Taylor Swift Probably Didn't Write a New Song Specifically to Sell a Branded Cardigan, But It Doesn't Hurt
If you somehow haven't heard yet, Taylor Swift released a surprise full-length album on Friday after announcing it out of nowhere the day before. The collection of extremely catchy lo-fi indie folk songs, titled "folklore," is a departure from her usual (also extremely catchy) bombastic radio pop, but it's still breaking all sorts of records and earning rave reviews from critics. One reviewer called it "full NPR-core indie," which checks out. There's a duet with freakin' Justin Vernon of Bon Iver! The whole thing is very good.
Anyway, one of the songs is called "cardigan," and Swift just so happens to have a brand new branded cardigan available at her merch store. It's made from 100 percent acrylic yarn and has a patch with the album name on the chest and embroidered stars on the elbows. NPR-core indeed.
Swift also just so happens to wear this exact cardigan toward the end of the music video for the song "cardigan," which already has more than 29 million views on YouTube:
Fans can also buy the cardigan directly from the video page thanks to YouTube's Merchbar functionality:
This begs the question: Did Taylor Swift write the song "cardigan" just so she could sell a boatload of branded cardigans? The answer, friends, is no. Probably not, anyway. But Swift is as good a marketer as she is an entertainer, and the coordinated rollout of the song/video and the accompanying merchandise is pretty brilliant. It was too obvious to not do.
And now, the cardigan is everywhere on social media. It's generating articles in Vogue, People, the Los Angeles Times and a bunch of other publications. Swift and her marketing team sent cardigans to various celebrities and influencers, who have been posting pictures of themselves rocking it. The strategy has worked to perfection. The cardigan is making promotional waves across the internet, helping an already smash-hit record reach even more eyes and ears.
“All of her fans want to be Taylor—they want a sense of connection to her,” Gerps Rai, founder of DroppTV, a music/merch platform we've covered before, told Rolling Stone. “Consciously to the consumer, it makes it more appealing and makes the artist and fans connected with each other. We’ve seen it in hip-hop videos, and now these bigger mainstream pop artists, they sell an aspirational version of themselves. Everyone is shifting toward being more approachable.”
— Zeyneplovestay13 (@FTayylor) July 27, 2020
With tours canceled and streaming services sapping profits from record sales, merchandise is more important than ever for artists, even mega-superstars like Swift. And she's already shown that she knows how powerful a tool it is for promotion and sales. This is the same artist who, in 2017, added a branded turtleneck to her merch store after Twitter made fun of her for wearing a turtleneck backwards to a basketball game—the same artist who's promoted her merch by wearing her own merch. She knows exactly what she's doing.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to humming "mirrorball" over and over in my head. It's really good, guys.