For the second time in less than five months, Taylor Swift gave her fans a gift in the form of a surprise album, announced on Twitter a few hours before it released. This album, named Evermore, is just as good as the first, but that isn't even the point. I'm not even a music critic, but those who are,  agree.

Think about it for a moment. During a pandemic, when most people are trying to figure out how to juggle working from home, logging their kids onto Zoom for virtual school, and making it to the grocery store before it runs out of toilet paper, Swift managed to write, record, produce, and release two full-length studio albums. All without anyone knowing they were coming. 

My point, by the way, isn't that we should all feel bad that Swift is more accomplished than the rest of us, though she's certainly a creative force, and both albums have received rave reviews. At the same time, it's worth keeping in perspective that Swift has resources and options that many people simply don't. 

My point is that for many people, it has been--to say the least--a rough year. Just in the past few weeks, restaurants have started to shut their doors for the second time in the past eight months as Covid-19 cases rise again across the country. The whole working at home and virtual school and everything else about this year is exhausting, I know.

Just as many people are optimistic that 2020 is almost over, new cases of Covid-19 are going up in many states. It can quickly become overwhelming.

When Swift released Folklore back in July, I wrote about it, making a point of the decision Swift made to embrace her circumstance and be productive with her time. I stand by that, especially now that it appears she was quite productive. 

But I think the better story isn't how much she produced, it's the way she used the time to create a little bit of delight for her fans. Before you write that off as just good marketing, consider for a moment that yes, it is good marketing. That's exactly the point. Swift is an extremely talented marketer in ways we should all consider.

Good marketing is about telling a story and connecting that story to your audience. There is almost no one I can think of who is better at crafting the story of their brand than Swift. 

Much of that brand centers on a mutual affection between Swift and her fans--an affection she is careful to cultivate and never betray. That affection comes from the way Swift tells her story, both in the lyrics of her songs and--maybe more important--in how she presents them to her fans. 

I wrote before that surprise is the best form of delight. I absolutely believe that to be true, and it's one of the most powerful things you can do for your fans and customers. I believe the best stories involve surprise--the kind that delights us with the unexpected. 

That's exactly what Swift has done, twice actually. At a time when most of us consider it a victory to make it through the day without our Zoom freezing in the middle of an important presentation, Swift went above and beyond to give her fans a little bit of delight.