“People are so much smarter than a lot of marketing professionals give them credit for.” – Taylor Swift

Midway through the third and final Atlanta show of “The Eras Tour” at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the sheer magnitude of Taylor Swift’s enormous influence and reach settled. I’d spent the early evening marveling at the costumes, the gamut of ages present and the collective euphoria of everyone in the building.

The stadium attendant sweeping up a pile of multi-colored glitter in the concession area before the opening acts even began made it clear that this was something entirely different from any concert experience I’d ever attended. And then we made it to our seats.

Teenager holding stack of laminated sheets of paper with Taylor Swift song lyrics at concert in AtlantaI’m sure a scene like this one plays out across each stadium every night of this tour —  A young girl in a sequined dress, age 9 or 10, friendship bracelets creeping up her arm with the titles of Taylor’s songs and albums, excitedly grabbing onto her mom as the clock ticked down to showtime. Alternately looking wide-eyed toward the stage, in disbelief at her mother and, of course, singing along. At one point she said something to her mom, who handed over a laminated stack of papers, bound in the top corner with a ring like some swatch set. But it was in fact a stack of Swift’s song lyrics. All the song lyrics! She would study then jump back up in her seat to take it all in. I’m sure the 65,000+ fans throughout the stadium had their own special moments.

One stood out to me.

Midway through the show,  Swift sang “Marjorie,” a lovely, poignant “Folklore” track about her late grandmother whose opera recordings are used in the background. A sea of phone flashlights lit up around the venue, seemingly serenading the 33-year-old artist. In spite of my emotional connection to that track, I was struck by what she and her music clearly mean to so many, MANY people. These fans that broke Ticketmaster or paid exorbitant amounts of money for resell tickets to see this show wanted to make sure Swift felt seen, and loved. During HER show. Something different indeed is happening here. Let’s dive in.

(Note: There are college courses and rivers of ink dedicated to Swift’s music and cultural impact. This fan and marketing professional is not only going to give her credit, but attempt to squelch the admiration for her songwriting and focus in on her marketing reach.)

Taylor and the Marketing Funnel

This blog assumes the reader knows the basics of the marketing funnel. For a refresher, check this out.


It would be easy to skimp on this end of the funnel because of where Swift exists today. Who doesn’t know who Taylor Swift is?!? She arguably is the music industry (and it’s only “arguably” because someone will always argue. After all, it’s the Internet in 2023).

But the root of where she is – and her complete conquering of the bottom of the funnel – has everything to do with this segment of the funnel. You can’t be successful if no one knows who you are. Swift released her self-titled debut in 2006 at age 16. This is the early aughts of social – MySpace, fledgling Facebook. But the way you still got it done then was knocking on doors. Word of mouth. And she did – calling on radio stations, opening shows for whomever it took. Listening and learning. Everything she got was hard earned. Public relations. Events. Showing up. Meeting her fans. She did it all. When she finally released her follow-up over two years later, it debuted at No. 1. The lesson? Pay attention and work to understand your target audience. (This will be a recurring theme.)


Taylor Swift Fan Bracelets

On the surface, this is the hardest part of the funnel to analyze (in this case). On the one hand, Swift makes a lot of great music. She is a gifted songwriter with a knack for vivid storytelling paired with unforgettable melodies and, my personal favorite, killer bridges. On the other hand, all of us relate to music in different ways. I hate to get too first person here, but this is a blog and maybe it helps illustrate what exactly she’s built.

As of this writing, I am 42. I’ve always loved music – lots of different music. I’ve never disliked Swift’s music, but from 2006-2011 or so, she just didn’t make my radar. Certainly I knew who she was and had heard songs, but I just don’t remember much – a few familiar songs I bopped to on the radio, some headlines about a wonderkid, the (first) unfortunate Kanye incident. Though as a young artist she would’ve taken all comers, I was not her core audience as a then 25 to 30-year-old. She and her team understood that.

