Swift, it's true, helms a brand more profitable than most companies: At just 25 years old, she earned $64 million in 2014--with her most recent album, 1989, bringing in more than $7 million in sales and counting.
The doe-eyed pop star first made a name for herself as an all-American sweetheart, but now she's rebranding--and embracing her dark side--for an upcoming music video "Bad Blood," which is expected to premiere at Billboard's annual Music Awards on Sunday. Swift has been building up the suspense for the clip by posting teasers across her various social media accounts all week--Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook--which feature different characters to appear in the video. So far, the star-studded cast will allegedly include: Lena Dunham, Kendrick Lamar, Jessica Alba, and, most recently, Cara Delevingne.
Sure, you're not a celebrity--rumored to be exacting revenge on a former friend--but there's still plenty you can learn from how Swift is promoting "Bad Blood." Her most recent post on Instagram clocked 670,000 likes in under seven hours, and the teaser trailer alone accrued 489,000 views in under one week. At least some of that has to do with marketing acumen.
That's according to Libby Turner, an account director at social media and marketing agency Room 214, who spoke to Inc. about what Swift is doing right. Ahead of your next big product launch, and particularly if you're trying to recast an older classic, here are some steps to follow.
1. Create suspense, but do so artfully.
Swift first began promoting "Bad Blood" on May 7, a full 10 days ahead of the video's expected release, by posting an image of herself dubbed "Catastrophe." She's continued to tease her fans by revealing 15 more characters this week, most of whom seem to be within Swift's own circle of friends.
"It's been a really successful endeavor," says Turner, who was enthusiastic to comment: "It's something that we try to communicate to our customers all the time, this element of suspense, getting people intrigued. ... Now as [Swift] is rolling it out, people can't wait to see who's next."
By releasing just the right amount of information without giving everything away, she adds, you're sure to keep customers engaged ahead of a big events like product launches or funding announcements.
Turner adds that there's value in marketing a product that your customers will relate to on a personal level: "Bad Blood" creates a culture where girls want to be a part of that friend set, she says. "It's something that they aspire to see and be a part of."
To better engage with consumers, you should first recognize who they are, and then understand what they're hoping to get out of your product.
2. Forge partnerships to tap into broader markets.
It's significant that Swift is forging partnerships with more unexpected figures, such as Ellen Pompeo and Mariska Hargitay, for instance, who will play the characters "Luna" and "Justice" respectively.
Although Swift has a (very public) admiration for the latter two--she named her cats after characters that they play on television--both Pompeo and Hargitay represent a largely different demographic from the one that Swift typically engages: They're slightly older, for one thing, and their television shows tend to attract more Gen X-ers--Grey's Anatomy premiered in 2005, and Law and Order in 1990.
Businesses also stand to benefit from expanding their friend circles, so to speak. "A lot of brands have related partnerships that they could use," says Turner, citing a recent Valentine's Day special from slow-cooker manufacturer Crockpot and the candle company Yankee Candle. The best part is, you can access your partners' customer base in the process--enabling you to spread the conversation even wider, she says.
It's important to know whom you're marketing to, but it's just as important to tap into adjacent markets if you want to grow your business to scale.
3. Know your timing, and execute accordingly.
The song itself, which came out with 1989 in October 2014, is relatively old in pop culture terms. Part of what makes Swift's marketing strategy so effective, argues Turner, is the fact that she's recasting the clip in a fresh (albeit darker) light: "It's all about finding the new angle to share with people, whether that's something seasonal or a new product feature, some different way that it can relate to a user or customer's life," she says.
Whether you're a seasoned pop star or a CEO of a burgeoning tech company, there's value in repromoting a classic. Just be sure to do it at the right time.
Turner notes that it's important that Swift pegged her video's social media promotion to the awards event: "The timing is really good," she says. "If brands can do it in conjunction with something larger, people are going to be attuned to it."
4. Be careful not to oversell it.
As effective as Swift's strategy has been, there's still the possibility that "Bad Blood" could be a bust. And if you're not a rock star--and therefore not operating on a rock star's budget--it's especially important that you don't oversell your product, and risk leaving customers disappointed.
"I think there is some danger to it if the payout isn't worth the suspense," says Turner. "That's something you have to consider in the engineering of a campaign."
She also adds that for the rest of the world, a week-long marketing ploy is probably too long: Try condensing the suspense into a two- or three-day period.
It will be interesting to see what else Swift reveals in the days ahead of the "Bad Blood" premiere--and whether or not she delivers on her (admittedly massive) promise.