In the 70s and 80s, personalization meant monograming your bag, towel, keychain, or purse. In the digital era, it is much more nuanced than a collection of initials. With the amount of data apps have on each user, customization is easier, and more precise, than ever.

Popular music app Spotify allows users to curate playlists and suggests songs that align with each user’s listening habits. In 2021, the app released additional personalization features with the latest iteration of their annual Wrapped experience, and an “Only You” campaign in June. Both of these limited time campaigns visualized users’ Spotify listening habits and music tastes. 

Using QuestBrand data, we see that Spotify’s brand equity score spikes around both releases of these personalized experiences. Users positively responded to seeing themselves reflected in the data, and being able to share their music tastes on social media.

Spotify Wrapped

Since 2016, Wrapped has released each December, providing Spotify users with their unique app usage data from January through October of that year.

It presents the user’s most played songs, artists, and genres in a visually appealing format. Wrapped information is designed for sharing on social media channels. This allows users to exchange personal music preferences with their friends, family, and followers. 

Within Wrapped 2021, Spotify users found a variety of information about their listening habits, including:

  • Top songs and artists of the year
  • Audio aura – colors that align with the user’s predominant music moods
  • Blend – a look at how the user’s music tastes align with their friends’, and the opportunity to create a joint playlist
  • 2021: The Movie – the user’s top songs played in tandem with scenes from a classic movie all about them
  • Playing Cards – in a game, users guess which statements are true or false about their 2021 listening habits

Millions of people have shared their Wrapped results on social media, providing the company with a sizable advertising boost. After Spotify Wrapped released in 2020, the app’s stock rose 16% in addition to jumping within the App Store rankings.

In December 2021, we saw a spike in brand equity as Spotify Wrapped released. Equity increased from 61.9 in November to 65.7 in December among those familiar with the brand. Spotify’s usage score also increased in December (44.1) from November (39.4) levels.

Spotify Brand Equity, October through February 2021

Spotify Equity December

QuestBrand. Base: U.S. adults familiar with Spotify brand. 10/1/21 – 2/28/21. n=2,964.

Only You 

The Only You campaign was announced in early June 2021 to build off users’ undeniable enthusiasm for personalized content. Spotify’s limited time Only You feature offered shareable, personalized playlists, and the ability to Blend your and your friends’ curated playlists. Only You featured many other user-specific experiences as well, including “Your Dream Dinner Party,” “Your Artist Pairs,” and “Your Audio Birth Chart.” This campaign ran through June 30th.

Spotify saw a spike in brand equity from May (59.8) to July (66.2) 2021. They experienced increases across all components of brand equity, except familiarity. Quality (+14.2) had the largest increase, jumping from 48.7 to 62.9. Adults familiar with the brand saw the brand picking up steam, as Spotify’s momentum (+8.5) score increased from 42.7 to 51.2. 

Since both the Only You and Wrapped experiences generated temporary spikes in brand equity, this data suggests that users are positively responding to the personalized visualizations of their interests and behaviors. 

Spotify Brand Equity May vs. July

Spotify Equity Pre Post

QuestBrand. Base: U.S. adults familiar with Spotify brand. 5/1/21-5/31/21, n=618. 7/1/21-7/31/21, n=566.

Science Helps Explain these Spikes

Interestingly, there may be more to Spotify’s personalization strategy than meets the eye. Scientific American explains that our brains reward us for talking about and sharing information about ourselves, making personalized, shareable data inherently pleasurable.

Harvard University Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab researchers found that talking about yourself lights up areas in the brain responsible for motivation and reward (the same parts of the brain stimulated by good food, cocaine, and sex.) Study participants found pleasure in talking about themselves regardless of whether anyone else was listening to them. However, the reward was greater if they were sharing the information publicly (with another person).

The study results suggest that engaging with Spotify’s Only You and Wrapped features would likewise stimulate users’ cranial reward centers. Sharing their personal music tastes with others on social media would ignite an ever greater reward.

Spotify has done a good job of engaging their user base with science-tested personalization campaigns. In addition to delighting users, these types of features encourage users to organically market Spotify to their social circles. Spotify should consider utilizing these types of marketing tricks more often to out-engage their competitors. 


Catherine Ake

Senior Marketing and Content Strategist

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