The Personal Side of Data – And Why It Matters

Spotify recently released their “Spotify Wrapped” for 2018, an occasion I look forward to every year. Thanks to having some of the richest data on the internet, Spotify is able to delight their audiences by giving them a personalized experience they can share with their friends. So what can we learn from Spotify about data?

This highly personalized offering gives users an insight into the songs and habits that made up their year – it shares your top songs, bands, and genres as well as various stats about your individual listening habits. For example, this year I learned that I listen to indie music 57% more than the average person and that I spent 34 hours listening to Panic! At the Disco (and I’m absolutely not ashamed of it).

But Spotify Wrapped isn’t just a fun diversion – it’s an event that gets me thinking about data every year. Data is a hot topic these days. It’s the reason people are losing trust in Facebook, it’s the reason people are focused on privacy settings, it’s the reason you get that really specific ad for some weird thing you viewed on Amazon that one time. Data can provide us with highly personalized content, but it can also give away some of our strangest habits. Data is sometimes dangerous, often misused, and always fascinating.

And as marketers, it can be easy to forget the personal side of data. We see the numbers and demographics as all-inclusive information telling us where to move budgets or what kind of content to post every Wednesday at 9 PM. We don’t always think about what the numbers are actually saying about the people they describe.

Spotify does a great job of connecting with the people behind the numbers. Spotify Wrapped isn’t just data, it’s the story of a year. Each playlist neatly summarizes the highs and lows of the past twelve months. Check out my past four years to see what I mean.

  • The dark, moody indie songs of my 2015 Wrapped perfectly encompassed my first, gray winter living in New York City and the lessons I learned about the reality of living in a massive city where you’re always anonymous. Ads for travel and ideas for how to meet people probably would have really resonated with me that year
  •  In 2016 I moved to Atlanta, and alternative rock started to mix with the indie songs of 2015 as I rediscovered my love of my home state along with my love of lead singers who wear eyeliner. In 2016, I would have been all over ads for local concerts and Atlanta-centric content.
  • When 2017 came around, things perked up a bit – high energy songs replaced the dark indie music of 2015 while chill writing music made its appearance, marking a year of new beginnings and the rediscovering of my love of writing. I’d have clicked on a lot of ads for writing tools alongside edgier fashion.
  • This year was filled with pop-punk celebrations, female-empowerment anthems, and music that I was reclaiming from the relationships of my teens – perfectly describing a year where I found renewed confidence in myself, my career, and my future. This year, I really enjoyed motivational content and feminist, female-centric communities.

Four playlists of 100 songs each offer special insight into the past four years. While it’s difficult to pull out that level of detail from data of people you don’t know, it’s still important to look for the less obvious bits of information. So now we’re thinking about data differently, how can we go about finding those insights everywhere? Read part 2 of this series here to find out.

And remember: Good marketing focuses on what the numbers say. Great marketing remembers the people behind them.