Taylor Takes All: How Swift’s Video Strategy is Winning Her Everything

4 minute read

As hyperbolic as that headline may sound, Miss Taylor Swift is successfully pulling off a genre switcheroo several years into her career, a difficult feat for most musicians. Along with conquering her transition like a boss, her album, 1989, reached Platinum status in one week. ONE WEEK, and 647,000 were physical copies – over half of all sales. Swift, previously of the pop-country world, has released two videos from the album thus far: “Shake It Off,” was  released August 18th, and “Blank Space,” which debuted November 10th. “Shake It Off” is currently at 254.9 million views on her Vevo YouTube page, and “Blank Space,” which again debuted yesterday, is at 9.7 million views already. The girl is a bona fide superstar, due largely (I believe) to her video strategy.

A brief history of music video in the Aughts

As the music industry began to unravel following the digital revolution, music video outlets  turned creators away in favor of raunchy reality shows like Real World. SocialTimes calls these years prior to the advent of YouTube (2000 to 2005), “the dark years of music video,” and indeed it was. The entire industry was unprepared for the massive changes, and took several years to get a grasp on how to harness the power of the digital era, rather than fight it.

Music video countdown show Total Request Live hung in there until 2008, and pop stars had to rely more heavily on their live shows, making more of a spectacle of their music. Fast forward to 2010, when Lady Gaga became the first artist to reach 1 billion views on YouTube, and the art of the music video saw an upswing. Since then, few artists have fully benefited from the format – Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, and the like have leveraged their videos into superstardom, and smaller acts still struggle to create videos that make a dent in their marketing.

Taylor Takes All: How Swift's Video Strategy is Winning Her Everything I North by Northwest Boise

Queen Bey & Weird Al

When Beyonce released her surprise self-titled in 2013, she double-surprised everyone with a music video for each track on the album. The visual content sent the internet/world into a spiral of streaming/downloading/posting/creating tribute videos…basically, everyone flipped out. The visual side of the album release turned it into an event, and Bey was well-rewarded with Double Platinum status in the USA.

To a lesser extent, Weird Al Yankovic pulled a similar and just as interesting experiment in 2014 with his #8videos8days release of, well, 8 music videos in 8 days, through 8 different online media outlets in support of his album, Mandatory Fun. The album sold 104,000 copies, more than Weird Al had ever sold. The comedic parody videos became buzzy quickly, and turned Weird Al from a silly dude who peaked in the early 90’s, to a relevant and hashtag-able topic.


They’re just like real people

To blanket our society into a generalization, we crave “getting to know” celebrities more than ever. We’re used to feeling as though we could be friends with celebs who show up on reality shows. For today’s pop stars, music videos are an outlet to let fans get to know their personalities. Lady Gaga put her art education to use in her videos, and Taylor reiterates her image of being quirky, awkward, fun, and relatable. Her video for first single “Shake It Off” gives you a glimpse into the heart and soul of Swift’s magnetic je ne sais quoi.

Music snobs like me never cared about Taylor Swift

The day 1989 was released, my Facebook feed blew up with pictures of friends holding her album…even friends I had no idea listened to pop music. It turned New Release Tuesday into an event again, and the album pic a trophy. Each time her videos were released, my news feed again became a Taylor-fest, especially when this exercise video surfaced.

I think I never would have listened to her music if it weren’t for the videos being everywhere (and the trophy pics). I started to feel as though I was missing out on something culturally significant (FOMO), so I watched her videos. And to tell the embarrassing truth (please don’t pry my music cred from my hands), I enjoyed both the videos and the songs. The spell of her girl-next-door charisma, charm, and self-aware dorkiness came through in a way I never would have seen or paid attention to whatsoever. Although I would probably hide it from my husband, for fear of being ridiculed (FOBR), I for a brief minute contemplated purchasing the physical album so that I may indulge in its poppiness as often as I’d like.


I believe her videos yanked me all the way through the modern-day musician’s sales funnel into nearly buying her album, and I haven’t purchased a CD since 2005. It’s hard to imagine her having pulled off quite a feat without the video component of her all-over killer marketing strategy with this release. The music videos were just one aspect that utilized video. Her team expertly used brand affiliations and pre-roll ads to compose a Taylor blanket around each and every one of us. Kudos to Swift and her label’s talented marketing team!

(Image via, via)


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About the Author

Stephanie Norell is the Marketing Director for North by Northwest’s Boise office. She loves horror movies and Pinterest, adores the classic film Xanadu, and “enjoys” disseminating her thoughts for trolls to discuss online.


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