She’s back. She’s back out of the recording studio and she’s pretty much all anyone is talking about. Taylor Swift is a musical (and shade throwing) icon to most. For me, it’s her under-the-radar marketing skills that make her legendary. Maybe it’s because I live in Austin, the live music capital of the world, and it’s definitely because I own a digital marketing firm, but that girl is innovative as hell, knows what she is doing, and I can’t get enough of watching her do it on the sly. She’s a creative agency unto herself.
There’s a popular meme that gets tossed around in pretty much every forum of internet discussion — sports, politics, entertainment, etc. — and it’s about how a person, be it a college football coach or Donald Trump, is executing strategy on a level supposedly incomprehensible to the average “idiot” like you and I. What they say is that the person in question is playing “4D chess.” As in fourth dimensional chess. They aren’t thinking on a single plane like us peasants.
It is usually, almost always, used sarcastically. When someone is screwing up to a hilariously bad degree, people say, “Oh no you just don’t — you just CAN’T — understand. They’re playing 4D chess.”
Except I’m not being sarcastic here. Tay is playing 4D chess, and it’s hilarious to watch everyone else try to comprehend it. Just look at what she’s done over the past few months:
She released a song that wasn’t just popular, but divisive. She knew it wouldn’t be enough to just release another perfectly curated pop hit.
“Ho hum, Taylor Swift has another number one song,” they’d say.
Nope. She’s calculating. She knows it’s not enough just to be consistently excellent.
Instead she released “Look What You Made Me Do” and the internet set itself on fire.
“I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now,” she announced to the world. “Why? Oh. Because she’s dead.”
That one single line alone launched hundreds of thousands of social media posts, blogs, videos, podcast segments, and even Halloween costumes. (If someone is taking the time to dress up like something you said then, dude, you know how to freakin’ market.)
Then she released three more songs that the world was waiting on the edge of its collective seat to listen to and debate about. And nobody got it. Nobody got that’s exactly what she wanted.
Now that everyone has spent the past couple months breathlessly debating the small preview they got of the “New Taylor” she announced that her album won’t be streaming on Spotify, Apple, Amazon, Tidal, etc. You want it? And more importantly, you want to talk about it? You gotta buy that whole sucker. And she’s not just making people go out and buy her album, she’s giving them an incentive to buy it.
She made having her new album into a form of social media currency.
Her entire shift is an incentive to keep following her. To buy her concert tickets. To find out who this supposedly new Taylor Swift is. To see what she does next.
Look what she just made them do. Call it what you want, but they weren’t ready for it. And I think it’s Gorgeous marketing.