Telling stories is all about human connection and brand storytelling is no different. Brand storytelling is all about using content to connect and engage with customers in more compelling ways. Brands are often looking for new ways to forge more meaningful connections with their audiences. Why? Well, for one, connection promotes loyalty. And to achieve this, integrating data-driven brand storytelling into your content marketing strategy is the best place to start.
What is data-driven brand storytelling?
Data-driven brand storytelling is a content marketing method that puts data at the center of brand communications. For example, a brand might share data derived from a data ETL process, Reverse ETL process, or its latest research study with its customers via blog content, newsletters, or social media platforms.
Data-driven storytelling is a way to convey data through storytelling mediums like videos, social media posts, Facebook marketing infographics, and brand documents. It’s a way to frame the numbers in a memorable narrative and break down complex data sets into engaging and easily digestible stories.
For example, a brand might use storytelling to communicate trends or company comparisons to its audience in a more compelling way. Storytelling works because audiences are more likely to connect with narratives than row after row of naked data. Framing data in a story helps audiences understand the meaning behind the raw data and connect with brands emotionally.
Data-driven brand storytelling is beneficial because it:
- Exposes brands to new audiences.
- Increases brand credibility.
- Provides customers with context.
- Can be applied across content formats.
Why is data-driven brand storytelling so important?
Communicating data through stories is important because it helps us connect with existing customers and source new prospects. Data-driven brand storytelling gives us the opportunity to form relationships with customers by engaging with their specific interests and needs.
Data insights have never been more accessible for businesses. Thanks to technologies like TensorFlow, businesses can access large-scale statistical and predictive analytics without too much of a learning curve (why not try out this DataBricks TensorFlow tutorial)? Select data points can then be shared with your audience to help them feel even more connected to your brand.
For example, one of the best ways to improve a brand newsletter is to incorporate a few select data points into the content. This need not be a lengthy process especially if you’re already using a CRM system like HubSpot. The best HubSpot integrations will allow you to merge data right into your documents.
Data-driven storytelling best practices
It’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty. We’ve established that data-driven storytelling is a major asset when it comes to connecting with customers and sourcing new prospects. But what’s the best way to go about it? What steps can we take to include data-driven storytelling in our own marketing strategies? Well, let’s find out!
Start harnessing data
In order to make data-driven storytelling part of your everyday marketing strategy, you’ll need a regular supply of targeted data. If you haven’t already, consider implementing business intelligence software that will automatically retrieve and analyze data for your business and provide you with detailed breakdowns.
Data storage engines like Apache Kudu are a great option. What is Apache Kudo? Well, it’s a data storage engine that generates fast analytics on your data. Analytics that you can then use as part of your data-driven brand storytelling.
Customers won’t connect with bland old data points. That’s why we’re creating data-driven stories to communicate with them in the first place, right? So, make those stories count by letting your creative juices flow. You can make presentation videos or use infographics. Originality always wins. Finding unique and fun ways to showcase the information you’ll captivate your audience, establish a strong brand identity, encourage engagement, and remain memorable.
Start with a storyboard
The best place to start is by brain-dumping all of your ideas. Once your creative juices are flowing organize these ideas into a more coherent storyboard to outline the brand story you want to convey along with the key data points that you’ll include in messaging. Make sure that your key messages and data points align, sketch out a narrative, incorporate some visuals, and you’ve got yourself a data-driven story!
Keep messaging simple
Storytelling is a great opportunity to harness your creativity, but remember to keep core messaging simple. Overcomplicated narratives will confuse rather than inspire action. So, as the (kinda) old saying goes, keep it simple stupid!
You don’t have to cover every issue or every data point under the sun in one post. Instead, home in on one trend, theme, or statistic and create a simple narrative around it. Most importantly, your readers shouldn’t have to decode anything. Keeping the language simple and easy to understand is always far more effective.
It’s cool to be different. Sharing a piece of niche or unusual data from your company's analytics and reporting research is a great way to start a conversation and build engagement with your audience.
Readers are inundated with information online and will jump at the opportunity to learn something truly new. Highlighting data points that reveal something unexpected, counterintuitive, relatable, or funny is sure to spark a conversation and pique the reader’s interest in your brand.
Spotify provides us with a great example of this. The music streaming company uses user behavior data to add humorous elements to their marketing campaigns which they highlight on social media platforms like Twitter. For example, Spotify has tweeted out some of its users’ silliest playlist names and listening habits!
Always provide context
When communicating data-based information, context is key. Framing the data within its broader context makes it easier to understand and helps the reader apply and interpret that data in relation to their own personal situation or perspective.
Context is all about communicating the bigger picture. Incorporating data points into a captivating narrative elicits emotions in a way that numbers alone simply cannot. Say you’re writing a post for social media. You could list off statistic after statistic or you could focus on the most important data point and explain it in a creative way. Which would you be more likely to read and remember?
Uber does this excellently. The brand has found a creative way to tell drivers how far they have traveled using the art of simple visual analogy.
For example, instead of simply telling drivers that they have driven x number of miles, Uber contextualizes the numbers with a comparison - e.g. that the driver had driven the equivalent of x Olympic swimming pools.
Integrating visuals into your brand storytelling is a really effective way to stand out. Images are memorable. Our eye is going to be drawn to a satisfying infographic over a list of statistics, right? Visuals aren’t there to replace the data but to enhance the data.
With the right visual elements, you’ll strengthen your brand message, help readers digest the information you are trying to convey, and make your brand more visually appealing and memorable in the process. It’s a win-win.
Back up your facts
Don’t be tempted to share unreliable or false information. When incorporating facts and figures into your content, make sure that they are backed up with proof by providing an up-to-date link to the original study or data source that it originally came from. For example, if you’re presenting data from a series of crowdsourced penetration testing runs, then make sure to link that data to an official write-up, whitepaper, or study.
Focus on people
People are at the heart of every good story, so make sure your content focuses on that all-important human element. Helping readers connect with information on a more human level is what drives engagement. Try to use your narrative to communicate core brand beliefs and values that your audience can get behind as this will foster loyalty.
For example, if you’re marketing a new integration app, focus on how the app can eliminate problems for the user by connecting all of their favorite apps in one place!
When communicating a statistic or data point, contextualize it to demonstrate how that data point directly affects people in general (or even better the customer themself). This transforms the data from being ‘just a number’ into tangible and relatable information.
Take AirBnB, for example. AirBnB places the human element at the heart of their content. The brand expertly taps into what its audience is most concerned with - hospitality and community. AirBnB has created a dedicated page on their website specifically for Host Stories. Here on the Host Stories page, you’ll find real-life stories and experiential accounts from AirBnB hosts.
Tell a story!
So, there we have it. Those creative writing classes you took at high school weren’t for nothing. Storytelling is big news in digital marketing right now and data-driven storytelling is a great way to create more lasting bonds with your audience. Storytelling should be part of every creative project management strategy. Just remember to keep it simple, human-focussed, and always backup the data.
AuthorBecca Uptmor is the Senior Director of Web Marketing at Databricks, specializing in everything from website redesigns and re-platforms to international SEO, leadership training courses, and global content marketing campaigns. With decades of experience within the marketing industry, Becca is known for successfully facilitating the growth of a company at a global scale.