With Taylor Swift continuing her fury against other artists, Ciaran Busby, looks at how feuds create profits.


Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, Jay-Z and Kanye, Chis Brown and Soulja Boy. All these names have much more than celebrity status connecting them. While this article to some may sound as though it delves into conspiracy theory, I can assure you, it is only meant as a comment on how there could indeed be a stellar marketing strategy behind it.

In the background of most celebrity feuds is a friendship, which has been tumultuous at times. In the case of Tay-Tay and Katy Perry, the pair were long-time friends before eventually falling out over song accreditation in 2012-13. “What was the song?” -I hear you UCD denizens exclaim with inquisitiveness. None other than Calvin Harris’s chart-topping “This is What You Came For.” For Jay-Z and Kanye, the two considered each other brothers before West threw around lewd comments on stage towards Jay-Z’s family, as well as calling out Jay-Z for lyrics on his single, “Kill Jay-Z,” supposedly meant as a dig at West.

The point I’m trying to make is that in 2012, when the war between Perry and Swift began, Taylor made the most opening week record sales of anyone in a decade. That same year, Perry re-released her best-selling album, “Teenage Dream” after only two years of its initial release. In 2014, Swift and Perry had their biggest rift, which culminated in Swift’s best-selling album to date. Not to mention the allegations accused by Kanye of “Kill Jay-Z”, driving views to both YouTube and other streaming services by consumers deciding for themselves whether there was a case of shade being thrown.

In more recent times, examples of this celebrity feud (marketing campaign conspiracy) has come to a strange climax. Chris Brown and Soulja Boy became sworn enemies after the latter commented a smiley emoji under an Instagram photo of Brown’s ex-girlfriend. Tweets were tweeted, and shots were fired, culminating with the two announcing that they had signed a contract to partake in a three-round pay per view boxing match. Even though the perceived fight of the year never transpired, a combination of the debacle over the internet and the resulting traditional media attention served to advertise the pair’s personal brands.

Diss tracks began as genuine disputes, sometimes tragically leading to real-life murders during the 80s and 90s with gangster rappers spitting rhymes of spite towards each other, dividing neighbourhoods and coasts alike. Drama associated with two warring factions has long been the subject of public interest, and the success of rap battles can be attributed to the human thirst for gossip.

Record labels, noticing these trends, began to collaborate in a win-win scenario driving sales of their artist’s tracks and boost their fame or infamy, depending on the star.

Record labels, noticing these trends, began to collaborate in a win-win scenario driving sales of their artist’s tracks and boost their fame or infamy, depending on the star. Retreating to the comfort of Taylor Swift’s example, her most recent hit “Look What You Made Me Do,” is a direct offensive to Swift’s adversaries.

Without individually naming any one artist, Swift has built her brand well enough, that even on a surface-deep analysis of the video or lyrics, the audience can easily understand that this track is supposed to poke fun at her plethora of foes. Not to mention the obvious self-deprecating representation of her past-selves, a blatant mockery of those who have criticised Swift over the duration of her career.

In an ever-challenging industry, to market effectively it isn’t unheard of for artists to find increasingly creative ways to generate buzz. For the promotion of Kanye Wests “Yeezus” album in 2013, the star resorted to projecting his music video for “New Slaves” on 66 unique buildings across the globe.

This publicity stunt garnered West worldwide attention. In an evolving and receptive market, the same obtrusive and over the top ideas may not continue to work. This truth is the main reason as to why the simplicity and stealth of quarrels work to advertise, build brands and gain media attention of both traditional and modern channels. User-generated content (UGC) may sound like a buzz word, but it is core to the future principles of e-commerce. If record-labels manage to tap into this emerging concept, they will without a doubt continue to dominate the feeds of every Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram user with individual users’ own musings on the matter.

across the board there has been an increase in stealth marketing campaigns feeding businesses.

In any case, across the board there has been an increase in stealth marketing campaigns feeding businesses. Gin, has developed itself to become one of the most popular spirits in recent times, with most assuming Hendricks small batch to be the leader in a secretive entry to the populous mind-set. Starbucks were huge early adopters of the stealth marketing and UGC concepts, actively miss-spelling names of customers on their takeaway coffee cups, leading to the obligatory, “Oh they got my name wrong, lol” post.

More time will tell if more artists follow this trend, or if any personalities slip up and reveal the brilliant business of celebrity feuds as fact. As for now, it remains no more than an educated guess. However, if I were the marketing manager of an international celebrity, I would surely capitalise on the free publicity gained from this straightforward and fruitful avenue.