How Spotify uses data to effectively advertise


An example of using data and creativity to cut through the noise, lift the brand, and business.

6 months ago

Spotify created billboard ads for the “2018 Goals” campaign inspired by user data.

How do you turn data into intelligent and impactful marketing campaigns? Music streaming darling Spotify’s in-house creative team is gaining a global reputation for advertising campaigns driven by data.

Much of the growth and success of the Swedish based company has centered on its sophisticated data collection, creating a unique competitive advantage. The final product has a seamless user experience on multiple devices and a proprietary algorithm to customize music by mood, listening history, and moments in time.

Spotify now has over 271 million active users, and although some question it’s future profitability, it’s the undisputed music-streaming leader (Sawers). I’m sorry, Apple Music fans.

The “2018 Goals” campaign.

In 2017, Spotify was preparing for a highly anticipated IPO and reached double-digit revenue growth. It was an exciting year for the tech darling, to say the least. To keep the momentum into 2018, a unique advertising campaign would be needed.

The aptly named “2018 Goals” was a combination of creativity and data focused on sharing listeners’ habits in 2017 and humorously suggesting strategies for dealing with life in 2018.

“Let’s look forward instead of back, and let’s inject optimism and humor where we can.” – Seth Faberman, Spotify CMO 2015-2019

Here’s the campaign breakdown:

  • Global campaign active in 18 markets

  • Featured 70 artists including Ed Sheeran and Kendrick Lamar

  • Billboards and posters were the advertising medium

  • Commercial offer included for premium service

  • Ads were a vibrant pink, red, and green to stand out online and offline

  • Designed to show a sense of humor and bring users into the brand.

The outcome was a celebrated advertising campaign, but more importantly, a lift in new user adoption of the premium service and fantastic brand awareness.

How does this all come together? It’s not easy to use data and creativity to cut through the clutter and lift the brand and business. Here’s my high-level analysis of the three key reasons behind the success of this project and ones similar.

A smart application of user data. It can be a taboo subject for some marketing teams to use user data. There can be unclear lines as to what’s permitted and moral. Spotify took a mild risk with public reprisal, but the results speak for themselves. The use of data created localization and personalization, and the insights from user data connected with people emotionally as music does. A global campaign that speaks to the individual and connects them to a broader feeling.

The use of internal over external resources. The campaign was conceived, created, and executed entirely in-house. I don’t dislike agencies, but an engagement needs to be specific in scope and measurable. The benefits of an internal approach are improved cross-functionality, data sharing, and knowledge of the product and consumer. It’s important to mention the cost-savings too, which can shift more budget to execution. Depending on your organization and situation, the use of an agency is unavoidable, but it’s hard to argue with these benefits.

A combination of the physical and digital medium. You might not initially pair a modern technology company with traditional advertising mediums. It almost seems contradictory, but both the digital and traditional medium matched perfectly, each boosting the other. The billboards and posters were extremely shareable across social media and designed with vibrant colors for this reason. A user could seamlessly move from a physical touchpoint to sharing a digital message and then connecting with a digital asset. This campaign is definitive proof you can still leverage traditional marketing mediums. It’s the strategy that needs to be different now.

Share your thoughts below. I’m interested in hearing your opinion, especially when it contradicts my own and sparks conversation.

If your a Spotify user and haven’t already, review your listening habits with Spotify.me.

Sawers, Paul. “Spotify: Users up 31% to 271 million in Q4 2019, podcasts convert free-to-paid subscribers” VentureBeat, https://bit.ly/3bOn1Qj. Accessed 28 April 2020.

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