A PASTEL COLOURED COUNTDOWN

“I’m intimidated by the fear of being average.” Taylor Swift

‘Average’ is not a word you’d use to describe how Taylor Swift launches new music. Efforts behind Swift’s latest music launch are worth noting - not only has it been a couple of years since her last album, the singer is notorious for her appeal to the Instagram generation. Before, during and after her new video dropped, Swift moved between Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr and Twitter to interact with fans - sending them into a frenzy.

Her last album launch in 2017 kickstarted with an Instagram-tease in the shape of an image of a snake, to mark the countdown to the release. Before this, Swift attracted her audience’s attention by deleting all the old content on her feed. Swift’s latest 13 day long teaser started with a cryptic countdown clock. This was followed by posts of various (Jojo Siwa-esque) pastel coloured images, captioned simply with ‘4.26.’ Even her red carpet appearance for TIME Magazine, stayed on theme.

Thinkhouse Social Media Manager Sarah Kearns, notes how effective this approach was with Swift’s fanatic fanbase:

“On Instagram, Swift had her own custom AR filter called ‘4.26’ and a series of stickers that her followers could use on their Instagram Stories. This encouraged user-generated-content and mass reach through her followers. She really took her fans on an immersive journey, creating social buzz and hype for the ME! launch date. Her fans were readily tuned in on social on the 26.4. Personally, I loved all the creative that was used throughout the teaser campaign - the fact that it was combined with simple social post copy that just stated the launch date meant it was super effective. Nailing the JTBD!”

While the approach to Instagram stories was highly immersive, Swift is also a big Tumblr fan - perhaps one of the more underrated social platforms. As discussed with TIME, Tumblr is hugely influential for Swift:

It's like a window into what my fans are going through. They post about their lives, they post about what they’re into, what they think is cool, what they think is unjust... It makes me feel like I can know them better."

Inspired by the nature of visual platform like Tumblr, Taylor brought her pastel dream to life with a huge butterfly mural (containing hidden clues) in Nashville - where she stopped by to meet fans. The launch brought pastel tones through every imaginable touchpoint for fans. When the music video finally launched and you streamed through Spotify’s mobile app fans got to see cute, exclusive vertical videos. Behind the scenes YouTube videos also expanded the story behind the visuals for fans.

YOUTH’S TAKE ON TEASER-TACTICS

Teasing has become the norm in modern music marketing (superstar Halsey has blacked out her social media accounts in the last few days), however, not all fans are enthralled by it - for many it comes across as ‘big label’ business, an ‘inauthentic’ marketing ploy to inspire anticipatory (but ultimately vacant) click bait articles. Some, prefer the Beyoncé approach of no warning, surprise drops.

“It’s annoying because it’s not like we don’t know it’s a song. If it was a better surprise it would be fine. It probably does excite the massive fans who can clear their diaries for the day though. There’s too much of a THEME and CONCEPT which screams big record label cash being thrown at projects to try and make something viral and to keep up with things like Lemonade.” Eleanor, 27

However, for many fans, the tease provides a welcome conversation starter, feeding the insatiable hunger for more.

“Some of my favourite artists have used this ‘tease’ approach for new singles and albums recently. When I really like the act, it’s fun. I’d send screenshots back and forth with friends to chat in anticipation about what’s to come. It’s a great way to get excited and get talking about an artist that you really love.” Laura, 28

The video for ME! continued to feed this hunger - ‘Easter Eggs’ (hidden clues) in various scenes not only provided rich talkability for the content when it launched, but it’s also driving conversation (and more entertainment-media headlines) around what’s next.

TAKEAWAYS FROM THE TAYLOR TECHNIQUE

Four techniques used by Taylor for an impactful social media launch include:

  • Playing the long game, with a strong creative theme let’s fans know the artist is switching things up...

“Swift’s been building up to this return all year. On her Instagram, there’s a stark dividing line between the posts of 2018 — the Reputation era, all blood reds and black — and the posts from last Christmas on. The pictures on her Instagram started to get brighter… By March, they were hyper-saturated with bold, blaring pink, and butterflies. Butterflies everywhere.”  Constance Grady, Vox

  • Fan first formulas - direct interaction, providing content for them to personalise - drove a greater spread of anticipation with her audience
  • Countdowns and detail-oriented teasers for what’s next feed her fan’s endless appetite for more Taylor. Even paintings on the walls of scenes in the music video hinted at collaborations in songs to come.
  • Personalisation drove the feeling of closeness with fans. Swift leads a notoriously private life, out of the public eye as much as possible. This means, fans love when they get insights into her life. For example, after dropping the video, she used her social channels to announce that she had adopted the cat featured in it - which provided more content for fans to discover.

Swift has a lot of haters. Pastels and butterflies may be marmite to many. Arguably, she is such a huge star, that this launch could have broken records without bespoke Instagram filters and cryptic personalised countdowns. But, there’s no doubt that for her loyal fans social media truly enhanced the music experience to make it all the more special for them.

BRAND TAKEOUTS

Social Media teasers don’t have to simply take the form of an image or countdown series. They should be created with a specific audience in mind eg. specific superfans, to provide real value and not just be born out of a desire to shout about a launch before it actually happens.

Giving your followers and fans tools to use on their own social media channels can create an interactive and fun experience for them while also promoting your brand or organisation - and creating mass reach.

Behind the scenes footage provides a welcome opportunity to develop stories and further discovery moments with committed fans. When the opportunities arise, it is valuable to capture content that helps you tell the stories behind a broader narrative or moment - sometimes these are the most interesting ones!