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Brand storytelling is a powerful way to build lasting connections with your audience.

Compelling stories engage consumers, elicit emotion and foster loyalty, forging a meaningful relationship that goes far beyond product and service. 

These ten brands show us why it pays to tell data-driven stories.

1. Airbnb

Storytelling lies at the very heart of Airbnb’s marketing.

Their intricate understanding of their audience and creative use of consumer data has made it one of the most iconic brands of today.

Their messaging centres around community and local hospitality, tapping into holidaymakers’ desires for more local travel experiences.

For New Year’s 2015, the company told its story through an animated video, announcing that approximately 550,000 travelers had spent New Year’s Eve in one of their many rentals across 20,000 cities – a jump from just 2,000 guests 5 years previous.

Highlighting the most popular choices for AirBnB guests to ring in the New Year, New York topped the list with 47,000 travellers.

Just one example of how the brand uses data to tell engaging stories, AirBnB’s stories consistently resonate with its audience by bringing to life the things they care about – travelling and new experiences.

2. Spotify

Spotify collects continuous data about what songs, playlists and artists its 30 million users select.  

The music streaming service combines this information with listeners’ location data and demographics, using it to create original content for its Spotify Insights blog.

In May 2017, one post looked at ‘How Students Listen 2017’, using data to create an interactive microsite looking at how different colleges and universities in the U.S. listen to music.

The site revealed insights such as where the most listening took place, the diversity of the music listened to, and the most popular genres, with findings including the fact that Penn State had the highest percentage of ‘party playlists’ in the U.S. 

Using internal data in this way helps brands like Spotify to create original stories based on insights that only they can access, helping them to differentiate themselves from competitors.

3. Google

Google’s ‘Year in Search’ videos are released annually, using its data to communicate the terms most searched for, offering a ‘state of the nation’ perspective.

In 2016, the two-minute film reviewed the top searches of 2016 by showing footage of the year’s pivotal moments – both joyful and tragic.

In testing, viewer response proved ‘overwhelmingly positive’, and the film ranked in the top 1% of all ads tested in 2016. It was also the third highest scoring out of nearly 700 technology ads tested.

Google manages to evoke a strong range of emotions from viewers, tapping into events that have touched everyone in some way, using data to identify exactly what topics and events will engage its audience.

4. Zillow

U.S.-based online real-estate marketplace, Zillow, has data on over 110 million homes, with information including value estimates, square footage, nearby amenities and aerial photographs.

The company leverages this data to create content.

As well as its more standard data-driven blog posts highlighting the best places for millennials to find affordable homes, or the best places to retire, the company also uses data to produce more quirky content.

In the run up to Halloween in 2016, it ran a blog post on the ‘20 Best Cities for Trick or Treating’, based on home values, how close homes are to one another, crime rate and the share of population under 10 years old.

This data was supported with an infographic illustrating the fact that Philadelphia, San Jose, San Francisco, Milwaukee and Los Angeles make the top five.

This creative use of insights to drive content shows how data can be made meaningful to your consumers, providing a dynamic and impactful storytelling platform.

5. Hinge

Hinge is the dating app for singletons who are “over the game” of swiping.

Pitting itself against more established rivals like Tinder, it leverages the consumer data at its disposal to tell stories that resonate.

81 percent of Hinge users have never found a long-term relationship on any swiping app.

This is the insight that sparked an idea among the creative team, shaping their central story: The Dating Apocalypse.

Encouraging people to “escape the games and find something real”, it depicts a world of possibilities beyond the boundaries of the familiar.

“Dating apps have become a game, and with every swipe, we’ve all moved further from the real connections that we crave. So we built something better.”

This key message has become the core brand purpose, fuelling its out-of-home campaign, created by Barton F. Graf, that tells stories inspired by users.

“Humans generate meaningful connections by sharing their vulnerabilities with one another”, Ellery Luse, Strategy Director tells us. “But in a world where dating apps turn relationships into a game of hookups, truly putting yourself out there can be a little scary.”

