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We’re Glad It’s Another ‘Sad Girl Autumn’

It’s another ‘Sad Girl Autumn’ thanks to Taylor Swift. The singer announced during her VMA acceptance speech last month that she would be releasing her new album, Midnights on October 21 and Twitter went wild.

Taylor secured the title as the reigning queen of the season back in November 2021 when she re-released her 2012 breakup album, ‘Red’. The need for quietness, simplicity, and reflection from ‘Healing Girl Summer’ seemed to spill over into fall, but there was also a tinge of sadness in the air as the weather got colder and we inched towards the end of the year. There was a feeling of nostalgia and melancholy in the air, and ‘Red’s moody, sepia-toned visuals and heartstring-tugging tunes made the perfect soundtrack for it. Taylor herself, being completely aware of this, even released a ‘Sad Girl Autumn’ version of her hit song ‘All Too Well’.

In preparation for this season, our Culture AI helped us find out everything we need to know about “Sad Girl Autumn”: the mood, the vibe, the aesthetics. We began our research on Twitter, where we accessed conversations relating to the trend over the past three months.

Our text emotion analysis revealed that while there was 46.4% of ‘sadness’ detected within the tweets, ‘joy’ was actually the top emotion at 50.48%. Some tweets were in reference to Taylor Swift’s new album, but others reflected a general mood of excitement for the peace and coziness of ‘sad girl autumn’. People referenced various traditional fall items like pumpkin pies and cinnamon rolls, wrapping themselves in warm blankets and fuzzy cardigans, and just watching the leaves turn colors. It’s a time where they feel like they are able to find comfort in the familiar and appreciate the little things.

As expected, Taylor Swift will be a key component of the upcoming season. ‘Taylornation13’, her official management team’s Twitter account name, and ‘taylor’ was amongst the top words detected in our analysis, followed by ‘midnights’ and ‘TSmidnighTS’ a little further down the list. She was also the only person to appear in the top 50 words detected from more than 700 extracted tweets. It’s interesting to note as well that the majority of these tweets were written mainly by women of all different ages and stages of their lives, evidence of the reach and impact she has across generations.

Aside from Taylor, ‘Sad Girl Autumn’ in general seems to be very much rooted in music. There are dozens of tweets discussing the release of other new singles and albums from the likes of The 1975, Lewis Capaldi and The National. Other artists that were cited as being associated with the trend this season are female artists like Phoebe Bridgers and Kacey Musgraves. These musicians’ emotional literacy and willingness to be emotionally vulnerable, is validating peoples’ feelings and romanticizing their sadness, which is ultimately the very basis of the trend.

Like music, certain movies and television shows also tend to have close associations with ‘Sad Girl Autumn’, particularly Gilmore Girls and Twilight. Twilight’s moody, rainy atmosphere and Gilmore Girls’ charming New England fall aesthetic seem contrasting, but both feed into the current nostalgic-fueled obsession with all things 00s related. They also center around simple, easy-to-follow storylines about connection and true love, making them the ultimate guilty pleasures for the ‘sad girls’.

In our logo detection analysis of images associated with ‘Sad Girl Autumn’, there was one trademark that stood out, and we saw plastered all over cups and bottles. Coffee has always been closely associated with the season, but no brand has capitalized on this more than Starbucks. Their seasonal pumpkin spiced latte is such a ubiquitous part of fall, that it’s practically a cultural phenomenon in itself.

The transition into cooler weather is also well documented by participants of the trend on the platform. People are making sure to capture their ‘sad girl walks’ and changing landscapes, as well as sharing “aesthetic” photos of fall. Our AI tool detected earthy tones as some of the top colors in ‘Sad Girl Autumn’-related images.

The visual manifestation of ‘Sad Girl Autumn’ online has created a space for people to openly share their experiences and legitimize their feelings, but some users feel that it may not be as healthy or innocent as it appears to be. Some claim that it makes light of real mental health issues and even glorifies it. Others argue that it encourages people, women especially, to remain in this state and hinder them from wanting to move forward.

With this new mood in the air, what exactly does all this mean for brands, then?

  • ‘Sad Girl’ Marketing — Since much of this trend relies on aesthetics, it’s important for brands to align their color palettes, designs and advertising to reflect this mood. Their products should be marketed to ‘sad girls’ in the way that it makes them feel like they are able to resonate with the brand and form a deeper connection with it. Creating limited edition items as Starbucks regularly does, is a good way to incorporate themes and generate buzz.
  • ‘We Are Here for You’ — As much as the trend is about aesthetics, many do adopt it as a front for some real-life difficulties and trauma they are dealing with. Seasonal depression can be triggered during the colder months as well, so it’s important for brands to support their consumers’ well-being and hold space for their emotional needs. They should aim to show their customers that they recognize what they’re going through and incorporate words of encouragement or helpful information into their promotional material.
  • Tapping Into Familiarity and Nostalgia — These elements seem to be a running theme for the trend. People are looking forward to comfort foods, items and shows to accompany them this season, so brands should ramp these elements up and position their most popular products as being the go-tos. On the flip side, this might be an indication that they may not be as receptive to new products at the moment.
  • Look Out For Taylor Swift — The singer has a tendency to change up her look based off every album, and it’s had a massive effect on culture each time. The keyword, “Taylor Swift Red Scarf” (in reference to a line from ‘All Too Well’) received a score of 100 in search interest on Google Trends on the week of Red’s re-release. Every outfit and makeup look spawns millions of copies and is emulated by people around the world. We can bet this album will be no different, so fashion and beauty brands need to continue to pay close attention.

Write to anurag.banerjee@quilt.ai to learn about AI-powered market research and the latest consumer trends.



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