an increase in pop songs, but Red is where Taylor experimented with a lot of different sounds and beats. 

Taylor Swift transitioned into pop music with 1989 and stayed there through Lover, dropping Big Machine along the way

Up until this point, Taylor Swift had several albums, a healthy following and sales, and a good career ahead of her. But she was not happy and she wanted to change. 

1989 was the first album of Swift’s that was clearly in the pop genre. Taylor managed to still incorporate storytelling within her lyrics, as she attributes that skill to being the secret ingredient to her success, but gone were the country twangs and in came the synthetic beats. And as closely as she followed the pop playbook, the release of 1989 was a HUGE shift from the style that made her successful. It was risky.

So how did the shift from country to pop work from a marketing perspective? Let’s look at each album as this is also when each album took on its own personality as she continued to reinvent herself with each and every new album drop. 

(For more marketing reading, check out this post about how Old Spice came back from the dead – their company also underwent a massive brand transformation.)

Does the idea of marketing a business make you feel like a little kid wearing a big lab coat?

Join over 1,000 other mad scientists. Download our FREE Experimental Marketing Guide.

1989 turned Taylor Swift the country star into Taylor Swift the pop star
  • Product: Pop
  • Market/Audience: Pop / Top 40s
  • Image/Brand: young woman living in the city 
  • Symbols: Polaroid, grown up slumber parties

The very first song on the album is “Welcome to New York” so it was only appropriate for her to have her own living space in the Big Apple. The marketing levers used with 1989 were most notably the use of media events. Her move from Nashville to NYC was covered by media outlets. She made new friends, attended more publicity events, and even walked/performed at the 2013 & 2014 Victoria Secret Fashion Shows

But she also needed to maintain her relationship with her loyal Swifites. Even though she moved from country to pop, and from Nashville to NYC, it did not mean that she could no longer be the girl next door. Now she is the girl next door in NYC. So what does the girl next door do when she gets her own place in NYC? Why, she throws a slumber party of course! And the guest list? Some of her friends as well as some very lucky Swifties.

Another interesting marketing change made after she moved to pop was how she adjusted her deluxe album editions. 1989 was the first album to include unique keepsakes, in the form of 13 polaroid pictures. There were 65 Polaroids, and each deluxe album had 13 (her favorite number). If someone wanted to collect all 65 images, they would need to purchase 5 different copies of 1989 to get all 65. Polaroids were a big theme with the 1989 release. 

At this point, not only did she navigate a massive shift in genre, but she also started engaging with her audience more directly in some unique ways. This is really, really, really important. The skills she gained navigating a genre change with 1989 served her well as she shifted into folk music later. The hands-on, unique audience-building strategy helped her build a loyal fan base of Swifties, which gave her the power to take on anyone she wanted to, be it Big Machine or Spotify.

Taylor Swift threw down the gauntlet with Reputation
  • Product: Angry pop
  • Market/Audience: Getting back at all those who wronged you
  • Image/Brand: “Bad Taylor” / “Look what you made me do.”
  • Symbols: Black, leather, metal.

Buckle Up. 

Reputation is where there is a MASSIVE change in Taylor Swift’s image, and it was caused by the backlash of Taylor’s second encounter with Kanye West. Kanye West released a song that referenced Taylor Swift and some derogatory language. After Swift’s team indicated they had no knowledge of this lyric, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian stoked the flames of a “he-said-she-said” scenario, claiming Swift knew all along. Suddenly, the world was louder than the Swifties, and for months every tabloid, magazine, and even news anchors were voicing their inner thoughts against Swift. 

The reason I share all of this is because it reopened wounds from the 2009 VMAs and caused Swift to question her desire to remain in the entertainment industry. She took a break from producing albums, as well as avoiding the spotlight for nearly a year

But when she came back, she came back with a bang. 

She took the negative PR experience crafted by “Kimye” and turned it into a money making machine. I introduce to you: Reputation. 

Gone was the carefully crafted “Good Girl” brand, and in came an angry “Bad Girl”.

One of the lead singles is “Look what you made me do”, which feels like it was directed at Kanye, the media, and all of society who suddenly turned against her with the flip of a coin. 

