In today’s recording industry, even the most popular stars have been forced to adjust, even those rare and steady sources of platinum records. Indeed, Taylor Swift’s recent changes not only address her audience but the manner in which they are consuming her brand today and for the forseeable future. First, her persona has changed. If on 2006’s Fearless Swift was a decidedly wide-eyed high school innocent who lived for first kisses, her latest record, Red, exhibits moments of cynicism, derides her exes and pokes fun at herself for being a bit of a dork, albeit one that is 22, has a job and a nightlife. But it's how this finance investor’s daughter’s label has distributed her latest release that reminds her fans that Swift is decidedly career-oriented.
Part of this has been to make certain that Swift’s brand remains physically ubiquitous even as national record chains have shuttered. By the time Red was released last October, Swift’s label, Big Machine, had scored deals with a number of chains to place her CD. However, those deals with Papa Johns, the nation’s 3rd largest pizza purveyor, and Walgreens, the largest drug store in the US, were unique. Throughout fall 2012, Papa John customers could purchase a “Taylor Swift pizza party” and receive the CD, a pie, and a Taylor Swift pizza box for $22 (Wyland 2012). Swift’s CD is also available at Walgreens along with her merchandise. The drug store provides prominent and easy access to a broad range of her merchandise such as Taylor Swift spiral notebooks, T-shirts, posters, journals, cell phone cases, and blankets. In one sense her brand dovetails with Walgreens’ recent efforts to rebrand their generic goods as part of the “Nice!” line. As Forbes noted, ““Nice” is also an apt description of Taylor Swift” (Galli 2012). It’s unclear if Swift’s fans will be buying CDs or even downloading music in ten years, but no doubt they will continue to buy pizzas and get prescription drugs and visit other places where Taylor Swift will continue to be sold.
Galli, L. (2012) "Taylor Swift And Walgreens Make A Nice Pair." Forbes.
Wyland, S. (2012). "Taylor Swift & Papa John’s to Bring Fans Pizza & Red." GAC News & Notes.
Thanks for the post, Tim. Could Swift's ubiquity -- at least in terms of her becoming visible despite the closing of record stores -- have also to do with her fans growing with her and having the disposable income to, say, buy a pizza or shop at Walgreens without having to rely on parents/guardians? You bring up a very interesting analogy; the cynicism (I see it as her world-weariness, although it feels odd to say that about a 22-year-old) of Red is equated with shopping at a major drug store and getting take-out pizza. Which says something deeply sad about maturity/adulthood.
Great post, Tim. I'm also struck by the ways in which Swift's image is increasingly morphing to the "not nice" (See, for example, the video for "Trouble") even as more traditional marketing avenues attempt to re-root it in the "niceness" of yore. Your post underlines how polysemic star images remain, especially when it comes to exploiting those images for profit.
importance of selling actual CDs
Tim, I'm so glad you are writing for this week so I can ask you a question I've been wondering about for two semesters. I am interested in the idea that proximity continue to matter, so my question may be relevant. When discussing the Papa John's deal with my Advertising class, we tried to understand how this deal made sense based on the economics of the industry. One student suggested that physical album sales continue to drive measures of popularity (i.e. Platinum records). Is that true, and if so, is this another reason brick-and-mortar stores still play a crucial role in today's music industry? The absence of "Red" on Spotify is perhaps related as well, with the queen of young country/pop ironically reinforcing traditional business structures? Thanks for a great post.
I'm glad you've highlighted these two campaigns, Tim, as they were respectively the campaign I saw the most of (there's a Walgreen's right by my office) and the campaign that seemed the most novel (I was disappointed not to find any Taylor Swift pizza boxes being sold on eBay when I checked a moment ago). I did want to bring her Target campaign into the conversation, though, in part because Target has seemed to aggressively pursue exclusive content from artists in an effort to boost physical album sales and store traffic. I also noticed that they used last night's Grammys to relaunch their Red ad campaign—which uses the title track—timed to a special deal on the album in stores this week. I'm wondering how you felt the Target connection, and its specific ties to "bonus content" rather than simply brand association, fits within the selling of Swift in these instances.
Great post, Tim. Do you think this drive to make Swift's music ubiquitous is in any way de-humanizing in its efforts to sell more records, or is it down to doing whatever it takes to stay afloat financially? Do you think there's a clear divide between "Taylor Swift, the person" and "Taylor Swift, the pop culture icon"? It seems this campaign is built on Swift's dorkiness, but I'm hesitant to say that her dorkiness is the primary perception people have.
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