What We Can Learn from Spotify’s Cringeworthy Copy

At MarketSmiths, we believe every cringe moment is an opportunity to learn—so here's what we learned from Spotify's unfortunate creative decisions in its yearly Wrapped.

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At the end of every year, Spotify Wrapped takes internet discourse by storm with an in-app story experience seemingly invented by an intern. It uses data to provide listeners with a super-sharable “deep dive into their most memorable listening moments of the year.” The campaign is extremely successful, as millions of people tweet about it every winter, and it’s yet another example of how Spotify mixes data with the Zeitgeist to attract millions of listeners. Spotify Wrapped has been jokingly referred to as Twitter’s Met Gala, and for me it’s sort of a personal holiday, dedicated to finding out how I felt about my love life this year through song.

“In 2021, even your music gets a vibe check…” Wait, what?

This year, while the Wrapped experience maintained its popularity, many users couldn’t help but notice that the story experience was also…cringey. And that’s not just because all of my top songs were humiliating pop ballads, again. 

What I—and many other Spotify users—noticed in 2021 was that the copy for the year in review cards was extremely confusing. With phrases like, “It’s time to unveil your audio aura,” and, “While everyone was trying to figure out what NFT’s were, you had one song on repeat,” many people wondered why Spotify would add so much unnecessary language to their already successful product. Who was this for, anyway?

Learn why the best return on your marketing dollar comes from copywriting.

Spotify’s copy targets a specific demographic

When evaluating copy, considering the audience is an important part of the conversation. In noticing Spotify’s use of 2021 buzzwords like “NFT” and “vibe check,” it seemed their intended audience was primarily younger, very plugged-in, American Spotify users. Perhaps they hired another Gen Z intern to finish what the first campaign inventor started? Perhaps they made a list of 2021 social media trends, and requested that their copywriters stuff the copy with every word that they found? 

Either way, one particularly perplexing aspect of the copy was that it was the same for all Spotify users across the globe. For every age group on every continent, Spotify listeners were reading, “You deserve a playlist as long as your skincare routine,” and then maybe asking themselves, as I did, how long is my skincare routine supposed to be? My skincare routine is splashing some water on my face while I take a deep sigh in the shower, and I’m not even sure that takes the duration of a full song. If Spotify’s objective was to share fun and interesting data with listeners like me, why didn’t they just get straight to the point?

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Intentional cringe creates buzz

Of course, sharing data wasn’t really Spotify’s objective. We can assume that their goal was to get people talking about and using Spotify. Yes, the oversaturated use of trendy words made the writing less clear. Yes, it was less inclusive. But the campaign worked, whether because of—or maybe in spite of—Spotify’s copywriting choices. One of the many thoughts I’ve had about this is that they were trying to use as many highly searchable words as possible, so Spotify mentions would skyrocket at the mere use of “NFT” or “skincare routine” in otherwise unrelated conversation. 

Another conspiracy theory of mine is that the cringe copy was actually meant to add fuel to a viral conversation on Twitter by intentionally making Spotify the subject of jokes about how corny their campaign was. Twitter users love to make jokes out of goofy mistakes, which brands and celebrities have been cashing in on for years. 

But it seems that any press is good press, as Spotify Wrapped is a repeatable and sustainable campaign that has already been captivating listeners—and showing up in Instagram stories—for years. 

All of that said, I still think that they can do much better next year. Spotify, if you’re reading, give us a call. We’ll take your copy to the next level in 2022. 

Looking for buzzworthy copy that doesn’t make readers cringe? Get in touch with the team of writers at MarketSmiths today.


Kelly Bachman

Kelly Bachman

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