Spotify Wrapped Secrets

🌯 How 425 Million Tweets Happen Every Year 🎶

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👋 Hello fellow Ladderers!

This week, I’m sharing a dark secret 🙀 and going deep into the cultural phenomenon of Spotify Wrapped. You’ll learn:

  • How this campaign's innovative approach that has created billions of dollars of earned media.

  • The 3 critical components which underpin it’s success.

  • The exact 7 steps you can take to develop your own wrapped campaign.

Plus, as always, I’ve curated a top-notch selection of links, news, and tools from around the marketing, strategy, and product web to keep you ahead of the curve.

If you missed last week’s deep-dive into the whacky world of Virtual Influencers, you can catch-up here

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Today’s feature

Spotify Wrapped Secrets:

🌯 How 425 Million Tweets Happen Every Year 🎶

⏱️ ~ 6 minutes 17 seconds to read

I’m not a Spotify listener. Yes, I know, cue the gasps of disbelief and eye-rolls from literally everyone under the age of 40. I use Apple Music—go ahead, call me a relic of the Gen X uncool. I just like my subscription bundles and stopped discovering new music 15 years ago.

Yet, every December, as predictably as Mariah Carey defrosting for another holiday season, I’m hit with a tidal wave of Spotify Wrapped posts, billboards, display ads and weirdly even radio ads.

It’s a phenomenon that pierces through the cultural zeitgeist, making its mark regardless of whatever drama and real news is happening in the world. For a day or two there, it literally drowns out the sounds of bombs dropping.

But what is it that makes Spotify Wrapped succeed where so many other marketing campaigns falter?

How has it turned a simple recap of listening habits into a highly anticipated cultural event?

Today, we’re popping the hood and taking a look at the mechanics behind this product marketing marvel.

We’ll explore personalised data storytelling, the frenzy on socials, and the continuous innovation that keeps Spotify Wrapped fresh and engaging year after year.

So pass me that wrench and let’s take a look and how this thing works 🔧

THE NUMBERS AND THE WANNABES 👀

Take a look at some of the juicy stats that make Spotify Wrapped the marketing powerhouse it is:

  • 120 million Spotify users accessed their Wrapped in 2021

  • Over 70% Email Open Rates (this is ‘confirm your email’ territory)

  • 60 million users shared their Wrapped graphics to social media around 60% in 2021 (there’s simply no where to turn on IG for a few days)

  • 425 million tweets in just three days

  • #SpotifyWrapped hashtag has 66.5 billion views on TikTok.

These figures aren’t just impressive—they’re monumental, which has brought it’s fair share of copy-cats.

Apple Music jumped on the bandwagon with its Replay feature, while Tidal and YouTube Music rolled out their own annual recaps. The move isn’t confined to music—companies like Duolingo, Reddit, and even The Washington Post have developed shareable year-in-review summaries, all hoping to capture the same viral magic and free publicity that Wrapped generates each year.

So how does Wrapped make this all happen?

Let’s take a look at the 3 really powerful aspects of Wrapped that keeps this juggernaut rolling on year after year.

DATA STORYTELLING AND EVERYTHING ME! 🤗

We’ve all heard it before, “data is the new gold!”—wrong. It’s more accurate to think about data as oil. And oil is pretty useless until it is refined and turned into about a zillion other products that pollute our planet for another zillion years…but that’s another article. You get my drift.

Data needs to be refined and turned into something compelling. In the case of Spotify Wrapped, your music consumption data is packaged up into extraordinary personalised storytelling. Wrapped turns cold, hard data into a vibrant tapestry of your year in music, transforming it into an engaging, colourful presentation that’s as digestible as it is shareable.

All the ‘Tops’ are there to get you started nodding your head, “Oh that’s so me,” from the moment you open:

Top Songs: Now you know why you simply can’t stand to hear it anymore.

Top Artists: Because knowing you’re in the top 0.1% of listeners for Taylor Swift is a badge of honour.

Top Genres: From K-pop to classical, your eclectic taste is so real.

Listening Time: How many minutes you’ve dedicated to avoiding the silence of your own thoughts.

But Wrapped goes beyond basic aggregate and comparative stats. Enter features like the "Listening Personality," which places you into one of 16 categories, because who doesn’t want to know if they’re a ‘Spirited Adventurer’ or a ‘Nostalgic Dreamer’? Or "Audio Aura," which turns your listening habits into a psychedelic swirl of colours, visualising your vibe in a way that’s both trippy and Instagram-worthy.

Users froth over Wrapped because we cherish seeing our own story played back to us. To the human brain, there is no word sweeter than “you”—and seeing the hours you’ve spent on your top genres, the seasonal shifts in your playlist, and even the total minutes you’ve been plugged in offers a juicy, self-indulgent ride into your own preferences and behaviours.

And we just can’t get enough of that stuff. 💌

PRODUCT-LED SOCIAL-FIRST GROWTH 🤳

The annual spectacle of Spotify Wrapped is a masterclass in product-led growth, proving that if your product is remarkable enough, your users will do your marketing for you.

The Wrapped design is inherently and fundamentally sharable.

From the moment users receive their personalised summary, it’s primed for social media: vibrant graphics, bite-sized insights, and just enough ego-boosting stats to make sharing irresistible.

Even the cringey aspects seem OK to share-around.

Which builds the social proof aspect of Wrapped. Which is off the charts.

The second it starts flooding social feeds, it’s game over for anyone not on Spotify. You can literally see Apple Music users in the office slided down in their seats.

