Uncovering key insights from your data is one skill, but communicating them is quite another. Storytelling has long since been used as a dynamic tool to break through consumers’ anti-marketing defences, but in recent years, the concept of “data storytelling” has taken flight. Research continues to demonstrate that this exciting new field is where the future of marketing lies.
Not only does data storytelling trigger emotional persuasiveness and boost engagement, it’s also produced some of the most memorable marketing campaigns to date, effectively sky rocketing marketing ROI and firmly establishing brand loyalty with consumers.
In 2009, Google’s Chief Economist Dr. Hal R.Varian stated in an interview, "The ability to take data—to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualize it, to communicate it—that’s going to be a hugely important skill in the next decades." Jump ahead to 2018, and this skill continues to be at the forefront of the most effective marketing campaigns – which see marketers using data insights to effectively close the gap between business and consumers.
When done correctly, brands can creatively use big data insights to transform their messaging to promote admirable causes and provide unforgettable experiences for the consumer. But is there a formula for success in data storytelling? Join Wordsmith to take a closer look.
1. Make it engaging
Most people aren’t particularly moved by data dumps. However, science has shown that when people listen to a story that incorporates data, they enter into a trance-like state. Rather than focusing on the logical, stories encourage people to drop their intellectual guard and accept the tale as a gift, allowing them to become more receptive to social cues and advertising. John Allen Paulos, Mathematician and NY Times bestselling author agrees, claiming, “In listening to stories we tend to suspend disbelief in order to be entertained, whereas in evaluating statistics we generally have an opposite inclination to suspend belief in order not to be beguiled.”
When you combine compelling visuals and interesting narrative with the right data, you have in your possession a data story that can really drive change. Which is exactly what Airbnb achieved with their New Year’s 2015 campaign: #OneLessStranger.
In the weeks leading up to New Year’s, Airbnb’s CEO, Brian Chesky, gifted US$1 million by donating US$10 into 100,000 people’s Airbnb accounts. He encouraged them to use this donation towards one act of kindness and hospitality for a stranger, hoping to create a sense of belonging within the Airbnb community. Users then shared this experience on social media, encouraging locals and travellers alike to create #OneLessStranger in the world.
So, what happened? Approximately 550,000 travellers celebrated the New Year with Airbnb hosts across 20,000 cities, a massive spike from the 2,000 people who booked an Airbnb on New Year’s five years before. The campaign also engaged over 3 million people, effectively empowering Airbnb’s community and non-users to participate and embrace local hospitality in a new and unique way.
2. Make it emotionally persuasive
Using your data within the context of a larger story makes it incredibly powerful, and your brand message becomes increasingly persuasive.
Consumer Brand Expert and Strategist Martin Lindstrom advises taking a scientific approach to data storytelling, and claims that, “If we want to build brands, it’s all about finding that needle in the haystack… It’s all about identifying, first of all, the causation, leading to the correlation [which then leads to] the conclusion.” From rich data insights, you can successfully gauge the sentiment of your audience to create a story that not only entertains, but also addresses and solves a problem.
Off the back of social data findings, candy maker Mars Inc.’s Snickers brand introduced the “Hungerithm Algorithm” campaign in Australia in 2016. Bringing their tagline “You’re not you when you’re hungry” to life, the idea behind the campaign was to link the price of the candy bars to how “hangry” netizens were. The angrier the internet got, the cheaper the price of a Snickers bar.
To do this effectively in real time, Clemenger BBDO Melbourne developed an algorithm with a 3,000-word lexicon that determined social sentiment by analysing up to 14,000 posts a day across Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – effectively monitoring the mood of the internet. Detecting uniquely Aussie slang terms and sarcasm, the results were reflected in the price of Snickers bars in 7-Eleven stores nationwide (updated more than 140 times a day), with prices dropping as low as 82% off when netizens were in a particularly foul mood! Hangry customers would receive a 7-11 coupon on their mobile after clicking “get a Snickers” on the website.
Ant Keogh, Executive Creative Director at Clemenger BBDO Melbourne added, “Considering how quickly the Internet can swing from a place of sharing and enlightenment to one of incredible vitriol, we felt this was the perfect way to bring Snicker’s hangry campaign into the spotlight… A data-led idea that changes the price of a global FMCG brand is an amazing opportunity. To launch it at scale through 7-Eleven is something else again."
The campaign was a resounding success, with a total of 6,600 redeemed coupons after the price of a snickers bar fluctuated more than 5,000 times in a 5-week period. The campaign generated over 300 million media impressions, a 1,740% increase in Facebook traffic and a whopping 67% increase in sales! Chief Marketing Officer, Jane Wakely at Mars Inc., comments, “Hungerithm hit the exact digital sweet spot we were going for — the point at which media, content and commerce collide.”
3. Make it memorable
One of the most important takeaways for creating effective data storytelling campaigns is to simply make it memorable. Raw data can only take you so far, claims Social Psychologist and Stanford Professor Jenifer Aaker. Backing up her assertion, research shows that stories are up to 22 times more memorable than facts.
Google understands that the best way to communicate data is to present it in a story that relates to the larger community. The average person wouldn’t want to sit through and read reems and reems of data about search volumes by sector and topical searches. However, they will have the time and interest to watch a 2-minute video about the “Year in Search”, and remember key touchpoints from the data presented.
Google’s “Year in Search” 2017, shows retrospective highlights from the past year and captures some of the world’s most defining moments of the year. Not only does it demonstrate how global consumers are using Google, it also provides valuable data insight for marketers to establish content road maps and create relevant campaigns for 2018.
Sundar Pichai, Google's CEO, tweeted, “This year we searched 'How' more than ever before. The questions we asked show our desire to understand, and ultimately improve the world around us… We found out that searchers are searching ‘how’ related phrases 10 times more than ever before, from ‘How to help in natural disasters’ to ‘How to watch the solar eclipse’.”
As data science and business intelligence tools continue to advance, the best storytellers will continue to be drawn to the forefront of marketing. If stories activate the emotional centres of the brain, data activates the logic centres. And as we are increasingly seeing, simultaneously activating both parts of the brain through powerful data storytelling can lead to incredible results.
The future of storytelling has arrived. Are you ready?