Lessons in Event Marketing From Taylor Swift

Regardless of whether you’re a Swiftie or a non-believer, as an event marketer, you can learn a lot from the megastar’s wildly successful approach to promoting her music, her shows, and herself.

Author: Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes       

taylor swift on jumbotron in football stadium

Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour sold out three shows at Chicago’s Soldier Field in June 2023. (Elizabeth Doll/PCMA)

event marketing

Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes

You can take a page from Taylor Swift’s marketing approach in your attendee acquisition strategy plan. Here’s how:

Build anticipation — opportunistically, shamelessly, and creatively. In the era of the surprise album drop, Swift is all about creating buzz and building excitement. She used her Grammy acceptance speech as well as social-media teasers and snippets of her music to get fans excited about her upcoming album. She mixes up her methods, ensuring fans never get bored. Similarly, event organizers can tease their audience with short clips, exclusive announcements, or a drip campaign to create buzz and build excitement.

Bring your audience behind the scenes. Surprisingly far into her mega-stardom, Swift was inviting fans to her house for advance listening parties. This behind-the-scenes access gave her fans insight into her process and was an effective sales tactic. Give your prospective attendees sneak peeks, exclusive offers, and other opportunities to be in-the-know on all event-related news.

RELATED: Academic Conferences Tackle the Taylor Swift Phenomenon

Be vulnerable, authentic, accessible. Swift connects with her fans by telling real, personal stories through her music. Share true stories about your event, your organization, and the people involved. When it makes sense, allow your audience to see where you’ve made mistakes and how you’re addressing them.

Embrace nostalgia. Swift’s fans have been referencing her different eras through the outfits they wear to her concerts, even creating a system by which each album has its own color. This evokes emotions they felt when they first listened and can also bring fans physically closer to each other. Event marketers can embrace nostalgia by celebrating milestone years in meaningful ways, creating graphic timeline displays showing the industry’s — and event’s — evolution, and creating museum-like vignettes showcasing vintage technology or products.

Create and nurture a community that extends beyond the event. Swifties are known for their passion, taking Swift’s history of hidden messages, color-coded hints, and symbolic lyrics to create their own language. She feeds off of it, taking the user-generated content fans provide — e.g., friendship bracelets, elaborate theories, and unifying TikTok trends — to amplify her reach around the world. Build community before, during and after your event by ensuring attendees are seen and heard. Give them opportunities to interact with each other, share user-generated content, and employ social-media takeovers and contests.

Reinvent yourself, evolve, change. Swift has always been in control of her narrative — breakups change her, but she has always been in charge of her transformation. She shifts genres to keep fans interested and garner new ones, and her tour is even based on the premise that there have been many eras of her stardom. Keep a finger on the pulse of trends and embrace new initiatives that can enhance your event experiences. Tweak your strategies to meet the ever-changing needs of your audience — grow with them and they’ll keep coming back.

Know What to Do

Two more ways to follow Swift’s lead involve embracing your audience and severing relationships that no longer serve you:

  • Remind those who can’t attend that they still belong with you. In a few cities of her Eras Tour, thousands of Swift fans without tickets showed their devotion by gathering outside of the venues, holding “Taygating” parties. Her concert film brought the tour to fans who couldn’t attend in person — becoming the highest-grossing concert film of all time. Livestreams, virtual sessions, and a robust social-media presence give more people a chance to engage with your content and broaden your reach.
  • Don’t be afraid to break up with those who offer nothing new. Whether walking away from bad boyfriends or greedy managers, Swift knows when it’s time to call it quits. Similarly, event organizers should constantly assess the technologies, resources, and vendors they use to ensure the relationships are mutually beneficial and that the tools are the most efficient and effective for their needs.

Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes is president and chief marketing strategist at mdg, A Freeman Company, a full-service marketing and public relations firm specializing in B2B events.

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