Wrapped transforms subscription into an annual badge of honour, making users feel like they’re part of a winning movement. The more you see it, the more you’re convinced that your choice in Spotify was one of the best decisions you’ve made this year.

Wrapped also taps into our deep-seated need for comparison and validation.

Who’s sharing their Wrapped? What’s on their Wrapped? Is it like mine? Am I cooler, or should I start panic-listening to obscure indie bands?

Wrapped sparks these questions, turning each shared post into a small, yet potent, piece of social proof.

It’s a blend of humble-bragging and genuine enthusiasm that fuels its viral spread.

Spotify Wrapped doesn’t just tell you about your year in music; it tells you that you’re part of a global phenomenon.

SO FRESH AND SO CLEAN ♻️

But the psychological layer-cake that makes Spotify Wrapped so potent must evolve. Every year, to keep it fresh it rolls out new features that keep users eagerly anticipating what’s next.

For example, ‘Sound Town’ matches users’ listening habits to a city. Based on your top artists and genres, Spotify pinpoints a city with a similar musical vibe.

This adds a geographical twist to your music preferences, tapping into the attractively tribal and cultural associations of a city.

Imagine discovering that your eclectic playlist aligns with the post-punk and new wave scene of Tokyo or the ‘Teckno Rebels’ of Detroit. It’s a slam-dunk in-group, tribal identity method to see where your musical tastes would thrive. Genius.

In 2019, Spotify expanded its Wrapped campaign to cover not just the past year, but the entire decade. This allowed users to relive their listening habits from 2010 to 2019, providing a nostalgic journey through their musical tastes - and I suspect a whole lot of Lady Gaga revisits.

Personalised Artist Messages include short video shout-outs from top artists. When you open your Wrapped, you might see a thank-you message from your most-listened-to musician.

This creates a beautiful direct connection between listeners, their favourite artist and of course the Spotify brand.

Hot tip for any Spotify peeps reading, get onto Synesthesia and Descript (or other such AI avatar tech) and this feature will explode.

Finally, the Genre Sandwich feature presents your top genres in a sandwich-inspired design. Stay with me here. Each layer of the sandwich represents a different genre, visually stacking your musical preferences. This culinary visualisation simply presents how diverse or niche your listening habits are and most importantly, is easy to see yours side-by-side with others’ sandwiches.

Every year, Spotify keeps adding consistent innovations which keep existing users excited for the coming Wrapped, fuelling social media commentary and sparking endless news media discussion ahead and throughout the campaign.

COULD YOU BE WRAPPING? 🌯

So you’re thinking, "How can I capture the magic of Spotify Wrapped?". Here are seven specific actions you can take to implement these powerful lessons and drive some product-led growth within your own brand.

1. Conduct A Thorough Data Audit

Spend some time with your data teams, going through and understanding what data you have that could be repurposed and refined into something of interest. Don’t overthink it at this stage. This is about gathering up and understanding what you have, where it comes from and how reliable or accurate it is.

2. Get To Grips With Dynamic Personalisation

Work with your tech and data teams to understand your advanced personalisation technologies. Get your head around what data needs to move into where in order to create dynamic content in emails and on your website and app. It’s important as a marketer to come to grips with these constraints, or as I like to think of it; possibilities.

3. Facilitate Cross-Departmental Workshops

Organise workshops with your tech, data, and creative teams to brainstorm innovative ways to measure, visualise and present user data. This is not a marketing team only exercise, have some fun with it.

4. Segment and Rank User Cohorts and Content/ Products

Group your users into cohorts or tribes based on their behaviours and interests. Develop themes and rankings within these groups to give users a sense of identity and belonging. Everyone loves a badge of honour, so let them earn it. This could be most ‘played’ in your town, or groups that might be described as ‘fanatics’ for one reason or another. Don’t forget it’s not just about the individual's user data - have a look at the most popular products, behaviours by geography or customer type. You might just uncover a whacky billboard (or ten).

4. Convert Data into Relatable Metrics

Transform raw data into fun, relatable measurements. For instance, convert time spent on your platform into how many times they could have binged Season 1 of Game of Thrones. Make data fun and engaging, not just a list of numbers.

6. Build Prototypes and Gather Feedback

Present your prototypes to key stakeholders and gather feedback to refine your approach. Ensure that everyone from top executives to frontline employees understands not only the value and potential shareability upside and earned media, but also the fun.

7. Build Out Your Media Plan

Are you a big enough player, or do you compete in a category that the average person on the street might understand what you’re showing them about themselves? A media play might make a lot of sense if you have some really interesting and compelling data to share. Work with your comms team and media partners to uncover some gems and develop a sequenced plan that aligns perfectly with your owned channels.

8. Press go.

Obviously we’ve simplified things here, but you can see how almost any business with a log level of 1st party data on their customers might be able to consider their own wrapped play. Just remember to keep it fun, keep it shareable, and most importantly, keep it all about them.

If you enjoyed this edition, please forward it to a friend who’s looking to level-up their marketing and advertising game - they’ll love you for it (and I will too) ⏭️ 💌

PS. When you’re ready here’s how I can help you:

  1. Fractional CXO services: Need a top strategic product, marketing and digital transformation mind to grow your brand, but don’t want the hefty price tag? Fractional CXO services allow you to start growing revenue, before your grow your people costs. Limited slots available.

  2. Events and Conference Host: Don’t get the guy who last week was MC’ing a carpet industry conference. If you’re in marketing, CX or digital I can help make your conference a memorable delight for your attendees. At least that what they tell me.

Troy Muir | The Ladder

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