Reputation is the most drastic of all the marketing and branding. Her music, or the product, changed even further from being bubblegum pop to a darker, edgier, angrier pop. She is seen wearing leather. Her hair is more unkempt. She has lost her more polished fun cute sheen and is instead rebelling. The deluxe albums carry four different special magazines each with different covers and images. But they all feature a similar style of “Angry Taylor”. Either combat clothes or leather and metal or slicked-back hair. Dark lips. Holding her guitar even in a more menacing way as though it were a weapon and not her way to spread music and cheer. Because again – the old Taylor is gone. 

At this point in Taylor’s career, she has handled a number of public image challenges. Or at least has had to jump through plenty of hoops. Two run-ins with Kanye. Feuds over boys. Plenty of heartbreak. But each time, Taylor and her team have managed to either spin each item or they have been able to bury it or take the air out of the sails on the story. So when #TaylorIsASnake began trending on Twitter, rather than let the defeat her she turned it into a weapon to bolster her career. And that’s when Karyn was born. The centerpiece to Taylor’s wildly successful Reputation tour, the 63-foot inflatable Karyn seemed to be the embodiment of all of Taylor’s rage, negativity, and all the hater she can now charm and do her bidding. She is the snake charmer and she wants to see the manager.

(Speaking of charming snakes, here’s a guide on using social media such as Twitter.)

Of all the Taylor Swift albums, Reputation has the weirdest reputation. But given the context of her career and personal struggles, one thing is very clear. Taylor Swift was sick of the way the media was treating her, she was sick of the restrictions on her creativity, and she was ready to fight back. And it’s between this album and Lover that Taylor Swift ditched Big Machine.

With Lover, Taylor Swift returned to what worked on 1989 with a personal touch that wasn’t possible under Big Machine
  • Product: Pop about love
  • Market/Audience: Festival dreamers
  • Image/Brand: Festival, love and peace, and human rights
  • Symbols: Pastels. Everything that Taylor loves, everything that makes her, her

It is the transition from Reputation to Lover that is the most drastic to me. Yes it was a big change going from 1989 to Reputation, but already she was a little more edgy when she went to do the 1989 album, and the colors were muted and darker in 1989 so going from that color scheme to black in Reputation, not a polar opposite. 

But going from black, leather, metal, and snakes – to pastel rainbows, fluffy kittens, neon pinks, and butterflies….that’s what I call a total flip. And that is exactly what happened from Reputation to Lover

It was at this point that Taylor Swift was thoroughly sick of Big Machine, who she left after they refused to allow her to make political statements on matters close to her heart. She was already sick of the rules they had imposed for so long and she was pissed at the number of hoops she would have to jump through to earn back her masters (if only she knew what would happen in 2019). Having her political speech silenced was the last of many straws.

Taylor Swift had a massive audience at this point, and she moved to a new record label to have more freedom. In this sense, Lover is the pop record that she wanted to make, not the one that analysts and bean counters allowed her to.

To make it clear that the reputation chapter was being put aside, the first music video introducing Lover shows the snake Karyn slithering along colorful cobblestone, only to be transformed into a swarm of butterflies. Taylor was being seen in the real world again, but with wavy hair, bright eyes, and covered in pastels. Her blonde locks were donned with washable color tints. A limited run collaboration with Stella McCartney was lined up to sell colorful festival ware. Little butterflies even donned Taylor’s heels at the iHeart Radio Awards as a nod to the fanciful notions of Lover

What was it that caused drastic change from Reputation to Lover? Why, love of course. Taylor Swift had finally found good ole fashioned love. Real love, not the stuff of fairytales. 

The audience were able to see a whole new side of Taylor Swift. I was the old Taylor, but 2.0. It felt like for once, we were getting a much more real version. The girl next door, but without the photo filter. And what is interesting, is Lover was the first album to be released with her new production company. One who appears to have given her significantly more control over her album, her lyrics, and her public image. Finally, she was being released from the chains of all that came with her time with Big Machine Records and she was having a new start. 

Her product was still pop music, but with a dash of festival. 

Her brand evolved from being the girl next door to being the dreamer. 

At this point, what Taylor Swift accomplished is a rare feat in the world of music. She negotiated a change from country to pop and dropped her old label. Her business maneuvers at this point are less comparable to her popstar peers in the 2000s and 2010s, and more comparable to those of genre-shifting artists with cult followings like the Beatles or David Bowie, however different their music may be.

