Look What You Made Me D̶o̶ Buy: Shopping Swiftonomics

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American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift on the Eras Tour concert at Sofi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, Aug 9 2023
Image: Paolo Villanueva, @itspaolopv, Wikimedia Commons.

By Professor Sarah Montano, Department of Marketing, Birmingham Business School

The excitement is building for Taylor’s Swift’s Eras tour which is arriving in the UK on 7th June. For a Lucky One who has a ticket and for Swifties, Barclays research has shown that the Eras tour will boost the UK economy by nearly a £1bn. Not only will she generate £1bn for the UK economy but with the launch of her recent album The Tortured Poets Department selling 1.5 million copies on the first week and the first album to generate 300 million streams in one day, one thing is clear that fans want to spend!

“Swiftonomics” is a term that demonstrates the value of Taylor Swift’s economic impact. At tour venues, it is predicted that on average concert attendees will spend £78 on merchandise in addition to concert tickets, travel, eating out and other expenditures.

What is it about celebrities that makes us want to part with our money? Swiftonomics analysis of focuses on the overall contribution to GDP via hospitality, but we can delve deeper and look at Swiftonomics from a retail point of view. We explore two angles, firstly celebrity endorsement, why we want to buy what a celebrity is endorsing and experimental marketing.

Celebrity endorsements are nothing new. In fact, even Queen Victoria was a major influencer and was a trend setter for white wedding dresses that still endures today! In more modern times, The Princess of Wales’ Issa engagement dress sold out in moments in October 2010 and the so called “Kate effect” means that items worn by HRH, regularly sell out or brands see a significant uplift in sales.

Any brand using celebrities or even associated with a celebrity means that the product/brand is more likely to catch a customer’s attention. Celebrities influence the meaning of the product/brand with their attributes becoming transferred, we call this celebrity/brand congruence. We are likely to believe that the product claims are true or reliable. We have also recently seen a number of celebrities launch their own brands such as Rhianna and Fenty Beauty. Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop or Huda Beauty founded by Huda Kattan.

If you actually want Taylor Swift’s Style and to feel her Reputation reflected on you, you can pop over to her website and not only buy her music but also a range of hoodies, t-shirts and jewellery (solid jewellery not Paper Rings!). If you have ever found yourself googling what brand of tights Taylor Swift wears, whilst watching the Eras Tour on Disney+, this is the effect of celebrity endorsement, if the tights can outlast an arena, they can handle my commute! And it is not just products – also places can see the celebrity endorsement effect, the Black Dog Pub in Vauxhall has received a significant rise in visitors who want to drink in a place referenced in her new album. In the case of official tour merchandise, it is not just the fact that the products are sanctioned by the artist but that we also want a memory of the event itself, which brings us to experiential marketing.

As the average attendee of the Eras Tour is estimated to be spending £848 on one temporal evening, this means that we like to make sure that we have tangible items to help us remember The Best Day. Brands have moved from being product based to service based and now experience based, we can also talk about the so-called ‘Experience Economy’ where value is derived from not just what we buy but what we do, and how we are transformed by the experiences that we undertake. Also, as we can now buy so many things easily online, customers are looking for more unique experiences and brands use experiential offerings to help distinguish themselves from their competitors. For example, Liberty have launched an immersive Bridgeton experience in their store with the opportunity to spend time in Lady Whistledown’s writing room and a visit to the Modiste’s atelier. Experiences enable us to connect more emotionally with a brand and to create more memorable experiences. That is why people are keen to spend money on experiences such as once-in-a-lifetime holidays, expensive restaurants or one evening of an Eras Tour. It is not just about the financial cost but rather the opportunity to make memories that will last a lifetime and one Eras Tour evening certainly counts as a unique experience.

Therefore, these two elements of celebrity endorsement and experiential memories come together in the predicted impact of Swiftonomics. So in 20 years times when you find your Taylor Swift Cardigan in the back of the wardrobe you will be immediately be transported back to the heady days of 2024 and the memory of a great evening – you will remember it All Too Well and This Is Why you Can can’t  Have Nice Things!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Birmingham.

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