A Lyrical Sermon

The Sacred Influencer Marketing Teachings of the T. Swift Songbook

Annika Lange
February 9, 2024
Updated Mar 08, 2024

If you’re on the Internet—or planet Earth, for that matter—it has become nearly impossible to avoid Taylor Swift.

In 2023 alone, Swift has broken so many records that it appears the only one left might be the “Number of Records Broken by A Single Person in A Year,” which she probably also has in the bag.

This is why we cannot reasonably endeavor to hold discourse on the topic of influence without looking to the most-googled person of 2023. Yet you might be thinking, “What can a pop star teach us about influencer marketing?”

The answer is: a lot. Swift’s team didn’t return my request for an interview, but thankfully, we have her on the record 237 times in a deep scriptural archive of her own making. (For the uninitiated, that’s the number of songs she’s written. And, FWIW, Rolling Stone did dub Taylor Swift as one of the best songwriters of all time.)

Full journalistic disclosure:

I think about Taylor Swift more than most of my life choices. I am an avid Swiftie and cannot write the following without some bias and insider knowledge. But before you accuse me of reading too much into her verse, as Taylor Swift herself once wrote, “I swear,  I'm only cryptic and Machiavellian 'cause I care!” Same, Taylor. Same.

If you fail to plan, you plan
to fail; strategy sets the scene for the tale.
“Mastermind,” Midnights

Whether you’re a pop star or a pop tart, the general rule stands: a solid strategy must be the basis of all your work. To be effective, your influencer strategy has to include multiple modalities that include trusted tactics as well as test runs on new ones. A well-planned strategy will be the “wind in your free-flowing sails and the liquor in your cocktail.” (That’s a little bonus lyric for you. I’ll continue to sprinkle them throughout for your edification.)

Cancel plans just in case
you call, and say ‘meet me behind the mall.’
“august,” folklore

Despite the widely-predicted death knell, the pandemic was not, in fact, the final nail in the coffin of America’s malls. Like Taylor, the Mall said, “Honey, I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time.”

In 2022, traffic at top-tier malls was 12% higher than 2019 pre-pandemic levels. This gives marketers a clear insight: consumers crave community, shopping as an IRL experience, and in-store product availability. As you map out future campaigns, driving foot traffic to pop-ups and other brick-and-mortars that offer in-person discovery should be central to the promotion strategy. We don’t just want to see influencers’ homes and cabinets; we also want to see them interacting with the real world and evaluating shopping as an experience—not just reviewing products shipped to their doorstep.

Don’t you worry your pretty little mind, people throw rocks at things that shine.
“Ours,” Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)

Say it in the street that’s a knock-out, but you say it in a tweet that’s a cop out.
“You Need To Calm Down,” Lover

#3 and #4 go hand-in-hand: whether you’re a creator or a brand, if you have a public presence, someone will start digging to find something wrong if you’re doing something right. Keyboard Warriors are way overdue to go out of style, and yet . . . here we are. “Haters gonna hate!” is so overused it’s been rendered meaningless. Unfortunately, it rings true when we all know someone can’t even show off a new tablecloth on TikTok without at least one commenter asking whether they denounce the global impact of the cotton industry.

I urge you to turn to Taylor for wisdom in your darkest online hours, who uses words to write hits over those who hide behind them. In 2016, #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty was trending for days. In 2017, she returned to break not one but four world records when her lead single “Look What You Made Me Do,” along with its music video, swept streaming records across Spotify, YouTube, and VEVO.

You, too, shall rise from the ashes—“and that’s a real fucking legacy to leave!”

Don’t you know that cash ain’t the only price?
“Karma,” Midnights

This admittedly sounds rich (lol) coming from a newly minted billionaire, but the Way of Taylor is complex and layered. In this case, the lesson is that there are social currencies in the influencer industry that are hard to put a price on. Trust, attention, and loyalty—to name a few—are all invaluable and somewhat immeasurable metrics. Whether you’re a brand or an influencer, you should approach building these foundations with the same type of intense dedication Taylor has when structuring a song bridge.

