My older daughter Shelby became a Swiftie right around second grade. We were watching live when Kanye snatched the mic from 17-year-old Taylor. The Red Tour at Rupp Arena was Shelby’s first big concert. When Swift surprise-dropped folklore in the middle of quarantine, she brought a smile to my girl’s face for the first time in many months. This summer, Shelby, her sister, and I were lucky enough to snag face-price Eras Tour tickets for her show at Paycor Stadium – and we will see it again in Indianapolis next fall.
Recently, Taylor made jaws drop when she showed up at the Kansas City Chiefs game at the invitation of Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, decked out in official KC red and white, cheering alongside Kelce’s mom Donna, helping clean up their box afterward – and as always, dominating the spotlight. Team members could be seen on the sideline gawking up at her. Postgame, quarterback Patrick Mahomes was questioned more about Swift’s appearance and how he helped Kelce show off for his (we assume) new sweetheart than about the team’s win. By Sunday evening, the NFL had changed their TikTok bio to “Taylor’s Version,” and later to “9/24/23. Taylor was here.” By Monday afternoon, sales of Kelce’s NFL jersey had risen nearly 400 percent and his Instagram had picked up 300,000 new followers.
It’s called the Swift Effect – Taylor’s uncanny ability to marshal dramatic response to her every move. And it’s not just about other personalities she aligns herself with: a single Instagram Story on National Voter Registration Day brought 35,000 new voters to Vote.org – nearly 25 percent more than the same day last year – and a 115 percent increase in registration for 18-year-old voters. That wasn’t even a permanent post. It was just a Story, there and then gone within 24 hours.
So how does she do it? I can’t say for sure, but I do think there’s a lesson here for marketers: good brand stewardship pays off in spades. In Swift’s case, she herself is the brand – the grand poobah of her own cult of personality, so to speak. And while she certainly has her detractors, there’s no question Swift takes excellent care of her team and her fans. The Eras Tour is a 3.5-hour journey through her entire catalog, jam-packed with 46 full-length songs, Broadway-worthy costumes and sets, and big-name guest appearances – a Swiftie’s dream evening filled with personal touches directed at fans, such as the signature black fedora presented to an audience member during her performance of “22.” But more important than that, consider the fact that she gave her tour crew more than $55 million in bonuses, doled out to dancers, riggers, sound technicians –and each of the 50 truckers who hauled her sets from city to city received a check for $100,000 and a handwritten thank-you note from the artist. Her backup dancers are intentionally inclusive, covering a range of ages and body types.
Swift is also known for her quiet philanthropy. At every tour stop, she made large donations to local food banks and exclusively employed local businesses to fulfill her crew’s needs. Cognizant of the impact the tour was making on the environment, her team purchased more than double the carbon credits needed to offset the emissions it generated.
There’s no question it’s all paid off. According to Bloomberg News, the average gross per show on the US leg of the tour was $13 million, and by the time it wraps it’s predicted to generate as much as $5 billion in economic activity across the cities it stops in.
At the core of it, Swift isn’t doing anything groundbreaking; she’s just following the tenets of good brand stewardship. Treat your employees like your greatest assets. Make a point of getting to know your customers, and use that knowledge to surprise and delight them, over and over again. Generously give back to the communities where you do business. Respect the environment. Do these things, every chance you get, and in time you just might inspire Swiftie-like devotion for your brand.