Hitting All the Right Notes. How Spotify became an iconic brand

When it comes to audio streaming services, there is simply no bigger – and many would argue better – than Spotify.

It is the most popular streaming platform in the world, with 350 million users and 150 million subscribers as of January 2024.

Spotify owes its success to more than a deep understanding and embrace of technology. Its rise to the top can be equally credited to savvy investments, an insightful eye for trends, and a visionary understanding of what makes a great brand.

This article continues our series on Global Brand Inspiration. Where we look at truly powerful world brands and seek to understand their success in the context of our five drivers of iconic brands.

But before we dive into these categories, first, a comment about the name Spotify. Spotify uses a method that we have also embraced: ‘condensing.’ In this method, two words combine to create a new word that is unique and able to deliver a targeted, bespoke message. They are a combination of “Spotlight” and “Identify.” It makes sense because it is, above all, a tool for finding songs that its users have identified in advance. By creating a new word, Spotify has established itself as original, creative, and fun.

1. Spotify is Aspirational

Just being a great music library isn’t enough to knock on the door of users’ hearts. Spotify needed to create something that took it from being functional to fun. What could they build that made their customers feel special and inspired them to share how special they were? So, others aspired to ‘have what they were having?’

Enter Spotify Wrapped. Spotify Wrapped is essentially a detailed report users can view at the end of the year that tells them how they’ve interacted with the platform over the last 12 months. It includes a summary of their listening data, set to snippets of their favourite tracks, and other insights.

It’s personalisation done perfectly. It provides the user with a story, one with them as the central character. It says, ‘You matter,’ ‘You’re interesting,’ and ‘This is who you are and what you stand for.’

And it does it in an engaging, imaginative and creative way.

Credit: Spotify

Its genius lies in two aspects.

One, Spotify uses what it already has. Data. The information is there; they are just repurposing and repackaging it.

Two, it’s easily shareable. Nothing says ‘look at me’ on social media more than a bespoke story about you, provided by a cool brand. Once someone does it, sit back and let FOMO do its magic.

Credit: Spotify (Wrapped 2022)

2. Spotify is Charismatic

Spotify hangs with the cool kids. Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Harry Styles, Coldplay – if they’re in, they’re in Spotify. And it’s uniquely placed to understand trends. Because it understands data, it is first to the party more times than not. Rather than trying to outdo its content, it rides its coattails all the way to customers’ hearts and minds. It leads with its artists. It doesn’t try to overpower them or outdo them.

That said, it is cheeky. Its advertising is current, often topical, and genius because it uses the data it has at its fingertips. Therefore, this is the only brand that can copy it. It is entirely unique.

Credit: Spotify

3. Spotify is Meaningful

Spotify has a deep understanding of the role music plays in people’s lives—from an angst-driven teen looking for acceptance to a happy bunch of university students getting ready for a late-night party—and is committed to continually enhancing that experience.

By offering a vast and diverse music library, it provides a soundtrack for every moment, mood, and memory. Its personalised playlists and clever recommendation algorithms create a unique, bespoke experience for all, making music discovery intuitive, insightful and exciting. By expanding into podcasts and audiobooks it delivers even more stories which acknowledge our interests and enrich our lives. This thoughtful approach transforms Spotify from a mere streaming service into an indispensable part of our emotional and auditory landscape.

In the simplest terms, Spotify put, and continues to put, its customers first.

Credit: Spotify

4. Spotify is Omnipresent

By 2011, Spotify was big. But to be huge, it needed one thing: success in the US.

It gained this not by huge advertising spend, but by smart collaborations.They created hype by working with TechCrunch, Lifehacker, Mashable, MTV, and Rolling Stone outlets, using anticipation as their secret sauce.

After launching successfully, Spotify went on to collaborate with iconic American brands such as the omnipresent Starbucks. Spotify’s streaming was integrated with the beverage brand’s popular mobile loyalty program, My Starbucks Rewards, and enabled customers to curate playlists for Starbucks stores. This collaboration was successful because it had substantial benefits for both parties. Spotify was suddenly in over 16K coffee shops in the US, and Starbucks could continue interacting with its customers even if they weren’t drinking their coffee then.

The key was that there was logic to the collaboration. Music is perfect for cafes, and cafes like their customers to feel at home.

Spotify also collaborated with Uber, taking their service literally on the road. This enabled riders to control the music remotely played through their Uber’s speakers. Again, Spotify and Uber recognised the deep connection between being in a car and listening to music. This continued Spotify’s mantra of putting customers first.



5. Spotify is Visually Iconic

By all measures, the Spotify logo is well-designed. It’s clean, clear, and, resultingly, cut through. But people may not realise that it’s had significant changes in its life. When Spotify first emerged in 2008, it was quirkier than now—right for the times, given that it was a new, active player in the market. Then, in 2013, it changed to resemble what we see now.

The green was more friendly, and the solid black logotype reflected a brand that had found its footing and was forging ahead. The logo was reflecting the brand story.

Then in 2015 the logo iterated to the one we see now. The full commitment to green embodies the brand’s philosophy. It reflects growth, progress, and innovation, actively demonstrating Spotify’s dedication to evolving and offering new, exciting content. It symbolises optimism and creativity, aligning seamlessly with the brand’s vibrant and dynamic essence. And it’s artic deliverable.

Beyond their logo the Spotify brand is bold and bright. It reflects the emotion music brings into our lives. It’s fun, on trend and highly creative. It makes us smile. And if you can do that you are a long way towards being adored.

Credit: Spotify Design – Making the brand: Redesigning Spotify Design


At Davidson Branding we have decades of experience helping brands better connect with their audience and grow as a result. If you would like to talk with us about how you can use the five drivers of iconic brands book a strategy call below. We can’t wait to work with you.



Written by Mel Kerr
Mel, our Senior Strategist and Writer, brings over thirty years of expertise in helping businesses communicate messages that resonate deeply with the intended audience and drive meaningful engagement. Mel champions the belief that everyone has a unique story and that the exchange of these stories holds the power to transform not just individual lives but also global change.
Follow Mel Kerr on LinkedIn

Related Posts