What the Taylor Swift Concert can teach us about branding
A master class
Last weekend I flew down to Atlanta to go to the Taylor Swift Eras Tour with my nieces and sister-in-law. It's ok to be jealous. Especially when I share that my SIL paid face value for these tickets and I didn't have to do anything other than show up. While not an official Swifty, I do love me some Taylor and I was dying to go see this show.
Like most, I didn't even get to try snagging tickets because I never got off the waiting list. But I'm so glad I got to go and it was worth everything we all went through to make it happen. So I'm going to share some of my takeaways from this experience as Taylor and her fans can teach us a lot of lessons about how to master branding.
Trust the experts
When I arrived in Atlanta on Friday night I was promptly informed by my eldest niece how the day would play out. The first item being that we needed to get to the hotel (smartly booked by my sister-in-law) by 2pm in order to have time for lunch and line up at the Mercedes Benz Stadium an hour before doors open. I, of course, thought this was crazy. The concert started at 6:30 for the opening acts, so why do we need to get there 3 hours prior?
But clearly, I'm not an expert. What my niece knew was that lines would form early in the day because people wanted to get inside and snag the coveted concert merch. And unless you wanted to maybe miss out or be on that line for hours, you go early.
While we ended up waiting on line for about 45 minutes (which wrapped around the stadium and into the parking garage), within 15 minutes of doors open we were inside. I could have argued all day, but I had no background from which to base my argument on. In other words, I needed to trust the experts, the fans for whom this wasn't their first rodeo.
Be generous and network
Apparently a huge component of any Taylor Swift concert is the exchange of friendship bracelets. Swifties spend hours making these bracelets which include song titles, references, inside jokes and acronyms, and which are meant to be traded at the show. We had about 30 or so between the four of us (I even made a Welcome to NY one, a nod to a song on her 1989 album) and came to the show with our arm candy ready to exchange.
How it works is you see someone else wearing bracelets, walk up to them and ask if they want to swap. Then they pick which one they want from you, you from them and everyone's happy. It's a completely selfless act and one that makes everyone smile and creates community, as you now have this shared experience. The same could be said for sharing your expertise. Give it without expecting anything in return, other than a smile and a shared connection.
Listen to the market (and do your research)
You don't just show up wearing anything you want to a Taylor Swift concert, especially not this one, which covered every era of albums she's ever recorded. Every fan picks an outfit that symbolizes either an album or a song (unless they're wearing concert merch). There were sequins for days (myself included)! Not to mention beading, bedazzling, hair jewelry, face jewelry, temporary tattoos (Taylor's favorite number, like mine, is 13) and of course cowboy boots (a throwback to her country roots). I was told by my niece that I'd need to pick an era, so like any good 80's kid, I chose 1989. My sister-in-law was Reputation, my eldest niece was Bejeweled, a song from Taylor's recent Midnights album, and my youngest niece was Red. I spent hours on Google searching for "Eras outfits" and then ordering various sequins pants and iridescent skirts. I did my research to see what I could expect and to make sure that I belonged. And I'm glad I did, because everyone, and I mean everyone, came to play! I would have looked like I had no clue if I showed up in normal clothes.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard that this concert is well over 3 hours. Because two of her albums were released during COVID, Taylor hasn't played them live. And she hasn't toured in over 4 years. So she wanted to do something special for her fans. And boy did she ever.
Not only did she go on before 8pm (unheard of for any headliner), she played until well past 11:15 and with minimal time off stage, save for quick — and I mean quick — costume changes. This wasn't your normal 10 minute break where the band jams. This was duck under the stage, throw on a new outfit and come back out.
And the sets and staging were NEXT level. So creative. So stunning and just exceptionally executed. Taylor is a pro and beyond. Walking and owning the stage. Talking and ad libbing when needed during some sound issues and just giving everyone their money's worth and then some.
For all the Ticketmaster headaches, she made sure that everyone would say this was worth it. And it was. This is how you build fans. You give them more than they expect and more than they could ask for. You reward them for their loyalty. You wow them and keep them talking about you for days (or even writing newsletters about you).
As a 51-year old, I could have felt embarrassed to embrace my inner Swifty and dress up. I could have been the problem. But I decided to shake off the self-criticism, feel like l'm 22 and simply be enchanted by the night and the show as a whole. I decided to be fearless, have the best day and the result is something I will remember all too well, for ever and ever and always. And these are lessons we can all apply to our brand so our customers stay, stay, stay.