Following the release of Taylor Swift’s 2017 album Reputation, it sold a record-breaking 1.216 million copies — a sales tally beaten by her latest album, Midnights, in the first four days of its retail availability.
“The results speak for themselves. She’s as popular as she’s ever been,” Berklee College of Music’s music business professor George Howard recently told CNBC, adding: “She creates this kind of frenzy among a significant amount of fans.”
Why has Midnights garnered so much excitement even compared to her already very successful previous albums? An entire dissertation could probably be written on that subject — but much of the hype surrounding Midnights can evidently be attributed to genius marketing.
When did publicity of Midnights actually begin?
Swift herself announced the album in a speech at the VMAs in August, when she also revealed that October 21 would be the release date.
The initial news about Midnights surprised fans — but Swift has a long history of doing the opposite of what her followers have grown to expect. Just think back to when Swift deleted all of her social media posts ahead of Reputation’s release.
Even after the album arrived and Swift rebuilt her social media presence, it was far more modest than what the ‘Swifties’ had previously been accustomed to. It is only in the Midnights era that Swift has again started interacting with fans practically daily on social media.
In the weeks between the album’s announcement and its release, Swift has posted behind-the-scenes insights as well as revealed Midnights track titles on a one-by-one basis.
These revelations and Taylor Swift’s previous reinventions have the potential to influence music advertising on a large scale. “She’s a very very smart marketer in terms of keeping her distance from her fans but still making them feel connected to her by putting these clues out there … and it feels like a dialogue,” Howard has commented.
How Swift’s image has changed over time
Swift’s original rise to musical prominence was as a Nashville native country singer with cowgirl hats and boots. However, she has shifted her image many times since then.
For example, she embraced glamour when promoting her mid-2010s album 1989, such as by performing at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Later, when her lockdown-era albums Folklore and Evermore were topical, she wore loose-fitting flannel and styled her hair in a braid.
With these transformations, Swift has kept her fans interested while remaining authentically and recognizably herself. “She’s definitely shifted from country to pop but she’s kept that sensibility that her day one fans have loved so much,” branding expert Jeetendr Sehdev has told Fortune.
Sehdev, the bestselling author of The Kim Kardashian Principle: Why Shameless Sells (and How to Do it Right), adds that Swift “continues to appeal most to a particular demographic.”
One major takeaway from this for your own marketing efforts is the importance of striking an effective balance between fresh and familiar with how you reinvent your brand. This lesson applies whether or not that brand is even in the music business.