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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Akaka

The Future of Markets…is Female

You may have heard of a little concert series called the Era Tour. A couple of weeks ago I, along with 73,000+ others, flocked to Denver to watch Taylor Swift perform. I’m not what one might call a die-hard music fan, and, honestly, I usually listen to whatever music is or was popular on the radio. However, I do love a number of songs written and sung by Taylor Swift and have been impressed by her ability to stick up for herself when life got really hard. Needless to say, I was beyond excited when my friend invited me to join her at the concert.

Just before I attended the concert, I was also invited to do an interview with a local news station about the marketing force behind the Taylor Swift brand – I jumped at the opportunity to talk about two of my favorite things. I spent some time reading other articles that included expert opinions about what we can learn from Taylor Swift about marketing – after all her performances are creating an economic boost enviable by nations, small and large. I talked about the awesomeness of T-swift to be able to engage with multiple customer segments, how her social media engagement keeps people guessing what’s next, and her ability to reinvent herself has enabled her success to grow. In her movie, Miss Americana, she herself talks about the need for female artists to reinvent themselves over and over again. She also mentioned that her ability to stay successful is because she writes her own music and tells stories. I think that is the real nugget here – her ability to continue this type of celebrity success is because she is an authentic storyteller and her stories resonate with generations of women, and others, everywhere.

As I watched her sit on the stage alone, playing a guitar and singing solo over two hours in to her concert I realized that the magnetic marketing force behind the Taylor Swift brand is her. It’s not a social media strategy or the use of clever marketing tactics to sell herself, although they definitely don’t hurt. It dawned on me, she has reached this level of success not in spite of being a woman, but because of it. I believe this type of brand engagement, this level of authenticity, and this effort to embrace and evolve a community is inherently feminine.

The reinvention of a brand is not easy and lack of thoughtful authenticity – knowing who you are and who you want to engage with – in rebranding can have major unintended ripple effects. Traditional business models focus on identifying your competition and then figuring out how to steal their share of the market. I’ve been part of the educational system that teaches this for decades. This approach worked to build brands, make money and stimulate economic growth for a while – using top-down, competition-based approaches to segmenting, targeting and selling to customers. But when you look closely at where Taylor Swift’s success comes from you see something very different. She relentlessly pursued her dream, invented and reinvented her identity, and then protected the brand she built. As a young artist she played the competition game to launch her career, but when things got tough, she got wiser and tougher. She stood up for herself when it was hard and that commitment to knowing who she is and the type of artist she wants to be is what centers her gravitational pull. She is not alone in this market movement; I am beginning to see this authentic and community-based approach to business and marketing everywhere, especially among women entrepreneurs. I believe this is the driving force that will reshape the future of markets and, like it or not, this force is female.

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