Never be so kind you forget to be clever. Never be so clever, you forget to be kind.
“Marjorie,” evermore

Speaking of non-monetary currencies—if you want to succeed in influencer marketing, don't underestimate the value of kindness. This is a human business, and you may be great at what you do, but being a not-so-great person (or brand partner) will dry your influence up faster than the value of her masters did after she re-recorded her albums in order to regain complete ownership of her works. Ultimately, clever content or strategy can only get you so far in influencer marketing if you’re not a good partner to work with. (Cough cough Scooter Braun.)

Are you really gonna talk about timing in times like these?
“Renegade feat. Taylor Swift,” with Big Red Machine

That’s a rhetorical question, because yes. Yes, we are talking about timing in times like these. Posting content during difficult social climates is a constant subject of discussion here at Fohr. For us, it comes down to setting expectations and effective communication between brand and influencer partners. The vast majority of the time, both parties are likely to feel that a crisis isn’t the right time for previously planned sponsored content. The way to get through it? Talking about it and offering extensions, alternative deliverables, and other contingency plans that work for both partners. Continuing with regularly scheduled content can often come across as out-of-touch and, ultimately, be detrimental overall.

Are we only biding time 'til I lose your attention? And someone else lights up the room? People love
an ingénue.
“Nothing New feat. Phoebe Bridgers,” RED (Taylor’s Version)

There’s nothing as in demand yet out-of-stock as attention. If we’ve learned anything in the first decade of the influencer industry, it’s that there’s always a “next big thing.” There will always be a new platform, “disruptor” brand, or up-and-coming influencer. And while people do love a stereotypical ingénue, the most beautiful thing about the influencer industry is that it has become a space where so many different types of people are invited to “light up the room.” We’re working with thousands of influencers and creators of all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life—and when pitching to our brand clients, we always work to make sure everyone has an equal chance to catch their attention.

I'm still on that tightrope, I'm still trying everything to get you laughing at me.
“mirrorball,” folklore

Mirrorballs are important symbols in the Taylor Swift scriptural multiverse. As objects that reflect light, mirrorballs have become a metaphor for having to always be “on'' while also being different things to different people. Brands and creators alike have to walk the tightrope of adapting to the ever-changing needs of their audiences—they have to know when it’s time to entertain and when it’s time to inspire or educate.

As our collective attention span grows shorter, at Fohr, we’re finding that the key to successful content is to entertain first and then move deeper. Start with what grabs attention; then, you can proceed to content that is inspiring or educational.

And if I can’t relate to you, then who am I related to?
“Coney Island,” folklore

Some might argue (and by some, I mean me) that the core of Taylor’s lyrical success lies in her relatability. While her fans can’t relate to her private jet, her boyfriend, or her whole life, really, we can relate to her humanity—after all, we’ve all been “drunk in the back of a car, crying like a baby coming home from the bar.”

The importance of authenticity and relatability stands whether you’re Taylor Swift or Taylor promoting Swiffer—for the relationship to be relevant (and relatable), it needs to be real. And while brand love may not be enough of a strategy on its own, it’s still a starting point for strong influencer marketing.

Oh, and never be afraid of doing something different, dare to be something more.
“Invisible,” Taylor Swift

Familiarity breeds contempt, don’t put me in the basement when I want the penthouse of your heart.
“Bejeweled,” Midnights

Taylor’s genre-jumping and professional shape-shifting through different eras of her life is the green light we all need to leave our own lanes once in a while. Audiences grow up with and alongside the brands and influencers they follow, so taking a creative risk while still speaking the language your audience understands might just be your country-music-to-super-pop-stardom moment. And if it’s not? Well…“if you never bleed, you’re never gonna grow.”

This is the golden age of something good and right
and real.
“State of Grace,” RED (Taylor’s Version)

In the influencer marketing industry, clients often ask us if it’s too late to start. Take it from Taylor, who’s 17 years into her career and still setting bigger records than ever—it’s never too late. Influencer marketing continues to grow at an astonishing rate, predicted to reach $92B of marketing spend by 2030. So whether you’re a creative on the fence or a brand still debating your budget, “I got a blank space baby—and I’ll write your name!”

“Long Live all the mountains we moved, I had the time of my life fighting dragons with you,” says Fohr Senior Account Manager Annika Lange, of her 8 years as an influencer marketing professional. (Another TSwift lyric, in case that wasn’t clear.) Anni cordially invites you to dive deeper into the Swiftian Galaxy Vault, and you can reach her anytime at anni@fohr.co.

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