And then one day in 2014, I heard “Blank Space” in my car. To this day I consider it one of the great pop songs of all time. (I will die on this hill, try me.) The Grammy-winning album that contains it, “1989,” is a pop masterpiece. She had completely transformed herself. Swift didn’t need me to join the party. She had millions of fans before I joined their ranks.

Why? And why did the large majority of them stay as she transitioned genres? Her first three albums were country, the product of a teenager. Other artists have tried switching genres to mixed results. How did Swift make it work? She invited her fans along for the personal and musical growth. They grew up with her. What about the rest of us?

Taylor Swift fan raises hands during concert in AtlantaConversion

Swift is now legendary for having her finger on the pulse of her fans. She seems impressively instinctive, but this is not luck – she’s paid attention, done the homework. She’s been active on social media since the beginning, especially Tumblr, interacting with fans and even inviting some of them for listening parties or special events. She sent cards, Christmas presents. She even showed up for one longtime fan’s engagement party.

Let’s call it what it is – Taylor Swift is one of the original social media influencers. She could’ve just made music, and with her talent, been pretty successful doing just that. But because she put a priority on listening to her fans and working to better understand how they experience her music and her live shows, she’s taken this entire thing to another level. Swift has not only rewarded fans through the music she publishes, but validates their adoration by giving them inside glimpses into something deeper (her famous “Easter eggs”). In turn, they hang on her every word, and they are sharing.

My freshman year of college was the dawn of Napster. The T1 line in my dorm was a dream for this music lover who loved making mixtapes and didn’t understand that we were stealing. It’s on the Internet! It’s free! Ooof. The great crackdown on illegal downloading ensued. The way musicians were able to make a living was changing drastically. The source of revenue shifted to live shows, and suddenly “bootleg” was a dirtier word than ever before. Fast forward to now.

Each night Taylor Swift starts her show, you can find any number of live streams on TikTok. If you do find those, your FYP will inevitably filled with Eras Tour videos. Swift is a fan. Was a fan. Understands what it means to be a fan. Millions of people tried and failed to get tickets to this tour. Instead of excluding them, she’s allowing her fanbase to bring the ones who missed out into the fold. If you’ve been to the show, you know watching these videos isn’t the same. But we watch them anyway and wish we could relive it all over again.


Fans hold up flashlights at Taylor Swift concert in AtlantaIt feels unprecedented, what Taylor Swift is doing – selling out 70K- seat stadiums 2-3 nights a weekend where she not only plays, but performs for over three hours each time she steps on stage. On May 5, 2023, in Nashville, after months of fan anticipation and guessing, she announced her next album, a rerecord (“Taylor’s Version”) of 2010’s “Speak Now.” Presales (not to mention social likes) were already breaking records two days later. Then on May 7, the third and final night of the Nashville stint, she (and her fans) waited out a 4-hour rain and lightning delay, only to have her take the stage around 10:30 p.m., play the entire set (the back half in a deluge) and finish up after 1:30 a.m. It seemed to be a true reflection of the saying, “loyalty is a two-way street.”

It’s something her fans never doubted – that the same woman who spends time scrolling TikTok and liking fan content would absolutely come through as long as it was safe to do so. But it’s these kinds of things that are now turning heads of casual observers. “She did what??” Taylor Swift, age 33, still winning over new fans.


Although I have no idea what the number is, we can be assured that Taylor Swift has an impressive marketing budget worthy of the superstar that she is. What is truly wild is that the actual spend is dwarfed by the value generated by her fervent followers. They are rewarding her for letting them in by letting the world in to their fandom. I’m sure her people know a ballpark figure, but the sheer amount of fan-generated content is hard to quantify. Their campaigns to boost certain tracks, to listen to only rerecords, to celebrate… they feel like they owe it to her.

What can marketing professionals learn from this? First, there is only one Taylor Swift. We are witnessing a generational talent and can only hope to grasp at her Louboutins. There is no sense trying to duplicate.

But if we break it down, Swift teaches everyone with a product or service to listen. To pay attention. To care. To attack everything we do with excellence. And if we can do that, the rest of the pieces will fit into place. All too well.