Viral Marketing Initiatives

How Spotify is able to produce a viral campaign year after year.

Going viral. A concept that has been around since before the inception of the internet and social media but since then have become the mountain top to which every content creator reaches. Everyone who has a social media account has wondered what it would be like to post something that goes viral, giving them their “Five Minutes of Fame”. But what does it take for a marketing initiative to go viral? In my opinion, it all comes down to perfect timing, understanding your audience and creating a convincing call-to-action.

One brand that has taken the same campaign viral year after year is Spotify. In 2017, Spotify launched its first-ever Spotify “Wrapped” end-of-year campaign. Over the years, the popular music streaming service has perfected this campaign ensuring more virality and conversions than the year before. But how do they do it? Let me take you through the five characteristics of Spotify “Wrapped” that I believe has attributed to its success year after year.

1) It feeds into our narcissistic nature.

Whether its Myers-Briggs, the Enneagram, or “Which Hogwarts House do I belong to?”, people LOVE learning about themselves. One of the best marketing tactics is tailoring a campaign so it feels more personal to your audience, and that is exactly what Spotify does. After collecting a data for a full year (or more), Spotify is able to deliver that data back to its users in a colorful collection of graphs. As Spotify was quoted saying after their first “Wrapped” campaign, “With more listeners and better data, we were able to give fans a tailored experience, showing that Spotify really gets them”. This is exactly what keeps users coming back to the app!

2) It evokes nostalgia.

Nostalgia is a wonderful marketing tactic, and Spotify “Wrapped” is a beautiful example of this. The campaign always launches the first week of December, so users are already feeling nostalgic thanks to the holidays and new year just around the corner. In 2019, Spotify turned the nostalgia up a notch including a decade wrap up for users who had accounts since 2010. This emotional appeal is a necessity to go viral. As Baker (2018) put it, “You need to make your audience feel something – otherwise, why would they want to share you content?”.

3) It tells a story.

Along with the introduction of the decade wrap up for the 2019 Spotify “Wrapped”, the brand also rolled out a “story” layout reminiscent of Snapchat or Instagram Stories. Not only does this format make the content easily sharable (we’ll get to that), but it also literally tells a story. YOUR story! As I said before, people are inherently narcissistic so seeing the story of their year unfold before their eyes in an easily digestible and interactive layout ticks all the boxes. In a 2017 study called “What Makes a Video go Viral?”, researchers Keith A. Quesenberry and Michael K. Coolsen concluded “Viral ad videos are more likely to be shared if they tell a story, and the more complete that story is (more acts), the better the chances of generating shares and views.”

4) It is easily shared.

As I previously mentioned, the 2019 “Wrapped” introduced the mobile “Stories” format complete with a “Share this Story” button. The clever thing about this feature is that it not only allows the user to easily share the story to their Instagram or Snapchat, but it also includes a link back to Spotify once shared. Spotify shared with Forbes Magazine that “more than 60 million users engaged with the in-app story experience that racked up nearly 3 billion streams from Wrapped playlists. That’s billion with a B! By creating the visuals for users and making them easy to share, it creates this boomerang effect leading both new and old users to the app to see their own “Wrapped” stats.

5) It creates FOMO.

Which leads me to my final point: FOMO. The “fear of missing out”. Spotify is very aware of its ability to create FOMO. In fact, the global head of consumer and product marketing at Spotify used the term in a quote about the campaign, “This also creates this FOMO effect that happens and that inherently entices new users to consider Spotify, so it’s a flywheel effect.” The brand intensified the FOMO effect in 2019 when they introduced “Wrapped for Artists”. Now the campaign is getting even more traction by providing artists their own personalized stats to share. Additionally, some of the story layout include a space where you can tag your favorite artists or podcasters, increasing the reach of these posts and the likeliness that someone will see it and say, “Hey, I want to know what my top song of 2020 was!” It’s an incredibly well thought out campaign that creates this endless cycle driving users back to the app.

To conclude, by presenting a personalized snapshot of the user’s listening habits at the height of the nostalgic end-of-year season in a visually appealing and sharable format, Spotify has been able to recreate this viral campaign year after year without losing momentum. Let me know your thoughts! Do you share your Spotify “Wrapped” every year?


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