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How Spotify turns subscribers into brand advocates without spending a dollar

July 13, 2021

Spotify is currently one of the largest and most popular music streaming services in the world, boasting more paid subscribers than any other platform. As of April 2021, Spotify has 356 million total monthly active users, and 158 million of those are Premium (paid) subscribers. Users can listen to over 70 million songs, with approximately 60,000 new songs added daily. At the end of every year, Spotify releases Spotify Wrapped, a feature that gives users cumulative stats on their listening habits.

Spotify presents users with a detailed list of their music streaming data for the year in an animated and interactive slideshow. Data includes newly discovered artists, most popular genres, top five most played songs, top artists, top albums, top podcasts, and more. Spotify also packages Wrapped data in story-sized images that can easily be shared on a variety of social media sites directly from the Spotify app.

How did Spotify Wrapped become a success?

Spotify Wrapped is a smashing success every year. Millions of users look forward to seeing their listening data and sharing it with the world. But why do we love Wrapped so much? First of all, Spotify Wrapped is incredibly personalized and tailored for each individual subscriber, so no two results look exactly the same. This makes us feel special and takes advantage of our desire for attention. We also enjoy learning more about ourselves, and Spotify Wrapped gives us a concrete representation of our identity through colorful imagery and easy to understand data. The thousands of minutes of music we streamed through the app create unique stories about who we are, and there’s something incredibly satisfying about comparing our music tastes to those of friends and family.

Spotify also gives us complete control over the data we share. Wrapped offers multiple different stories that can be directly posted to social media, so users can choose the results they feel best represent them. If you’re embarrassed about some of your top songs, you can share your top artist or album instead. If you want people to know your passion for a specific band isn’t just surface level, you can post that you were one of their top listeners for the year. Wrapped is a fun, interactive, and engaging way for us to choose what pieces of our identity we share with the world.

spotify top artists of 2020 and top songs of 2020

We have an innate desire to feel like we belong within a group or community, so much so that the famous psychologist Abraham Maslow placed belongingness as the middle tier in his hierarchy of needs. Spotify leverages this desire by making Wrapped results easily shareable on social media. As soon as Spotify Wrapped is released, my Instagram Stories are filled with people sharing their listening histories. It’s become a major trend, and millions of listeners look forward to it every year.

Related reading: Best Instagram Tools for Automation

Annual User Highlights as a Marketing Strategy

I always enjoy clicking through Spotify Wrapped screenshots on Instagram Stories. I like the sense of community it creates around the shared passion of music, and I like learning what my friends are listening to. But from a marketer’s perspective, I can’t help but marvel at the sheer genius of Spotify Wrapped. It’s a brilliant, highly successful branding strategy that takes advantage of everything social media has to offer

Creating a viral campaign

Spotify makes it super easy for subscribers to share their results on social media. The templates are pre-made for Instagram Stories (and similar features on other social platforms) and already populated with a user’s specific data. All they have to do is click a button in the Spotify app to directly publish their Wrapped highlights on their preferred social media account. Spotify also gives users numerous options when it comes to the music data they share, so they have complete control over the identity they express. 

Users love Spotify Wrapped because it nicely packages up a piece of their identity that they can share and compare with friends. But what they don’t realize is that every time they share their results, branded with Spotify’s logo, colors, and visual motifs, they’re providing Spotify with free marketing. Spotify successfully turned their marketing funnel into a megaphone, encouraging subscribers to promote for them. When the end of the year rolls around, I see dozens of Wrapped stories on Instagram, each working to amplify Spotify’s brand awareness and positive reputation. 

Source: Spotify

Wrapped has become a trend people look forward to, and its growing popularity creates a sense of excitement, inspiring more users to participate. This leads to a snowball effect, as people feel that if everyone else is sharing their results, then they probably should too. This desire for belonging, to take part in a popular trend, drives the massive reach of the Spotify Wrapped campaign, turning millions of passive users into brand advocates, at no additional cost. And that’s the secret to successful marketing, at least according to Seth Godin: 

“Every single success story that I can think of succeeded not because they grounded out and churned people through a funnel. They succeeded because people decided to talk about it.” 

It’s not necessarily that people want to talk about Spotify. They want to share details about themselves and about their identity. Spotify reaps the benefits of offering an incredibly easy way to do just that.

Related Reading; How to get started with Growth Hacking

Building brand loyalty

Besides building brand awareness, Wrapped results are also great at engaging users and increasing loyalty. Spotify users love seeing their Wrapped results every year. Music is such a huge part of many people’s lives, so it makes sense that users enjoy seeing a summary of their listening habits. This type of delight creates long term customers, making it unlikely that a user would ever switch from Spotify to another music streaming service. If a user did decide to switch, they’d lose all their saved music data and past Wrapped playlists. Plus, no other streaming service currently records and presents listening histories in the same engaging and interactive way that Spotify does.

Using urgency and anticipation

Another reason Spotify Wrapped is so successful is because of its exclusivity. While Wrapped playlists are always accessible, Stories and certain data insights are only available on a smartphone for a limited time. This creates a sense of urgency, inspiring users to participate and share their results on social media while they still can. Perhaps Spotify Wrapped wouldn’t be as exciting if subscribers could access all their data and stories year-round. The limited time frame builds hype and anticipation, propelling the campaign to success year after year.

Source: Spotify

Leveraging FOMO

Finally, Spotify Wrapped is the perfect example of using FOMO marketing to draw in new subscribers. FOMO marketing is a strategy that triggers a customer’s fear of missing out to encourage them to make a purchase or take a specific action. It includes elements like urgency, a specified time limit, and social proof. People who aren’t on Spotify don’t have access to Wrapped data, and therefore can’t participate in the popular trend. After seeing so many other subscribers posting and sharing their Wrapped results on social media, many non-users feel left out. Not only are they curious about what their Wrapped results would be, but they also want access to the Spotify community and the overall experience. This fear of exclusion can be a powerful motivator, inspiring non-users to download the Spotify app. We don’t like the idea that other people are having fun without us, and we definitely don’t like being excluded. I use a different music streaming app, but after seeing all my friends’ Wrapped stories, I seriously considered switching to Spotify simply because I wanted to take part in the trend. Spotify does FOMO marketing especially well because it offers an easy solution for non-users to get rid of their FOMO: download the app, create a free account, and enjoy some great music. 

Related Reading; The FOMO Marketing Strategy; Examples and Effective Uses of FOMO Marketing

Spotify’s success is also evident in how much subscribers trust the brand. Despite collecting massive amounts of data that can be used in endless ways, Spotify hasn’t come under fire like other tech and social media giants. Rather, users seem to welcome Spotify’s data collection efforts, because the streaming service only uses data to increase customer value and provide personalized experiences like Wrapped. Overall, Spotify Wrapped is a brilliant example of marketing that increases brand awareness, engages current users, and attracts new customers, all through a unique, cost-effective, and memorable campaign.

If you’re looking for additional strategies to help scale your business rapidly, check out Growth Channel’s blog post, “Growth Marketing Tactics for each Stage of the Buyer’s Journey.” Or, check out their list of case studies to see how businesses like Spotify are finding success.

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