We’ve all heard of the “Taylor Swift” effect, but in 2023, the notion has come to life in an almost cartoon-like way. From cancelled exes to egg shortages (yes, really), the Swift machine has once again driven culture, conversation, and, most importantly, sales.
For example - according to Forbes, after Swift was spotted at one of Travis Kelce’s NFL games on September 24th, there was a reported 400% increase in jersey sales. He gained over 350K new followers overnight, and Kelce’s podcast, New Heights, shot to number 1 in the Apple podcast charts.
She and her team have become the most powerful marketing force of this generation. The secret to her success?
For as long as there have been celebrities, there have been fandoms – think screaming fans of the Spice Girls across the globe in the ‘90s and beyond. But what Posh Spice didn’t have back in the day was an immediate, live and direct platform for the millions of followers who loved her, hated her, and everything in between.
The digital age has made it much easier to be a super fan. You can connect with your favourite celebrities as easily as you can connect with the friends you see on a daily basis, and not just that – you get to know their coffee order, their favourite song, what hotels they stay at and even what they’re binging on Netflix.
On the topic of binging, in 2016, binge-watching was well and truly a cultural phenomenon. In January of that year, Netflix accounted for 37.1% of traffic in North America. Later that year, in July, Stranger Things Season 1 dropped on the platform, quickly cultivating a massive fanbase. This fandom has propelled the show through five seasons and blasted all the actors to new heights in their careers. The show has inspired Halloween costumes, cosplay panels and more. Similarly, the streaming platform Hayu has brought together a massive fandom for The Real Housewives. These fans are loyal and will never miss an episode.
Consumer-facing brands also have fandoms; think GymShark, Apple, or Glossier. These brands have worked to create a consumer community through consistent engagement and deep connections – plus a feeling that by buying into the brand, you gain access to a community. Take Glossier as an example. “I wanted a brand I could be friends with,” founder Emily Weiss explained in an interview with CNN. That was the ethos of Glossier – buy a skin tint or a lip balm and feel part of something bigger.
With the rise of the digital world came the rise of the digital celebrity. Suddenly, people started gaining cult-like followings for nothing other than what they posted on the internet. Your favourite TikTokers are now invited to walk in Paris Fashion Week, and Instagrammers are on the cover of Vogue.
What exactly got them from behind a phone camera to the front page? You guessed it - their fans.
How do brands harness this ready-made bubble of influence? Firstly, trust between a creator and their fans can be incredibly strong when built correctly – but can also just as easily be dismantled with a misstep. Ultimately, a fandom wants to feel that the brands their favourite influencers work with are genuinely loved by that individual. They don’t want to feel duped or conned, which can often happen if a creator brings on a brand partnership that doesn’t feel aligned with their overall messaging – or if every other post is an ad. We ensure that all our collaborations not only feel authentic but that the branded content feels like it genuinely gives something back to the fandom – whether a styling tip, a recipe, early access, a DIY or even just some comic relief.
In the whirlwind of the "Taylor Swift" effect, 2023 is a testament to fandoms' transformative power in shaping culture, sparking conversations, and driving sales. From unprecedented surges in jersey sales after a Swift sighting at an NFL game to the meteoric rise of podcasts and the enduring success of binge-worthy shows like Stranger Things, the impact of fan communities is undeniable.