Proof that one insight can spark a wide net of consumer-centric stories, Hinge shows us you don’t need to be as big as Spotify to strike the right cord.

6. Huggies

The Canadian arm of the diaper brand, Huggies, knew that in order to compete with Pampers (the market-leader who, at the time, had 100% of Canadian hospital contracts), they needed to provide a tangible, emotional reason for mothers to choose them before arriving at the hospital to give birth.

The answer turned out to be in their own name: hugs.

Rooted in over 600 studies that proved hugs “help stabilize babies’ vital signs, build immune systems, ward off illness, and improve brain development”, the brand went on a mission to leave no baby unhugged.

The campaign hinged on two initiatives:

    1. Educate mothers on the importance of skin-to-skin contact with their babies.
  1. Ensure that Canadian hospitals had volunteer ‘huggers’ available for babies in need of hugs.

With sales soaring 30% in 2016 and an engagement rate 300% higher than industry benchmarks, this philanthropically-spirited campaign proves the power of using data to inform a story that resonates.

7. IBM

Every 6 hours, one person will die from melanoma in Australia.

This insight sparked global technology company IBM’s mission to use AI to “outthink melanoma” and champion early detection of the deadliest cancer down under.

Watson, the cutting-edge AI that was created, can detect melanoma with 31% more accuracy than the naked eye – something that can make all the difference for survival.

Launched in Bondi Beach during peak season, everyday Australians stood in front of a mirror and were analyzed by Watson, who determined and examined elements like age, gender and sunscreen coverage. If any risks or irregularities were spotted, the participant saw an on-site specialist for further treatment.

Over a single weekend, more than 800 people were helped, with 22% being referred for a follow-up appointment.

With Watson, IBM succeeded in proving itself as not only a first-rate tech brand, but one that actively cares about the health of its consumers.

8. Maltesers

In 2016, UK chocolate brand, Maltesers, set out to bring disability into the mainstream advertising arena.

Having uncovered the fact that 80% of disabled people feel underrepresented by TV and the media, Maltesers created a series of commercials inspired by real-life stories from disabled individuals, focusing on the universally awkward situations that unite us all.

The commercials continue to be a resounding success for the brand, which has seen an 8.1% uplift in sales and had the most viewed YouTube video in its history.

As a result of the campaign, 57% of consumers said Maltesers is changing the way people perceive disability.

It’s proof that tapping into diversity in an authentic way, backed by data, can have a real impact.

9. Whirlpool

Home appliance brand, Whirlpool, discovered one reason for the reported 4,000 U.S. students dropping out of school every day.

The reason was these families couldn’t afford to clean their clothes.

In a bid to help, and tell a meaningful brand story, Whirlpool launched the Care Counts programme, focusing on installing washing machines and dryers in schools to increase the attendance of poorer students.

The participating schools identified those with a need for clean clothes and anonymously tracked their loads of laundry as well as their attendance and grades over the course of one year.

Once they’d been given access to washers and dryers, the brand found 90% of the tracked at-risk students had improved attendance rates with 89% also improving their class participation.

The campaign has also won a number of awards, including the Cannes Lions Grand Prix for Creative Data Collection and Research.

By using consumer research to identify a social cause to align with, Whirlpool was able to position itself as far more than just a home appliance brand.

10. Refinery29

Leading female lifestyle site, Refinery29, uncovered a shocking fact:

While 67% of American women are plus-sized, they make up less than 2% of the images we see.

To change this, the brand teamed up with Getty Images to produce a new collection of stock images that more accurately represented its audience.

Making them available for free, they urged their consumers to spread their message via a #SeeThe67 hashtag on social media.

These images are widely used across the Refinery29 site, which has formed a unique and distinctive brand message.

By using deep consumer insight to uncover exactly who its audience was, the brand could establish itself as one that stands up for its consumers, appeals to them in an authentic way, and involves them directly in its brand story.

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