Taylor Swift vs. Apple – or what happens when a brand finally listens

Taylor Swift
Photo: Dean Hochman

People’s trust in retailers has had to survive some painful blows in the past few years. Absurd standardisations, packaging and waste madness have been increasingly condemned in the media, who blame the ambitions of traders. The principle of planned obsolescence is public knowledge and has had a negative impact on expectations for product quality.

Work conditions and pay, especially in the logistics sector, are perennial media favorites. On top of this, there are the data privacy scandals and a general mistrust of what happens with personal data online, while data hunger is increasing.

The result: customers feel powerless and that they’re at the mercy of big companies.

So… what does that all have to do with Taylor Swift?

Customers’ trust is harder to gain than ever. New ways of dealing with critique have to be found.

Get fans instead of customers

In a globally competitive field, it is increasingly about turning customers into regulars. But a bit of rethinking is needed for this.

It’s not about generating huge amounts of traffic and directing it towards a purchase as quickly as possible anymore. Instead, you have to create a connection with sophisticated mobile customers. This is exactly what you need data for. Otherwise it is not possible to serve a mass market in a targeted and personalised way.

But apart from tailored marketing, there are other ways to make a good impression with customers. The aim should be to turn these customers into long-term fans.

Follow-up with deeds not words

It’s all about building up long-term relationships. Classic marketing is becoming more and more of a deterannt and leads to mistrust.

» »Marketing doesn’t work anymore.«

Philip Kotler, economist and professor for marketing at the Kellogg School of Management «

Instead, it’s all about demonstrating openness. Customers who are used to finding out everything online have a lot of questions: where do the products come from? Is it possible to replace individual parts? Are the staff paid fairly? Are there any alternatives to the toxic chemicals used in production? Can you return the product to the manufacturer for disposal?

Companies are guilty of not answering these questions far too often.

The case of Taylor Swift

Clear answers make a much better impression than the standard PR promises. Just this week, Apple’s immediate reaction to Taylor Swift’s demands that artists be paid during iMusic’s three month free trial, caused waves.



Even if the media portrayed the story as a fight between the singer and Apple, you shouldn’t forget that she sees herself as being more like her fans, or representative for other artists. It is not about Taylor Swift filling her pockets, but about getting a company to listen and act.

» This is not about me. Thankfully I am on my fifth album and can support myself, my band, crew, and entire management team by playing live shows. This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success. «

Everyone wins in the end, even Apple: the technology company is now (in contrast to what customers are used to from the likes of Apple, Amazon etc) fairer and more agile than before.

Instead of reacting like a ponderous large company, they reacted as quickly as an individual. The fact that the new iMusic Platform was problematised by the most popular pop singer in the USA definately had something to do with this change of heart.

Conclusion: new ways to get close to customers

The digital customers are networked and always have the next piece of information they need to hand. If you want to bond with them and stand out from the competition, you need a new approach. Of course you have to visibly fulfill your brand promise, otherwise there is no chance of creating authenticity and culpability.

The first brands are currently getting attention through unusual measures. The strategies all have one thing in common: it’s about keeping the brand promise and creating a direct link to the customer.

There’s a good chance that we will soon hear more stories à la Taylor vs. Apple.

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