Taylor Swift Just Proved Her Marketing Genius Once Again–and Brands From Starbucks to Sour Patch Kids Want Her Stardust

Last Friday, Taylor Swift’s “new” album Red (Taylor’s Version) set a Spotify record for most streams by a female artist (90.8 million) in a single day — even though the original version of Taylor Swift’s Red album was released in 2012. (Inc. colleague Justin Bariso recaps Swift’s decision nicely.) 

For one thing, Swift’s legion of loyal fans are clearly eager to not just listen to her music. Countless fans have a parasocial relationship — an emotional attachment to a person who does not know them — with Swift. They want to help her. They want to support her in her ongoing battle to reclaim what she says was “stripped” from her. 

Streaming Red (Taylor’s Version) is both a financial and symbolic f-you to the people who now own the masters to the original Red album.

But that’s only part of the story. A number of brands saw the album’s release as a news and cultural hook they could attach to and leverage. 

Like Sour Patch Kids, who are clearly Team Taylor and not Team Jake.

And Starbucks, whose customers could order a “Taylor’s Latte.”

And Panera, who turned the lyric “loving you was read” into “loving you was bread.”

If you’re Taylor Swift, an incredible flywheel of social media buzz and virtual word-of-mouth that drives purchases and streams… that in turn drive more social media buzz.

Unfortunately, most brands — much less most small businesses — aren’t Taylor Swift.

But you can work to attach brand to social events.

In this case, the Swift social media landscape is incredibly crowded. People who want to be big sometimes think, “I have to immediately reach the largest possible audience.” Yet there’s a paradox to scale: The bigger the potential audience, the tougher that audience is to access, especially when you’re small.

Instead, convert lessons from the Swift phenomenon to your scale. Look for news or events or social trends that are “big” for your customers. If you sell running gear, tap into the heightened interest that surrounds the NYC and Boston marathons. If you sell cycling gear, tap into the heightened interest that surrounds the Tour de France.

Feel free to take an occasional shot at connecting with, as in this case, Swift fans… but work even harder to leverage news or events or trends to connect with your brand’s audience.

The more natural, organic, and authentic the connection, the better.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.