Taylor Swift, marketing genius: How singer's business savvy has created 'Eras' tour craze

Swift's Eras Tour is proof of the power of brand evolution over time, creating a new customer pool each time that only builds momentum as you maintain that consumer investment
Posted: 8:00 PM, Jul 13, 2023
Updated: 2023-07-14 17:33:45-04
Taylor Swift The Eras Tour - Nashville

DENVER — Between fans paying hundreds of dollars for a Taylor Swift Eras tour ticket, hotel room, parking spot, costume and getting up before the sun Thursday to wait in line for merchandise, the artist's arrival in Denver has many wondering how she's able to create such a frenzy.

Swift's Eras tour is proof of the power of brand evolution over time, creating a new customer pool each time that only builds momentum as you maintain that consumer investment.

The country-turned-pop artist has been able to attract and retain a wide range of consumers through her nearly 20-year career. Her grasp on people is exemplified in "The Eras Tour" coming to Denver July 14 and 15, as it includes songs and outfits from all of Swift's past albums.

"As a result, there's a lot of nostalgia going on. It's also genius from the marketing perspective because it's going to be tapping into pretty much all of her customer segments," Alix Barasch, associate professor of marketing at the CU Boulder Leeds School of Business, said. "So if you loved her in her early days, her rebellious days, or country days, or her more recent indie days, there's something for you here."

Marketing fundamentals would suggest identifying one target market segment and appealing to that demographic.

Swift, though, has been able to tap into a multitude of market segments, Barasch said, bringing an "accumulated energy" to the Eras tour.

That anticipation is compounded by the fact that large group gatherings like concerts were limited during the pandemic, and Swift herself hasn't toured in five years. The last time was during her "Reputation" tour in 2018.

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That scarcity for not only a concert performance from her, but also the number of stadiums at which she's performing and the number of tickets in each stadium contributes to the hype that has outside observers scratching their heads.

However, that scarcity alone doesn't create such a buzz around an artist.

"It's the right combination of a great personality, she's tremendous at her instruments, great songs, she's got excellent stage presence, she's got a great rapport with her audience," Darrin Duber-Smith, MSU Denver Senior Lecturer, said.

But more than that, she has cultivated an identity as vulnerable, personal and authentic from how she thoughtfully connects with people.

"I think the art that she creates through her music, and by writing her own songs, and using them to really reflect how she feels and how she experiences life, I think, speaks to that level of authenticity that sometimes, not all artists are able to capture, because maybe they don't spend as much time sort of just kind of revealing the layers of complexity of life," Melissa Archpru Akaka, professor of marketing at University of Denver Daniels College of Business.

Taylor Swift The Eras Tour - Nashville
Taylor Swift performs during "The Eras Tour" on Friday, May 5, 2023, at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

Not only that, Swift adds to her brand by engaging with fans intentionally on social media through giving teasers and creating mysteries, both Barasch and Akaka analyzed.

That gamification is a pretty widely used strategy in marketing, but each brand employs it differently, according to Akaka. The different for Swift, Akaka evaluates, is she recognizes her strengths and connects it back to who she is.

"So you can tell she's not just putting these games out there to keep people entertained, but to really take them along on this journey. And so it's sort of this balance between bringing fans with her on her life experience and how she feels throughout that process while keeping them the sort of the mystery behind it so that they stay engaged to see when is the next song coming out when is the next album coming out? Which what's what is she doing next?" Akaka said.

The mystique is only made more intriguing by the unique offerings Swift concocts. For her latest "Midnights" album, she released four separate vinyl editions to form a clock, making it a "collectible."

But even for the more generic T-shirts and water bottles, fans are waiting hours at concerts and at early merchandise releases to get their hands on some of it. While each city does have at least one individualized piece of merchandise fans can buy, Akaka said there's a larger motive at play.

Taylor Swift, marketing genius: Expert weighs in on singer's business acumen

Especially post-pandemic, there's more of a desire for extraordinary experiences and the need to capture or remember those moments.

"As you walk away from this, you can remember you have these tokens of memories that kind of trigger these memories of that experience, that amazing experience that you had," Akaka said.

That kind of cultural phenomenon seems shocking to us now. With streaming and social media growing more popular, consumers are more segmented in a lot of ways than in the past. That became more pronounced during the pandemic, forever changing us.



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So a group experience like Taylor Swift's "Era's" tour gives everyone involved a point of connection.

"At the end of the day, that, in my opinion, I think that that is essentially what marketing is about. And what branding really is, is about who am I as a brand, who am I as a company, what kind of value can I bring to this world? And who can I connect with? Because it's not like marketing is not about selling all things to all people, it really is about creating these connections and these relationships. And when you can do it at this type of scale. It is incredibly impressive," Akaka said.

At a base level, Barasch explains, that's core to human social behavior. "We get value from connecting with others," Barasch said.