Yes& General

Five Lessons Your Association Can Learn from Taylor Swift


Advice from The Tortured Poets Department to your Marketing Department 


Anticipating the release of Taylor Swift’s new album, The Tortured Poets Department, association brand-builder Logan Murtha (Yes& Senior Creative Strategist) sat down with self-proclaimed Swiftie Caroline Campbell (Yes& Senior Account Executive) to learn more about how the international phenom used marketing fundamentals to build her undeniable brand. Together, Murtha and Campbell uncovered five lessons that can transform your association—right from Taylor Swift. 


  • Murtha, Logan headshot (2)
    Logan Murtha, Senior Creative Strategist
  • Caroline Campbell linkedin photo-1
    Caroline Campbell, Senior Account Executive 


the five lessons we can learn from taylor:

Create a shared identity.
Know who you are and what you do.
Join the conversation.
Show, don't tell.
Find your complement.

Logan Murtha: Thanks for sharing your Taylor Swift expertise with me, Caroline. Let’s start simple: What does it mean to be a “Swiftie?” 


Caroline Campbell: Yes&’s self-proclaimed Professional Fan Girl at your service! At the end of her song “Daylight,” Taylor says, “I don’t want to be defined the things that I hate, or the things I’m afraid of … I just think that you are what you love.” That’s what being a Swiftie means: loving the music and the stories that Taylor has told us for almost two decades. It’s joy, it’s community, it’s connection, and it’s music that moves us to either dance or cry. We've all grown and changed alongside Taylor. I’ve been a Swiftie since I heard “Love Story” in 2008. She's the soundtrack to over half of my life. Sixteen years later, everyone knows I’m a Swiftie. 


Murtha: This reminds me of what I often tell association leaders during a brand refresh: “Be the badge your members want to wear.” What I mean by this is exactly what Taylor has done for her Swifties: a badge unites a group of people and gives them an identity they’re proud to share with others and with the world. It’s more than being a customer or a member; it's true belonging, which is what today’s consumers desire. If you can “be the badge,” your members will become your brand’s biggest advocates. 


Campbell: That’s exactly it! I think it works because Taylor is so true to herself that we all trust her. She meets us where we are, and shows up for us like we show up for her. Over the years, she let us into her personal world—through her social media and an iconic 13-hour meet-and-greet—to build trust.  


Murtha: Say more about that. How did she build that trust with you and all the rest? 


Campbell: One thing about Taylor: she’s a proud Millennial. She used social media very early on to market herself and authentically connect with her fans. She answered fan questions on Tumblr in the Red era; invited fans into her home(s) for pre-release listens in the 1989, Reputation, and Lover eras; and offered financial assistance during COVID-19. I even have a cookie recipe from her! Taylor shares emotions in a way that leads us to see ourselves in her. She’s always been herself and wants us to do the same.  


Murtha: That makes sense—my number one tenet of branding is authenticity. Gen Z especially demands it; their “BS Meter” is more sensitive than any generation prior. They will call you out if they think your brand is acting inauthentically. Knowing who you are (and aren’t) and what you do (and don’t) as an organization is crucial. Once you’ve defined that, you’re able to assess all decisions through that lens: “Does this post reflect what we do? Will their partnership reinforce who we are? Would this new offering support our mission?” 


Campbell: It’s also a key part of how Taylor Swift’s marketing team makes decisions, too. They’re incredibly attuned to what the Swifties are talking about.  


Murtha: How do they stay plugged in to her fans? 


Campbell: Her team, Taylor Nation, is embedded in the fandom. They engage in our discussions (reactions, memes, anticipation) on social media. It’s how we ended up getting the 10-minute version of “All Too Well.” It rarely seems inauthentic. Yes, we all know she’s a business with sales goals, but we willingly participate because we’re made to feel a part of the process.  


Murtha: Oh, you’re talking about social listening! We always encourage our association partners to conduct more social listening. When it comes to engaging your audience, don’t try to start a conversation—join the one they’re already having. You’ll get their attention by meeting them where they’re already engaged. Social listening tools—such as Meltwater, Brandwatch, even Google Alerts—can help you pinpoint how your audiences talk about you, your competition, category, and culture. 


Campbell: It’s also how she behaves when fans aren’t looking. That’s part of why I've been a proud Swiftie for so long (outside of her music getting better and better). She’s a good person at her core, and that has never wavered.  


Murtha: Sounds like she backs her words with actions—do you have any examples?

Campbell: One that comes to mind is how she treats her tour crew. Halfway through its run, The Eras Tour is the most successful concert tour in history. After the U.S. leg concluded, Taylor gave every crew member a “thank you” bonus ($100,000 to everyone in the truck crew, for example). That's incredible! Some of her bandmates have been with her from the start; it’s not just her fans that she treats like family, but everyone who’s a part of her success.

Murtha: That’s great. Whenever we’re writing brand values, we underscore the importance of “show don’t tell.” Yes, we’ll codify the brand’s beliefs in words, but it’s more important that the association and its staff show up every day ready to live out those values in action—especially when supporting a cause. As it relates to DEIAB, follow the “Be > Do > Say” rule. First, be the value internally (i.e., foster belonging for a diverse staff). Second, do the value externally (i.e., support sustainable practices). Third (and no sooner), say what matters to your organization (i.e., “accessibility is non-negotiable for us”). It ties back to our point about authenticity. 

Alright, before we wrap up, I have to ask: What about Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce? Is there anything we can learn about the celeb relationship of the year?

Campbell: Of course! It all started out with a lyric from “You’re on Your Own, Kid,” friendship bracelets, and look at where we are now: NFL viewership is up, with more women watching than ever before—a sport that hasn’t historically felt welcoming to them. Cetaphil even made an ad about this trend’s positive impact on father/daughter relationships. Taylor attending Chiefs’ games made me tune in to football games more enthusiastically than ever. While not all NFL fans share this excitement, they don’t mess with Swifties.

Murtha: I can't help but think about their relationship as a partnership (Swifties, don’t come after me!). In the association space, strategic partnerships can unlock complementary audience segments for both your organization and its partnering brand. Be sure to answer WIIFM (“What’s in it for me?”) for the group you wish to engage. Partnerships serve as another way to reinforce your brand identity while adding value to your current members and reaching new prospects. Think outside the box—I wouldn’t have guessed the power of a pop star and football pro duo until we saw it! Thanks, Caroline, for enlightening us all!

Caroline: As Taylor sings in “Girl at Home,” “...let's consider this lesson learned.”

To sum up the conversation, here are the five lessons your association can learn from Taylor Swift—from The Tortured Poets Department to your marketing department:

  1. Create a shared identity:
    Be the badge your members want to wear.
  2. Know who you are and what you do:
    Be authentic, always.
  3. Join the conversation:
    Use social listening to reveal engagement opportunities.
  4. Show don’t tell:
    “Be” first, “Do” second, “Say” third.
  5. Find your complement:
    Explore audience-expanding partnerships.

Happy album release, Swifties!
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