Trainline’s 2023 version of Spotify Wrapped is a lesson in brand awareness

Trainline has been in for a roasting after sending out its own version of Spotify Wrapped, with the response a clear reminder for brands that just because they can do something, doesn’t mean they should.

Social media reactions to the personalised annual round-up and analysis of users’ behaviour have been a mixed bag, with many confused about the point of the exercise.

While some passengers were delighted to be able to point out the indisputable irony that the company’s ‘Your Year in Trains’ feature arrived late, landing almost a full week into 2024, others were quick to mock up their own versions of the round-up, complete with (made-up) numbers of delayed or cancelled trains.

As one of the most successful and shareable marketing ploys of recent years, Spotify Wrapped 2023 was a huge success, making its way to the top of many social media accounts.

More than 156 million users engaged with it last year, making it easy to see why other brands would look to emulate its success. But an annual round-up of the music and podcasts users have chosen to listen to is a world away from Trainline reminding people of the joyless slog of their daily commute.

Even Tesco’s ‘Unpacked’ – which “spills the beans” on how customers have “shopped, scanned and saved” – is more suited to a yearly highlight reel. It might flag up the embarrassingly high amount of biscuits bought, but there’s very little there to cause any actual upset.

Online bank Monzo also sent out its ‘Year in Monzo’ wrap-up in December, with customers more than happy to joke about the amount of money they had spent at takeaways, on clothes and in the pub as they were reminded about their personal spending habits over the past 12 months.

The key difference with Trainline is that those purchases were driven by the customer.

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By offering passengers a review of their travels over the last year – which often included being left waiting on platforms for delayed trains as well as the ever-increasing price rises seen throughout 2023 – there was plenty for people get their meme-making teeth into.

The feature itself shows passengers how much money they have spent and saved with Trainline over the year, how many journeys they have taken and which stations they have visited the most.

It also highlights how much C02 they have saved by taking the train instead of travelling by car.

Passengers were less than delighted to see these stats laid bare, with many sarcastically thanking Trainline for reminding them how much money they spent on travel this year, while others were more scathing in their responses.

One notable omission from passengers’ year in trains was the total amount they had spent on tickets in the period. Maybe Trainline knew exactly what they were letting themselves in for after all.


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