Album releases mean a lot for fans. They can also mean a lot for marketers.
On July 7, Taylor Swift’s long-awaited album Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) will drop in stores and on streaming platforms worldwide. This re-recording comes 13 years after the original record’s release in 2010, and it marks Swift’s third re-recorded album since the master rights to her songs were sold in 2019.
While Swift’s re-recording saga is charting new territory in the music industry (not to mention topping the charts), it’s also grounded in timeless marketing tactics that brands everywhere can imitate. Here are three marketing lessons we can learn from Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) and Swift’s re-recording era:
1. Build suspense
After months of leaving cryptic clues, Swift finally announced the release of Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) on May 5, 2023 while on tour in Nashville. She took to Instagram later that night to tell the rest of the world, elaborating on the legacy of Speak Now and what fans can expect from her version.
That was the last we had heard of the release for an entire month. Then on June 5, one month ahead of the release, Swift revealed the full tracklist on Instagram, including six songs from the vault (more on that later). She surprised fans once again thirteen days before the album release with a sneak peak of the vinyl edition.
Swift’s decision to hint at Speak Now (TV) months in advance, and to stagger the announcements of the release date and tracklist, was a strategic one. By dropping just a few details at a time, she kept her fans’ anticipation piqued while making sure the record remained at the forefront of our collective consciousness.
The lesson: Your brand probably doesn’t have the same devoted following as a global pop star. But whether you’re unveiling a new product line or a redesigned website, you can still build suspense by providing new information gradually. Making one giant announcement will only overwhelm your audience and increase the likelihood that they forget about your new product/service/website between the announcement and the release date. Leaving tiny breadcrumbs, on the other hand, will keep you on your customers’ minds (and keep them coming back for more).
Let’s say you’re preparing to market a new product line, like a golf club. You might start by posting an Instagram photo of just the golf club without the name. Then, you can announce its name and its specs over a short series of press releases or blog posts. You may even post a TikTok or YouTube video demonstrating the golf club in action. Your audience will stay invested, and you’ll be poised for a successful rollout.
2. Mix the old with the new
What makes Swift’s re-recordings special are the “vault tracks,” or the songs that didn’t make the cut on the original record. Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) will feature six vault tracks, two of which are collaborations: ”Castles Crumbling” with Paramore’s Hayley Williams and “Electric Touch” with Fall Out Boy.
With this new twist on her original catalog, Swift is capitalizing on both the power of nostalgia and the allure of novelty. Fans will stream her album and buy up the vinyl editions not only for the songs that soundtracked their childhood, but for the “new” material that until now has never seen the light of day. Better yet, her genre-bending collaborations will attract fans of Paramore and Fall Out Boy who may not be as familiar with her music.
The lesson: You may have been offering the same products and services for years, and there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. However, you can draw in new customers and strengthen the loyalty of current customers by adding a new feature or perk to your existing products.
Maybe you’re looking to re-launch that line of golf clubs. You can keep all the features that customers know and love–like a signature color–while improving on the performance, feel, etc. to further incentivize a purchase. And why not partner with other brands to bring these new features to life and reach an even broader audience? Brand loyalty takes time, and it’s achieved by giving customers both what they already know, and what they didn’t know they needed.
3. Don’t lose sight of your brand identity
An artist’s albums are like product lines: they each have their own distinct identity within the overall brand, from the album artwork to the music production. And while Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) promises to stay true to the aesthetic and sound of its 2010 product line, it also adds a fresh twist to reflect where Swift is today.
For one, the new album artwork closely mirrors the original, from the purple fairy-tale dress to Swift’s tight ringlets (which haven’t been her signature look since the first Speak Now era). However, the more muted 2023 artwork carries an air of maturity; Swift is no longer a twenty-year-old ingénue, but a seasoned artist in her 30s who’s experienced highs and lows in both her personal and professional life.
But the true unique selling proposition of Speak Now is that it’s Swift’s only album to have been entirely self-written. Not surprisingly, the pop star has sole writing credits on the six vault tracks as well, meaning that Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) will retain perhaps the most crucial part of its brand identity: Swift’s lyricism.
The lesson: Your brand shouldn’t look exactly the same five or ten years from now. Over time, you will hone your social media presence, evolve your brand voice and messaging, and expand your brand aesthetic. However, as your brand matures, make sure to stay true to your core identity–the values and qualities that have set you apart from the very beginning. Identify what these qualities are, and let them guide your current and future marketing efforts. Customers are loyal not only to what your brand can do but also to how it makes them feel. So keep growing, but stay true to yourself.
Your brand doesn’t need 265 million Instagram followers or a sold-out concert tour to market like a superstar. If Swift’s re-recordings teach us anything, it’s to get back to the marketing basics: leave your audience wanting more, continue improving your products and services, and stay true to your brand identity. That is a marketing strategy for the eras.