By Ally Sorrells, Hannah Dietz, Jenna Muller, and Paul Edge

When December rolls in and a new year approaches, people tend to look back on the past 11 months of their life in reflection—taking a mental note of all they’ve accomplished and what’s changed. What’s typically been an internal catalog of highs and lows has now shifted into a game-changing marketing strategy. Brands, from Spotify to Snapchat, have taken advantage of this annual nostalgia, creating viral campaigns with its users at the center.

These campaigns have become known as wrapped marketing, a personalization marketing strategy that harnesses consumer data to create content tailored to users’ interests, demographics and purchasing habits. Designed to be shared with storytelling at the forefront, wrapped marketing has transformed the way customers connect with brands. So why is it so successful?

The Success of Wrapped Marketing
In the dynamic landscape of marketing, strategies that captivate audiences and adapt to evolving trends stand out as beacons of success. Through leveraging the power of storytelling in a user-friendly way, wrapped marketing has emerged as a viral global sensation, weaving its way into the fabric of brand promotion with unparalleled efficacy.

As we delve into the “why” behind the success of one of the biggest recent marketing trends, let’s take a quick look at where it all started: Spotify Wrapped. Spotify Wrapped started in 2017 with a modest introduction to the world: 30 million users engaging in wrapped marketing campaigns. By the end of 2021, the campaign had undergone a meteoric rise to prominence: 120 million users participated in the wrapped experience. What sets this surge apart is not only the sheer numbers but also the depth of engagement with 60 million users actively sharing their wrapped creations across social platforms.  

Spotify's numbers alone stand as a testament to the swift and widespread impact of the wrapped marketing trend. As we delve into the forces propelling its exponential growth, the driving factors behind wrapped marketing's appeal become apparent, painting a vivid picture of its resonance and virality within a remarkably brief time frame:

Harnessing the art of storytelling
Driving customer integration through eliciting emotions: Unleashing the narrative power of storytelling, wrapped marketing goes beyond mere product promotion. By tapping into the emotional interests of users, it effortlessly transcends boundaries. Through weaving a narrative that resonates directly with the hearts and minds of the audience, the campaign drives brand integration into the day-to-day lives of its users. 

Placing users at the heart of it all
Increasing loyalty by forging deeper B2C connections: Placing users at the core of the campaign strategy, wrapped marketing goes beyond conventional branding. It fosters a profound and intimate connection by delivering personalized content tailored to individual preferences, ensuring each user feels seen and understood by the brand. 

Leveraging dynamic user-generated content
 Expanding impact through tailored experiences: User-generated content serves as a dynamic vehicle for tailored experiences that elevate emotional resonance. By encouraging users to share their authentic stories within their communities, wrapped marketing extends beyond a promotional tool, offering a platform of collective engagement fueled by individual empowerment.

A Look to Behavioral Science
To further explain the success of this wrapped marketing phenomenon, we asked Head of Behavioral Science & Insights Kathleen Starr, PhD, on her thoughts. People are “meaning machines,” according to Starr, eager to figure out the world and our place in it. Yet, for the most part we don’t have great insight into “why” we do what we do. She continues, “Reviewing a flashback gives us an opportunity to learn something about ourselves, a nugget like a forgotten band or genre that we can incorporate into our mental picture of who we are.”

Why are people eager to share their year in review with the masses? Sharing allows us to project a certain group identity—e.g., validating that we are “cool.” We see this across social media, as users proudly blast their year in review for their followers, pointing out a specific song or genre that they want others to notice. We’ve also seen a version of this in healthcare—patient community groups on platforms like Facebook have served as a way for patients to share their triumphs and struggles with others who are likely experiencing similar things. But what if there was a way to extend this feeling of community further, leveraging the success of personalized marketing to incite behavior change among a patient population?

Wrapped Marketing in Healthcare: Personalized Health Journeys
Diabetes, a disease that impacts about 1 in 10 people worldwide, is highly impacted by lifestyle habits. What if diabetes patients had access to a platform where they can track everything from their diet, exercise and insulin injections coupled with a journal-like catalog to track how they feel on any given day? And what if, considering first data consent and HIPAA regulations, patients were then able to share parts or all of their health journey with others on this platform?

Patients could of course look back on their experiences, reflecting on how their behaviors affect how they feel. But the platform could also leverage their data (with consent) to create a customized year-end or even month-end review on that patient’s health journey.

Of course, other than data consent, there are a few important things to consider. What about the patient who hasn’t met any of their goals—their A1C is still too high, they still indulge in food they were told to avoid, etc.? For that patient, a year in review is likely to either be ignored because they don’t want to see it, or it could reinforce guilt and other negative emotions, demotivating them on their journey. That patient, even if they are looking at their results, will likely decline sharing. After all, who wants to admit they failed?

In order to be successful, healthcare wrapped experiences need to be structured so the patient can reframe their data and/or “failures” and see themselves as the “hero” on the right path. The review needs to celebrate the small successes and have structure in place for patients to set smaller goals based on their “wins” or lack thereof.  Essentially, the platform needs to ensure that patients can feel good about just trying, providing a safe and welcoming community for them to share their highs and lows without guilt and shame.

If a platform is successful at curating a supportive and inviting community, the opportunities of connection among patients are endless. As we’ve seen through this wrapped marketing trend and the rise of influencer culture, individuals are more than willing to share personal information, from their music choices to their health struggles, if it means fostering a sense of acceptance within their community.  Leveraging this innate human desire will allow pharma brands to transcend boundaries, forming authentic connections with their patients that go deeper than prescriptions alone—a sign of true brand loyalty.

About the Author:

Hannah Dietz brings over four years of experience in marketing and digital strategy to her role as a Marketing Strategist at Syneos Health Communications. During her time at Syneos Health, she has gained invaluable experience working across agency brands on everything from social media strategy and branding, to public relations and copywriting. Previously, Hannah worked at a digital marketing agency, where she specialized in paid advertising and SEO, and prior to that she worked in public relations.