Data storytelling bridges two worlds: the creative and the formulaic; emotive communication and hard data.

While nothing new, storytelling is fast becoming the most effective way to reach today’s consumers.

More and more brands are looking to deep consumer insight to shape meaningful stories that resonate with their audience. Here’s why.

What is Data Storytelling?

Data storytelling is about making connections, using data as the guiding source.

Whether to shape a unique brand identity or an impactful marketing campaign, it gives brands an opportunity to capture attention in a way that’s focused squarely on their target audience.

Transformative consumer data that goes far beyond demographics – quantifying interests, attitudes, perceptions and motivations is changing the way this is done.

Stories shaped in this way are what bring brands to life. So what makes it work?

Why is Data Storytelling so Effective?

1. Storytelling cuts through the noise.

Media platforms and search engines are overwhelmed by the volume of content being published everyday – and so are consumers – with large quantities being recycled or cloned from publishers and competitor sites.  

For example, there are over 70 million blogs published per month on WordPress alone. On top of this, consumers are using more devices and platforms than ever, meaning they’re constantly faced with more and more content to consume.

This is why users are craving more original content, grounded in insights that make it relevant to them.

People read information, but they feel stories.

But saying something fresh and unique is a challenge for brands, given competition for consumer attention is growing by the day..

Brands that utilize data storytelling can cut through the noise to reach their audience on a more intimate, long-term scale.

2. Stories resonate on a human level.

Telling meaningful stories is at the core of modern marketing.

Our latest research shows a third of global internet users would promote a brand they love.

Storytelling is part of the human experience – it’s how we learn as children and it forms part of how we make sense of complex phenomena as adults.

This is why, over the last half-century, we’ve seen a shift away from explanatory marketing and advertising, and feature-led messaging, towards content which builds stories that connect with consumers on an emotional level.

Let’s take Lloyds Bank as an example of how advertising messaging has evolved from product-led to story-led.

This TV ad by Lloyds, aired in the 1980s, overtly lays out the practical benefits of becoming their customer:

One of their more recent ads, released in 2018, is notably more emotion-driven, with its slow music and beautiful scenery designed to evoke feelings of familiarity, security and longevity.

In this case, Lloyds expresses the relationship between brand and customer, transcending commercial exchange and creating feelings of familial relationships, friendship and security to increase long-term brand affinity.  

Using Data to Tell a Story

The richness of the data easily available to marketers today has enabled them to take storytelling to the next level.

With a greater understanding of their audiences’ interests, behaviors and motivations, they’re able to create messages that speak to them as individuals – on a personal level.

Businesses that adopt personalized marketing see an average 19% increase in sales, according to Marketingprofs.

A significant portion of consumer purchases are emotion-driven which is why brands are placing greater focus on understanding the stories that resonate with their audience.

And brands are no longer seen as just suppliers of products and services – they’re playing a more central role in our daily lives:

Our latest wave of research states that 27% of users want their favorite brands to improve their knowledge and skills.

Consumers have high expectations of the content they’re exposed to. They respond best when it’s personalized to them, which is something brands can capitalize on.

Creating a Brand Story using Data

Data should underpin your whole brand story. Gathering as much information about your audience and the market as possible will provide the insights needed to craft your message.

Gathering as much information about your audience and the market as possible will provide the insights needed to craft your message.

Here are some key considerations when building an effective and meaningful brand story.

1. Know your audience.

Most new companies have a sense of how they want their brand to be perceived when they start out.

But even for well-established brands, basing this important foundation on a hunch is risky.

The great thing about modern marketing is brands now have access to a wealth of consumer data that tells you everything you need to know.

Leveraging this to create a brand based on information you know to be true of your consumers is the right place to start.

2. Shape a strong  personality.

The more personable the brand is, the more relatable it becomes to consumers.

Humans enjoy building relationships with other humans, so brands that have a definitive personality will nurture a stronger connection with their customers.

Data that’s gathered on your consumers’ interests and motivations should inform the creative aspects of your brand’s personality such as tone of voice and messaging.

This will enable you to speak to them in a language they understand.  

3. Keep it simple and interesting.

The message should be accessible and easy to explain to form a deep connection with consumers.

Brands have a short window to engage their audience with their content, so being concise, impactful and engaging is essential.

Use your audience data to decipher which content they’re expecting to see on what channel and ensure you’re producing what they’re expecting to see.

4. Tell a story that others want to share.

Word-of-mouth is a powerful marketing tool, and in the world of social media, brand stories are shared millions of times each day.

To ensure yours is one of them, gather insights from the other brands your audience follows to understand what stories are being retold and how these can inform your brand’s message.

5. Make your message consistent.

When a customer buys your product or service, they should feel as though they’re buying into the brand story.

It will encourage them to form a long-term affinity with your business, making them an ambassador, and increasing repeat purchases.

Products and services should be marketed via instantly recognisable content.

This creates greater cohesion between all the facets of the brand, helping to build up a holistic brand story.  

Examples of Storytelling that Sticks

Many brands are using data storytelling to inform their marketing campaigns, creating appealing and original stories that their audience can connect with, but which reinforce their overall brand story.

Here are some of our favorites.

Hinge: The Dating Apocalypse

Hinge positioned itself as the dating app for singles who are tired of swiping.

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

Using the consumer data at their disposal, they shaped a story around the knowledge that existing dating apps don’t often lead to meaningful relationships.

By encouraging people to “find something real”, their campaign titled The Dating Apocalypse, explores the damaging effects of “swipe culture” and how it’s an unnatural way for us to create relationships.

In their campaign, Hinge confidently presents its new approach to dating as the refreshing antidote to a toxic industry.

Proof that consumer data provides the foundation for meaningful messaging.

Patagonia: Don’t Buy this Jacket

Outdoor clothing company, Patagonia have perhaps one of the most memorable brand stories of any high street retailer.

Their reputation for producing high-quality clothing feeds into their strong environmental message.

This message was taken to the extreme in their Black Friday campaign, which told consumers not to buy their products unless they truly require them because of the cost to the environment.

The ‘don’t buy what you don’t need’ sentiment of this campaign offers a refreshing and unique alternative to the bombardment of brands shouting at consumers to buy their products.

Although a risky campaign, it certainly reinforces their reputation for producing quality, ethically-minded products, building a strong community who align with the company values and share in the story.

And our latest research shows this is growing in importance today:

60% of millennials would pay extra for eco-friendly or sustainable products.

Refinery29: #SeeThe67

Refinery29 is a leading women’s lifestyle publication which revealed a staggering fact.

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

In response to this, the brand partnered with visual media company, Getty Images, to create a selection of free stock images which included plus-size women.

Users were also encouraged to share their campaign hashtag, #SeeThe67, to increase awareness.

The brand uses these images widely across their site which has contributed to the depth of their message.

By highlighting the significant proportion of women in America have been misrepresented,  Refinery29 established itself as a brand that stands up for its users with this authentic and impactful message.

Why it Matters

Data storytelling is one of the most progressive techniques for both building a strong brand identity and driving campaigns that work today.

Storytelling itself has been central to branding and marketing for decades, but with access to vast amounts of more in-depth consumer data, marketers have a greater understanding of which stories will reach their target audiences on a deeper level.

It’s easier than ever to craft meaningful narratives led by insight, and smart brands are taking advantage.

Connect with consumers: a picture of devices and consumers in 2021

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