In this guest post, Victoria Mackinlay, chief storyteller at House of Kitch, says brands have a lot to learn from Taylor Swift when it comes to selling their story and messaging…
Storytelling is queen
You may be sick of hearing about ‘storytelling’ – it’s teetering dangerously on the verge of buzzword territory – but you only need to scan over Taylor’s lyrics to understand her brilliance at delivering a message. She uses evocative, colourful language (hello Red) and literary techniques that are clever, memorable and pack an emotional punch. The greatest songwriter of our generation? Don’t ask me – ask Paul McCartney.
Key learning: work on your craft. Read widely, play with language, be clever, be brave. (Maybe even take the new Taylor Swift course at Harvard ;-))
Author Victoria Mackinlay
Volume is important. Regular content keeps your audience engaged (and happy)
Not only a master-crafter, Taylor is also prolific. Few other artists have put out 3 albums in 2 years. In covid lockdown, when many of her peers switched off, she switched up a gear delighting her audience by dropping two surprise albums when they needed them the most. (NB: these albums weren’t drivel. Folklore is considered by many to be her best album).
Key learning: regular content keeps your audience’s attention, but quality still trumps quantity. Note: it’s also OK to take a break – Taytay dropped off the radar for 12 months post her 1989 era.
Which brings us to authenticity – another ‘buzzword’ across content creation. But what does this look like in Taylor’s world? She shares a huge amount of her personal life, relationships, doubts, insecurities and vulnerabilities which make her hugely relatable. Fans frequently comment about how they feel her songs were written for them. An excellent tactic to hook them in and keep them loyal.
Key learning: be vulnerable, but also figure out how much of ‘you’ you’re comfortable sharing with your audience. (Taylor and long-term boyf Joe Alwyn irritated press by keeping their relationship remarkably private). Taylor has dealt with an incredible amount of trolling (which she turned into memorable content in her songs – check out You Need To Calm Down and Shake It Off).
The art of mystery/codebreaking
Another genius hook Taylor uses is the clues and Easter Eggs she plants for her fans – either through the clothes/accessories she wears, in her lyrics or the actual ‘hidden messages’ she shares in lyric booklets. These clues greatly appeal to our human desire to problem solve and code-crack. They delight her fans who love to play super-sleuth and share their theories online (read: create more buzz).
Key learning: with so much content literally ‘spelt out’ for us, or dumbed down, think about appealing to your audience’s intellect to pique their interest. Leave room for them to participate, answer a question or ‘solve a puzzle’.
Masterful audience engagement and participation
Which brings us to Taylor embracing the flow when lyrics or clues she’s dropped take on a life of their own. When she wrote the lyric: “So, make the friendship bracelets, take the moment and taste it,” did she anticipate her fans would cause the ‘great bead shortage’ with the volume of lyric-filled, beaded bracelets they’d make to swap at her concerts? Probably not. But did she join them, wearing her own colourful bands? Absolutely.
Key takeaway: have fun with your audience. Meet them where they’re at. Remember: it’s a two-way conversation.
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