Cheryl Ng
Aug 31, 2017

Taylor Swift: Look what you taught us about marketing

Look what the singer's new video made Cheryl Ng of Xaxis Group do: write this column about Swift's marketing and PR savvy.

Taylor Swift: Look what you taught us about marketing

Taylor Swift dropped her latest single a few days ago, and it's already smashing records. Video views, downloads, streams, and a number of Taylor Swifts in one video, wow.

Besides singing along to her new single while I think of the mean girls who bullied me back in high school, I cannot help but marvel at what a marketing and PR genius Swift is, and possibly a poker player.

Without recapping all the "drama drama" (as she sings it), in the past year, her squeaky clean reputation (also her new album name) was marred by Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, and Katy Perry— 'Triple K' as I call them. Not to mention she had Tom Hiddleston for a little ‘love’ narrative. Yet now, Swift has skillfully aligned all her nemeses like the planets to work in her favour. Even DJ David Mueller, who Swift countersued for sexual assault, and who she eventually mooned by taking US$1 in damages, gets a subtle insult in the new video.

So what can we learn from Swift?

Focus on your objectives

Not one to be a reactive marketer to be distracted by noise, Swift stayed focused on her business objectives. When Kim Kardashian released that Snap video of Swift (allegedly) lying, and everyone started calling her a snake, she barely made a hiss. When Katy Perry was milking the dancer drama for a 'bon appétit’ feast, Swift recoiled into the recording studio. She took notes and worked on her marketing strategy, and she understood that the only bad publicity is no publicity. (Note: This is not applicable for certain industries, such as financial services and healthcare.) 

Play the social-media game like a boss

All the drama that unraveled served as nice little teaser ads that kept everyone in suspense. What is Swift going to say? What is she going to do? Is she going to sing about it on her new album? She had an incredible stable of key influencers, like the Triple K, who kept talking about her. That would have accumulated millions of dollars in sponsored posts, but all the hype was free. Every marketer's dream. What did she do? She went the opposite direction and cleared out her Instagram posts, sending everyone (all 102 million followers/tweens) into a frenzy. Who knew a blank space could do that?

Listen and gather data

Like a good marketer, Swift listened (hard) to all her fans, detractors, naysayers, and troublemakers. Not just the nice things, but also the parts that may be hard to swallow.  She knows everyone wants to hear from her based on the number of social-media posts and articles that were written about her. Her self promoting and self depreciating music video addressed her target audiences’ negative feedback about her. She doesn’t deny them and she lets you know that she hears you loud and clear. Now what mud can anyone sling at a slippery slithering snake that laughs with you? Look what you made her do.

Content and engagement

Swift wrote a song that resonates with everyone. It was cleverly masked to hit back at Triple K and her not so ‘Loki’ romance with Hiddleston, as is strongly evident in the video. However you could sing this song to almost anyone who has stabbed you in the back, cut your queue at the hawker centre, or told you that you could lose some weight. Lastly, the music video itself deserves a standing ovation. She made the entire thing like a ‘Where’s Wally’ game. Most people ended up watching multiple times to catch the hidden and obvious references to all the drama drama. Not to mention the countless articles online analysing the detail of every moment of the video.

As far as I am ready to admit, I have watched the video three times and listened to the song about seven times. Purely for this article, of course. Oh Taylor, look what you made me do. 

(Cheryl Guzman Ng is APAC marketing and communications director with Xaxis Group. This article first appeared on
Campaign India

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