Working it like Taylor Swift
20 November 2014
Frances Keyton, guest contributor
Get to the chorus and take risks – these were some key learnings I took from the Festival of Marketing which took place at Tobacco Dock in London last week. From Kate Bush to Taylor Swift, Sticky Content founder Catherine Toole took us on a whirlwind tour of the key strategies that work for both brands and musicians.
Taylor Swift is renowned for connecting with her fans. She tweets them, crashes their parties, and has 13,613,830 Instagram followers. Through her songs, argues Toole, she applies a very clever editorial strategy. Her lyrics encourage young people to relate to and believe in her. For example, her latest single Shake it Off features the line: My ex man brought his new girlfriend, she’s like ‘Oh my God’ and I’m like ‘shake it off’. You may be thinking, ‘That’s great, but Taylor gets to talk about love and sex – we have to talk about our products!’ However, Toole referred to the recent Unitrends piece: 5 Ways Disaster Recovery is Like Jack Bauer, which likens a dry subject to a popular TV figure. In B2B marketing, it IS possible to generate empathy.
Know your niche
Our next lesson came from prolific rock band U2. We all remember the cries of outrage when U2’s new album automatically appeared in our iTunes. Bono’s response to the mayhem was that U2 albums hadn’t been selling as well as in the old days, because they had moved away from what they were best known for musically. Gosh – I never thought I’d feel sorry for Bono.
And so this latest album, Bono said, was a return to their iconic style and they wanted everyone to know. Toole commented that U2’s return to their original genre was an example of knowing their niche. She compared it to a small swimming pool company in America (River Pools and Spas) that wanted to get into content marketing. They wrote a piece entitled 5 reasons why Tarp Pool covers are a terrible investment; a small piece with stunning results. It earned them 211,000 page views and $2 million in sales. This was because they knew what they were talking about – it was a very niche topic but they knew their niche inside out.
Get to the chorus
“Does anyone know who this band is?” enquired Toole hopefully, presenting us with a picture. One feeble hand went up: “Roxette.” Toole, clearly a Roxette fan, was delighted. The 80’s Swedish pop-rock duo achieved over 60 million album sales, with their greatest hits album entitled Don’t Bore us, Get to the Chorus: an important lesson in marketing. You have to get to the point to engage your audience quickly. Toole referred us to the Donkey Sanctuary website which presents the slogan: Please help donkeys in distress. We do. This simple message, next to a picture of a forlorn donkey says it all. Just like Roxette, it gets to the chorus.
The message for marketers everywhere from the session: somewhere out there is your Number 1 single. Somewhere out there is your very own Gangnam Style. The song that never should have left the bedroom but somehow did. 10% of Coca Cola’s 2020 content strategy is ‘High Risk’, and we could all deal in a little ‘risky business’ ourselves, said Toole.
It worked for Kate Bush, who recently sold out her largest tour in 15 minutes. Bush’s risky concept of prancing around in a nightie singing about a 19th century novel never should have worked. But it did. Again you may be thinking ‘That’s all very well, but I’m not Kate Bush, I’m a marketer’. But you don’t need to be a pop star to be creative.
Take Cisco Systems, which specialises in IT networking equipment. Cut to February 13th 2013, when a special Valentine’s video appears on Cisco’s YouTube channel. Cisco did something spectacular; they made B2B marketing exciting and funny. Their gift, a retro video exploring the ultimate expression of true love, finishes with their new product – the Cisco ASR 9000. And thus, by taking a risk, IT marketers released their very own Gangnam Style.
If you know your niche and can get to the chorus, then you can create your own Taylor Swift/Gangnam Style/Roxette moment for your brand. Cisco did it. What will yours be?
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