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Spotify’s #2020Wrapped Is Sublime Marketing at Its Finest

Looking back at the longest year ever propels the music giant forward

Spotify #2020Wrapped music top marketing
#2020Wrapped goes big on bold fonts and wild colors. Source: Spotify.

It’s that time of the year again. Social media platforms are abuzz with Spotify’s annual Wrapped roundup, #2020Wrapped. It’s a flashy rear-mirror view of the most popular songs of 2020, both on a platform level and on an individual level for its 320 million-plus monthly active users. And while it is certainly a heartwarming look at the artists you’ve loved and the music that helped you get through this whirlwind of a year, #2020Wrapped is more than that. Spotify gets to pull a not-so-secret Santa on its users, knowing full well what their wishlists look like. But the move also grants it an organic boost in visibility that far exceeds that of competing streaming services.

Be it embarrassment or nostalgia, Spotify’s numbers elicit a personal reaction. It forms a connection with users on a deeper level this year, one of masked faces and long distance relationships with people across the street. Say what you will about Spotify meddling with the economics of the music industry. There’s no doubt that #2020Wrapped hit different. The best marketing appeals to the fundamental desire of who we are. And what better way to do it than to hand our music choices to us on a silver platter?

Identity is cause; brand is effect

Larry Ackerman’s quote on marketing does a good job of summing up how Spotify taps into our desire to express ourselves. Music is an acquired taste; one that listeners reinforce by finding favorite artists and genres to listen to. This very taste is further validated by Spotify’s personalized stats. It satisfies an itch in a way few other luxuries do. Sharing your music tastes with the world is like sharing a part of you, your personality, and your lifestyle.

Spotify Wrapped is about you. Your artists, your songs, your decade. By making the consumer the hero, Spotify sings your story. You’re the muse. You made their year. By appealing to the human desire of being appreciated for who you are, Spotify lets you sing your own praises on social media. Being genre-fluid or having a personal list of favorite artists or titles appeals to a distinct sense of accomplishment intrinsic to how society perceives differences.

Unintrusive organic marketing: the best form of marketing

Tapping into the psychological needs of your users creates content that people just can’t help but share. Sure, there will always be that one person who doesn’t want to be basic or follow the herd. Or someone might just want to keep their unadorned tastes in music to themselves. But when your feed is filled with people sharing their music tastes, be it conventional or bizarre, the appeal is pretty hard to turn down.

Spotify doubles down on the user’s intent of sharing a piece of themselves with the world by making the sharing process frictionless. A couple of taps is all it takes for a template to show up with the stats that matter in a format that is ready to share on your platform of choice. You even get to pick from a number of color palettes to better define your identity. And while the Spotify logo does show up, it’s not about them. It’s about you.

Spotify #2020Wrapped music top marketing transitions
Smooth transitions embody Spotify’s sense of flair. Source: Spotify.

In 2020, Stories are everywhere

Spotify’s nuggets of vivid colors and bold expression show up in a mini-train that is familiar to billions today. With platforms like YouTube and LinkedIn adopting the little circles from Snapchat, Stories are a mainstay in how we perceive social media as an extension of our lives. Call it inspiration or a knock-off; keeping things familiar helps keep things personal. While the colors reel you in, it’s the information that keeps you going from one screen to another.

Getting to know how many hours I sunk into Krewella’s album gave me a sense of pride. The best part? I was among the top 0.5 percent of their fans in terms of time spent listening to the Pakistani duo’s sick beats. It’s no surprise that it showed up on my Instagram story shortly. Speaking of which, frictionless sharing really does oil the marketing machine like nothing else.

Of known unknowns and unknown unknowns

Populating your feed with #2020Wrapped posts and memes helps Spotify in more ways than you think. Sure, it helps their brand image. But it also ignites a sense of discovery in those who swipe past people showing support to their favorite artists and genres. While it might be a heyday for those who want to slide into people’s DMs, it’s a godsend when it comes to learning more about the kind of music that the people around you listen to. Finding a fellow Hamilton fan is a moment worthy of celebration in itself (I have yet to board said bandwagon). It’s a refreshing break of pace from boring feeds that compete with dwindling attention spans.

I decided to embark on a little soul-searching by listening to the top songs that featured on my friends’ #2020Wrapped posts. The results surprised me. As someone who leans towards EDM and videogame soundtracks, I had to rethink my tastes after listening to a couple of obscure instrumentals. The experiment also helped me find like-minded individuals who shared my taste in music. All in all, it was a great excuse to dive into a medium of expression that has something for everyone.

Spotify is where the party’s at

The pursuit of the self is platform-agnostic but Spotify begs to differ. If you told me that something as simple as a roundup of annual stats would be enough to spark interest in a rival streaming platform, I’d have found the claim bizarre. Fast forward to a pandemic-stricken 2020 and the idea makes sense. Spotify Wrapped hit such a level of widespread sharing across platforms that competitors like Apple Music got left in the dust. The sense of FOMO was bad enough that CNET had to write an article on how Tidal, YouTube Music, and Apple Music users could join in on the fun.

Wrapped didn’t just help Spotify’s brand image, it brought home bags of cash too. Stocks jumped up by 16 percent to an all-time high on a wave of powerful engagement from tens of thousands of Spotify users sharing their best moments on the platform. By opening up a generic roundup of 2020’s music to non-Spotify users, it tapped into an even larger audience of music enthusiasts.

Spotify #2020Wrapped top
Spotify opens its doors to non-Spotify users too, albeit with a generic list. Source: Spotify.

Visual language that goes loud

True, your favorite songs playing in the background should be enough to warrant your attention. But Wrapped’s large text and interactive transitions set the stage for the numbers to shine. With elements that had a snazzy parallax effect between layers, Spotify added dimensionality to its simple-yet-bold visuals. Wild color combinations helped set the tone for a roundup that went big on self-expression. It’s safe to say that their design team knew what they were doing.

The quizzes placed between the bits of information served both as a personal test and as a vehicle of curiosity. How well do you know thyself? After all, you are what you listen to. At least, that’s what Spotify would have you believe.

Wrapped presents you with a rewind to remember

This year is one for the books, for better or worse. The COVID-19 pandemic has shaped billions of lives, drastically altering the way we see our imminent future. Gone are the rosy dreams, replaced with shards of hope scattered about in the rubble. But that doesn’t mean that 2020 didn’t have its share of positive memories. And your playlists are a pretty good embodiment of that sentiment. True, my list was warped by a playlist that accompanied my workouts and your family members might have turned the suggestion algorithm on its digital head. Nonetheless, it still is a remarkable collection of memories.

It is a reflection of how far you’ve come. And no, I’m not talking about old favorites that are now cringy to listen to. Music has the ability to evoke memories, both good and bad, as well as situations that you’ve faced in the past. It scratches the right itch by asking you to embrace 2020 instead of forgetting it. It is what it is, after all.

Wrapped

Spotify might have the best music algorithm on its hands but if they don’t get the show on the road, it isn’t going to keep its crown for long. Harnessing its strengths to create an organic marketing powerhouse lets Spotify reach an even bigger audience, one that regular marketing efforts might not reach. Finetuning the sharing experience and playing along with multiple distribution channels nets them a win that looks simple on the surface.

With an annual roundup that makes it about you and your identity, Spotify gives you something you can’t help but share with the world. It empowers the individual while bolstering its brand image at the same time. Is that not what marketing is all about?

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Antony Terence

Antony Terence

0.2M+ views. 5x Top Writer. Warping between games, tech, and fiction. Yes, that includes to-do lists. Words in IGN, Kotaku AU, SUPERJUMP, The Startup, and more.