Does the idea of marketing a business make you feel like a little kid wearing a big lab coat?

Join over 1,000 other mad scientists. Download our FREE Experimental Marketing Guide.

Taylor Swift followed her passion and transitioned again into folk with Folklore & Evermore – answering to no one this time
  • Product: Folk music
  • Market/Audience: Folk music listeners
  • Image/Brand: Grounded gypsy
  • Symbols:the twisty back roads in the fall, flashbacks of a movie, love in a memory 

I loved Taylor’s Lover album and hoped that her next album would be similar. But I knew better than to actually wish that, since it was clear that every album was to be a new side of Taylor. Then when the pandemic hit, I figured it was going to be a long time before we would get another album. 

So color me surprised when not only did we get a surprise album mere months into the pandemic, but it was a completely different genre!! Taylor had shifted from pop to folk, and from lyrics based on real-life experiences to ones based on imagined experiences.

Ms. Swift credits the shift in genres to the need to escape reality in the midst of the pandemic. When she went into lockdown with the rest of the world, she used her gift of lyrics to create a world to which we could all escape. The time away from the cameras, tours, and celebrity expectations resulted in not 1 but 2 surprise albums. The only albums to truly be considered Volume I and Volume II. 

Folklore (and Evermore) were full of firsts for Taylor, as they were also the first time any artist has had two number one albums in a single year since David Bowie. On top of that, Folklore and Evermore were critical darlings – a big deal for a popstar who was frequently dismissed as shallow 10 years prior.

On top of ditching her label, Taylor Swift changed genre again, released two new records in a year, and earned critical acclaim in the process. Even stubborn musos and collectors were starting to respect Taylor Swift not as a public figure but as an artist.

Taylor Swift took back the music she made while working with Big Machine, re-recorded it, and released it to massive sales and critical acclaim

  • Product: Something unprecedented. Rerecorded versions of Fearless and Red (Taylor’s Version)
  • Market/Audience: Devoted Swifties
  • Image/Brand: A combination of the original soul of the album with the quiet confidence of a woman who knows herself

Lockdown did Taylor good, as not only did she create two different albums that were a totally different genre and style of writing, but she began to re-record her old masters that were sold to her nemesis Scooter Braun

Let that sink in. Taylor Swift left her old music label, re-earned the rights to her old music, rereleased them, won over fans and critics alike, and buckets of money doing it.

Let’s play a game. Try to list (without Google) all the artists who have re-recorded entire albums. I’m not talking about recording live performances, or doing a greatest hits album with new recordings. I mean someone who is actually sitting in a recording studio and re-recording every song that was on an album and performing them in nearly the same way. Did you come up with any? I didn’t, but after crying uncle and checking Google – it looks like while it is not necessarily uncommon, it is unique for Taylor to publicize it. 

There were some changes made to the track list, but all changes were made intentionally. The re-records were to signify Taylor Swift taking back her history, telling it the way SHE wanted to, and giving the Swifties what they wanted. Swift paid attention to the Swifties in their requests to have certain songs be treated as singles. And she did just that with the rerecords. Surely you didn’t miss the hubbub over the 10 minute version of All Too Well? Or the short film? Or the Swifties trolling Jake Gyllenhal’s entire Instagram feed (ok, but seriously, just give her back her scarf)?

Photo from the Taylor Swift store.

Swift also made sure to record the original lyrics to her songs, as well as include tracks that were not deemed “good enough” the first time around. And everything has been recorded with this magical Taylor Swift 2.0 energy. A confident woman who is free to dream and can revisit the works of old. 

So far, Taylor has rerecorded Fearless and Red. Two albums that were very near and dear to her heart. Eagle-eyed Swifties have figured out that the next album to be rerecorded is 1989, based on hidden Easter Eggs in the I Bet You Think About Me music video

So how exactly did Taylor Swift take on the music industry and win?

In case you missed it earlier, being able to change genres multiple times and still maintain a loyal following is huge. You have to have a great marketing strategy to pull that off. Being able to leave the record label that made you a star is even bigger, given how much influence record labels have over musicians.

Taking back her intellectual property, rerecording it to her own and to her fans’ liking, and having massive releases? I cannot think of one precedent for that. Rerecording music is more common than you’d think, but will some do a 10-minute re-edit of a decade-old song to chart? That’s new.

