Data storytelling has the power to bring together two worlds: the creative and the formulaic with emotive communication and hard data.
More and more, brands that want to expand their reach are looking to deep consumer insight to shape meaningful data stories that resonate with their audience, and inspire them to purchase a product or service.
While nothing new, data-driven storytelling is fast becoming the most effective way to catch the attention of busy audiences, and really reach today’s consumers.
What is Data Storytelling?
Data storytelling is a method of using data and analytics to build a compelling narrative that’s tailored to a specific audience. It’s all about making clear connections by using data as the essential guiding source.
Whether the goal is to shape a unique brand identity or create an impactful marketing campaign, valuable insight is what allows brands 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 – are instrumental in changing the way this is being done.
Stories shaped in this way are what truly takes a brand from the shadows, and puts it in the spotlight with consumers.
Why is data storytelling important?
A compelling data story cuts through all the noise
We all know that media platforms and search engines are becoming increasingly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content being published every single day – and so are consumers – with large quantities regularly being recycled or cloned from publishers and competitor sites.
To put things into perspective, there are over 70 million blogs published per month on WordPress alone, not including other platforms. On top of this, consumers are using more devices and platforms than ever, meaning they’re constantly faced with more and more content to see and consume. That makes the fight to be noticed by audiences even more difficult for brands that aren’t using data storytelling.
This is just one reason why users are craving more original content that’s grounded in key insights that make it relevant to them as an audience.
People read information, but they can feel a good story.
But saying something fresh, unique, and different can be a reoccurring challenge for many brands as the competition for consumer attention continues to grow by the day.
The key is focusing on data that can be transformed into actionable insights. Brands that utilize data storytelling can cut through the noise to reach their audience on a more intimate, long-term scale than companies that don’t.
Stories resonate deeply on a human level
Telling meaningful stories is at the core of every successful modern marketing strategy.
Storytelling is part of the human experience.
It’s just one of the ways we learn as children, yet it forms an integral part of how we make sense of complex phenomena as adults. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that your content is not only easy to understand but also tailored to your specific audience so that it’s relevant and useful for them.
Over the last half-century, we’ve seen a shift away from explanatory marketing and advertising, and feature-led messaging, towards content that builds on stories that connect with an audience on a deeper emotional level.
Data storytelling vs. data visualization
So what’s the difference?
Whereas data storytelling is all about creating relatable, convincing narratives that break down complex data, data visualization takes a slightly different approach. As the name suggests, this method uses visuals like graphs, charts, maps, and even animations to help tell a story
Both of them use data and analytics as the foundation.
The most important thing to remember if you want to know how to tell them apart is easy to understand: data storytelling is about communicating a story, data visualization is about showing the story.
What makes a good data story?
The richness of the data easily available to most marketers today has enabled them to really take storytelling to the next level.
With a greater understanding of their audiences’ interests, behaviors, and motivations, they’re able to create authentic messages that speak to them as individuals on a personal level.
Many consumer purchases are emotion-driven which is why many brands are placing greater focus on understanding the narrative that truly resonates with their target audience.
Consumers have high expectations of the content they’re exposed to. They respond best when it’s not only personalized but actually relevant or meaningful to them, which is something brands can capitalize on. It’s all about speaking their language so you can really connect.
How do you create a story using data?
Good data should underpin your whole story. By gathering as much information as you can about your specific audience and trends in the market, you’ll be able to provide the key insights needed to craft a message that hits home with consumers.
Here are some things to consider when building a compelling story.
1. Know your target audience
Most new companies have a sense of how they want their next campaign to be perceived by consumers when they start.
But, basing this important foundation on a hunch is a risky bet.
The great thing about modern marketing is the access to a wealth of consumer data that tells you everything you need to know about the people you’re trying to reach.
Leveraging this to create a data story based on the information you know to be true of your audience is just the right place to start.
2. Shape a strong, defined personality
The more personable and relatable the data story is, the more relevant it becomes to consumers.
Humans enjoy building relationships with other humans, so having a definitive personality will nurture a stronger connection with consumers who are drawn to authentic messages.
Data that’s gathered on consumers’ interests, behaviors, and motivations should inform the creative aspects of a data story such as tone of voice, messaging and purpose.
This will enable you to speak to them in a language they understand.
3. Keep it simple and interesting
The message of a data story should be accessible and easy to explain to form a deep and genuine connection with consumers.
There’s a short window to engage an audience with 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 data stories that others want to share
Word-of-mouth is a powerful marketing tool, and in the world of social media, data stories are shared millions of times each day on many different platforms.
To ensure your story is one of them, it’s important to gather insights from other brands your audience follows to get a better understanding of what stories are being retold, how these can inform your brand’s message and ways to make sure you’re taking a fresh approach.
Data storytelling examples that stick
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 data story.
One brand that really nails data stories is Spotify.
Their annual Wrapped series uses data from users’ listening habits throughout the year – from favorite tracks, albums, and genres to themes and moods during the day – to create an interactive audio and visual experience that can be shared on social media. This not only creates brand awareness but gives consumers a chance to understand themselves through the experience which creates a deeper connection.
Spotify not only does a stellar job at connecting with consumers but artists on the platform as well.
Their 2022 fan study is a quarterly exploration that uses literally millions of data points to uncover actionable insights that help musicians develop their fanbase. The impressive report is broken down into multiple sections showing Spotify user data regarding engagement, offering valuable information about how to deepen relationships with listeners, and even best practices for getting their merch into the hands of fans.
Our annual flagship report Connecting the Dots breaks down the biggest trends our expert analysts have predicted will take over 2023 by using data. It offers an in-depth look at the US and global markets when it comes to how people are feeling, what they’re thinking and how things are changing so you can be prepared for what’s next with consumers.
From social media and the future of the metaverse to climate change fatigue and sustainability, it’s designed to help you organize the chaos so you can position yourself to make the most impact with audiences.
Here’s why you need data storytelling to win
Data storytelling is one of the most progressive techniques for both building a strong brand identity and driving campaigns that work with consumers of today.
That’s why storytelling itself has been central to branding and marketing for decades.
With access to vast amounts of more in-depth consumer data, marketers have a greater understanding of which stories will reach their target audiences, and help to connect with them on a deeper level.
It’s easier than ever to craft a meaningful narrative led by data insights, and smart brands are taking advantage now.