Taylor Swift Demonstrates Why Generosity Is So Important For Brands

As part of my wife’s birthday weekend, I took her to see the Taylor Swift film.

What a spectacle! Over 70,000 screaming fans jammed into SoFi Stadium having the time of their lives. Music, dancers, lasers, holograms, amazing computer graphics! It all added up to sheer joy, which was a delight to watch.

While many paid obscene prices paid for these tickets, one could argue that they got their money’s worth.

Swift gave what can only be called a generous performance. Yes, it was self-celebration and she wasn’t shy about milking applause, but she did not make the concert all about her. Multiple times throughout the evening, she went out of her way to acknowledge and appreciate her audience. “I love you” was the refrain. Even as she and her cast were taking their bows, she said “every one of my fantastic dancers loves you so much!”

We use the bland term “consumer centric” to describe this in marketing. But Swift’s affection was genuine and transcendent. She’ll likely become a billionaire in the near future, and she’s been proven to juice the economies of every city she visits.

But it was apparent to me that she’s not just in it for the money. She was there to send her fans into a state of ecstasy, and she delivered with passion and the physical stamina of an ultra-marathoner. Swift understands that her fans make her what she is, and it was clear that the SoFi audience was like a member of her band, singing along and roaring with excitement when she called on them.

I couldn’t help thinking about another musical act that occupied the polar opposite point on the entertainment spectrum.

The Grateful Dead were never about spectacle. They came out in t-shirts and jeans and had no costume changes. There were no dancers, back-up singers, computer graphics or special effects. Just hours of music that ranged from Americana to spaced-out jamming.

However, they were very like Swift in that the band was overly generous and lived for their fans. They started their own ticketing service to prevent or discourage scalping. Understanding that their live performances, not their studio recordings were their strength, they allowed fans to tape their concerts and share the recordings. This was unheard of in the days when success in the music business was all about selling records and drove their label crazy.

There are all kinds of bands and all kinds of brands. It doesn’t really matter what business you’re in. Of course, the first and most critical step, one that is out of reach for most and difficult for all, is to make sure you’re offering is both unique and great. Easier said than done.

Regardless, brands would do well to emulate Swift’s passion for her art and deep appreciation for their fans. In an era where stockholders and C-suites are demanding their employees to do more with less, cutting budgets wherever possible to achieve profits, Swift’s example points in the opposite direction.

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