The fact that Taylor Swift was able to leave Big Machine alone tells you a lot about the other impacts she had on the music industry. Here are just a few other examples of how Taylor Swift is winning as a direct result of the actions she has taken.

With each new album Taylor Swift drops, an old record is shattered. So much so that to understand the records, you have to draw comparisons to previous record-holders: rock and roll icons such as The Beatles, David Bowie, and Madonna. 

Taylor holds 11 Grammys – that’s 1 more than Dolly Parton, and 1 less than Lady Gaga. She also is the first and only solo female artist to win Album of the Year three times (Fearless, 1989, Folklore). Don’t worry Kanye, Beyonce still holds the record for most Grammys won by a female artist with 28. 

Does the idea of marketing a business make you feel like a little kid wearing a big lab coat?

Join over 1,000 other mad scientists. Download our FREE Experimental Marketing Guide.

All Too Well shattered the top of the Billboard Hot 100 Chart

You know the song “American Pie”? Not the movie franchise, but the incredibly long and lyrically beautiful song written and performed by Don McLean? In 1971, the 8-minute long version of “American Pie” held the record for being the longest song to ever hit the Billboard Hot 100 chart. 50 years later, and Taylor’s “All Too Well” single dethroned the legendary song. 

Don’t worry, Taylor realized the gravity of what she had done, and sent Don McLean the sweetest note and flower arrangement in good faith.

Taylor Swift is undoing records set by David Bowie & The Beatles

With the release of Evermore in December 2020, Taylor Swift broke David Bowie’s record of releasing two number one albums in the same year. David Bowie set the record posthumously in 2016 with Blackstar and Best of Bowie

Then in April 2021, Taylor Swift released Fearless: Taylor’s Version and dethroned yet another music icon. Across the pond in the UK, The Beatles have held onto a 54 year record for releasing three number one albums in the same year. But when Fearless: Taylor’s Version dropped and skyrocketed to the top, it became her third chart topping album in 259 days.

Fortunately, Swift has been BFFs with Beatles’ Paul McCartney since their Rolling Stones interview. In fact, she even  moved her Evermore release date to be courteous to McCartney and not interfere with his new album release. 

Taylor Swift tied and then took Madonna’s silver medal for most albums on the Billboard 200 chart

In November 2021, Taylor Swift bumped Madonna from her number 2 spot on the Billboard 200 Chart and is now just 1 album behind the queen Barbara Streisand who reigns supreme. Before the release of Red: Taylor’s Version, Taylor Swift had been tied for second place with Madonna for both having sent 9 albums to number one on the Billboard charts. 

What I do want to point out is that Taylor Swift (or any strong female artists born in the 80s) would not have been able to see such success if fellow female artists had not paved the way. In fact, Swift attributes her own continuous reinvention to Madonna, and even drew inspiration from Madonna’s 80s work when crafting her own immaculate collection of pop records, including 1989. So while Taylor Swift currently has a near-perfect record for 10 of her 11 studio albums having hit number one (compared to Madonna’s 9 of 14), Swift’s success wouldn’t be possible without the strong performers who came before her. 

Good ideas & power moves: final thoughts on Taylor Swift’s business prowess

I’m a Swiftie, and have been one since Fearless. But even putting aside my personal interest in Taylor Swift as a person and artist, she makes for an intriguing business subject. Throughout her prolific career, Ms. Swift admits to feeling like she must consistently reinvent herself with each album in order to stay relevant. It’s a responsibility that she does not take lightly.

Every new iteration of Taylor Swift is crafted deliberately and each choice is a part of a larger vision for her career. In the Miss Americana documentary, Taylor made a comment about how she is always having to be in her head, strategizing, and being ready for different ways the media could respond to something. She was discussing how it is such a double-edged sword, because on one hand she needs to be ready for anything, but on the other hand she could be dinged for being “calculating”. 

That exact line of thinking is proof to me that at the end of the day, Taylor Swift is her own brand, marketer, and PR representative. We’d offer our services, but between the diamond-certified records and Grammys, it’s clear that she’s doing a fine job!

Does the idea of marketing a business make you feel like a little kid wearing a big lab coat?

Join over 1,000 other mad scientists. Download our FREE Experimental Marketing Guide.