When communication meets data: Spotify and the data-driven approach

When communication meets data: Spotify and the data-driven approach

Alberto Maestri Published on 6/26/2024

This article was conceived and written in collaboration with Federica Morichetti, copywriter and content manager at GreatPixel.

Now, more than ever before, data is at the heart of every successful marketing strategy: managing and interpreting data, and above all communicating it to others, is a challenge every brand must face. Businesses are constantly being told to adopt a data-driven mindset if they want to reach their target audience and keep them active and engaged.

But what does it really mean to be data-driven? And, most importantly, how can you communicate this added value to your customers?

Data-driven: what does it mean?

A data-driven approach is based on gathering and analysing data that helps you understand your users’ behaviour and preferences, so you can produce personalised content. This information is extremely valuable for brands, as we can see from the big tech firms: they treat data as a precious resource, sharing it only rarely and for a high price.

Who doesn’t like receiving a service tailored to their particular tastes? When users receive targeted content, they feel understood and form a closer attachment with the brand in question. But data can often be a double-edged sword, and the lively debate on privacy that has been going on for years shows no sign of abating. Data is often scary, both to the people managing it and those providing it, meaning businesses are increasingly under pressure to be fully transparent in their operations.

Meanwhile, the digital landscape is also becoming more complex, putting ever more obstacles in the path of those seeking a data-driven approach. The Harvard Business Review lists two main issues to overcome:

  • The need for a change in business culture. Data is fluid, and does not respect business hierarchies or bureaucratic timescales, meaning brands have to rethink their structure and embrace digital transformation. In a 2022 survey, 92% of executives saw business culture as the main obstacle to this change.
  • The vast quantity of data. Modern tools can collect a huge amount of data in a very short space of time – a concept known in the trade as big data. This demands an enormous amount of effort from brands wanting to analyse and interpret it.

Businesses are therefore dedicating a large proportion of their resources to managing this mountain of information, and too often forget to include their customers in the process.

Data storytelling

Forbes ranked data storytelling (turning data into a story customers can understand) and data literacy (being able to read and interpret data) as the most important of its top five in-demand tech skills for jobs in 2023. And this is even more true in 2024: these are essential attributes for any business that wants to consider itself fully data-driven.

Even experts in the sector often find it challenging to describe what their data reveals. Brands often boast of their successes by highlighting percentage increases in retention, engagement, drive-to-store, lead generation, and so on. But what do these really mean? Numbers and percentages can become overwhelming if they are not translated into specific values that non-specialists can understand.

In addition, customers want to understand the processes you are using, often asking ‘where will my data end up?’ Effective storytelling can reassure them and explain that your sole aim is to give them a more satisfying experience. Luckily, there are various success stories to draw upon. One project that particularly stands out for its adaptability is Spotify Wrapped.

Spotify Wrapped: telling stories through data

Spotify, with its 602 million users, is the market leader in the music streaming sector, and as a result gathers an enormous quantity of data. This gives the business a huge communication advantage, which it has made full use of since 2017 through Spotify Wrapped.

Wrapped is based on a simple yet effective idea: providing users with a series of stats and numbers about their favourite artists and tracks that allow them to discover their ‘year in music’ as a calendar year draws to a close. The project brings together data analysis and a brilliantly honed and recognisable graphic identity. This enables Spotify to illustrate its users’ loyalty, showing how many hours they spent listening and providing them with a tangible way of demonstrating their passion for music, and generating a feeling of pride in the process.

Music is undoubtedly a sector that lends itself well to storytelling. Nevertheless, Spotify has managed to keep Wrapped evolving over the years, ensuring it never becomes dull. The stories format, with dynamic animations, interaction options and bright colours make Wrapped the perfect package for people to share on social media. This massively expands Wrapped’s potential for both bringing new users to the platform and turning existing users into brand ambassadors.

Spotify already offers a highly personalised service through its data-based playlists, like the Daily Mix, which gather together a user’s favourite tracks in a specific genre or even with a certain mood. This data allows the platform to quickly recognise a user’s preferences and even suggest other artists they may want to listen to in the future.
In addition to the engaging graphics and the use of original calls to action encouraging users to explore Wrapped’s various sections, Spotify has also started to involve over 40,000 artists by asking them to record a video message to appear in their most loyal listeners’ Wrapped.

The key to its success

Spotify Wrapped effectively combines numbers and the meaning behind them, taking users on a nostalgic journey that fits well with the sensation we often get as one year ends and another approaches. Louisa Ferguson, Spotify’s head of global marketing experience, made an insightful comment when discussing the 2023 Wrapped: ‘we realised that “your Wrapped doesn’t lie”. The data is real. And so we leaned into creating the realest Wrapped ever.’

Wrapped demonstrates perfectly that to be truly data-driven you must be able to grasp the stories hidden behind the data, and shows how important it is to be able to ‘return’ this data to the people who provided it.

Now over to you: what original approach could you take to describing data to your users?