Oh, UPS. Look what you’ve made us do.
Since late August, you may have noticed that some of the United Parcel Service’s (UPS) package delivery trucks are sporting a new addition to their iconic brown aesthetic: the image of Taylor Swift’s newest album, reputation. The pop star, whose album was released on Friday, November 10th, is no stranger to partnerships – the old Taylor has previously established partnerships with Apple, Diet Coke, American Greetings Corporation, and the city of New York, to name a few.
However, the appearance of Swift’s new album cover on the side of a UPS truck has been met with some level of confusion. Not only is it new to see something advertised on a medium that has remained relatively ad-less throughout its existence, but in an age where many users download digital copies of music albums, why a partnership with a service that will deliver physical copies?
According to the UPS’ press room website, UPS developed a special distribution solution just for the release of Swift’s new album. For one, UPS utilized the hashtag #TaylorSwiftDelivery to not only promote reputation, but more subtly, to promote UPS and its presence across the country. The advertisement on the side of the truck does not specifically advertise any specific website, but instead, encourages viewers to “spot, snap, share.”
But for anyone curious as to what this ad on the side of the truck means, googling this hashtag quickly leads to the UPS + Taylor Swift Delivery webpage. While part of UPS’ distribution solution involved a timed strategy so that the distribution and shipment of CDs to retailers would happen at a “precise” moment in time, perhaps the more interesting strategy involved the pre-sale of CDs to individual consumers.
If UPS was also working with retailers to ensure that the album was released at a specific point in time on November 10th, why would a consumer want to pay the extra $9.50 for overnight shipping?
On the website, which has yet to be updated despite the CDs release, UPS opened with an enticing offer to any fan: the chance to win a Taylor Swift concert giveaway package, followed by an encouraging message to order the new album for a chance to win. The pre-order link takes consumers to Swift’s online store where, before the CDs release on the 10th, by clicking the “pre-order” button, it was specifically promised that by purchasing from UPS, orders would be sent using the company’s Next Day Air Saver shipping ($9.50) option to ensure that the album would arrive on its official release date.
This offer might not have appealed to the average fan. After all, the physical CD album was also available for pre-order online at Amazon, Target, Barnes & Noble, and other online retail shops. However, for any super-fan of Swift, the only thing better than receiving the CD on its official release date might be to be entered in a sweepstakes with significant rewards.
The old Taylor Swift may be dead, but the new one has established at least one partnership that knows how to win and market to the hearts of her audience while most likely increasing Swift’s revenue in CD sales. Not only did UPS promise to deliver pre-ordered CDs via the platform of Swift’s online store, but it also opened up a sweepstakes with a grand prize that would reward the winner and three friends with a round trip flight, 2-night hotel stay, four copies of the new album, and four tickets to a live concert in addition to other swag-related offerings. As well as, first and second place prizes that include boxes filled with concert tickets and signed memorabilia that, according to the UPS website, are “limited edition items you can’t get anywhere else.”
But what many of Swift’s largely millennial fans may not have known was that pre-ordering the CD was not the only way to enter them into the sweepstakes. While UPS encouraged consumers to order reputation for a chance to win with phrases like, “You could win concert tickets and a prize pack when you pre-order today,” the asterisk next to “order” leads to the microscopic text which states that no purchase is necessary to enter this sweepstakes.
This is normal – sweepstakes and contests that ask entrants to purchase a product or spend money to increase their chances of winning are illegal in the United States. Technically, Swift fans could have mailed in their information to a given address by a certain date to also be entered. However, UPS took advantage of the power of persuasive language, good website design, and the opportunity to “win” rare items in order to market their shipping service under the guise of Swift’s CD.
While the partnership between UPS and Swift has been met with mixed opinions, there’s no denying that UPS used this opportunity to offer consumers something no other company or platform could compete with: an experience. From snapping photos of the trucks and posting them to social media to finding the UPS website that offered the exclusivity of a delivery that would arrive the day of the release, UPS played an important role in strengthening the conversation around Swift’s new album while undoubtedly strengthening its own reputation as a reliable, and swift, delivery service.
Kulp, P. (2017, August 25). UPS is plastering Taylor Swift’s face on a bunch of its trucks. Retrieved from: http://mashable.com/2017/08/25/taylor-swift-ups-partnership/#CQdPid7haSqW
“Reputation CD + exclusive photos.” Retrieved from: https://store.taylorswift.com/ups-customer-commemorative-bundle.html?WT.mc_id=NAOGDIRT1000
“Sweepstakes law and legal definition.” Retrieved from: https://definitions.uslegal.com/s/sweepstakes/
“UPS concert flyaway sweepstakes.” Retrieved from: https://www.taylorswift.ups.com/rules.html?WT.mc_id=NAOGDIRT1000
“UPS is the official delivery partner for Taylor Swift’s 6th studio album reputation” Retrieved from: https://www.pressroom.ups.com/pressroom/ContentDetailsViewer.page?ConceptType=PressReleases&id=1503657046045-509
“Win a Taylor Swift concert flyaway package.” Retrieved from: https://www.taylorswift.ups.com