From Numbers to Narrative: How Brands Can Use Data-Driven Insights to Tell Compelling Stories
The human brain is hardwired to remember stories and to distill big ideas down to actionable insight we can apply to our everyday lives. This mental process occurs automatically as we scan website content or scroll through our social media feeds; a great story hooks us in, entertains or informs and suggests a path forward. For brands, storytelling can help build powerful, emotional connections with your audience, but it must begin with cold, hard facts. Taking a data-driven storytelling approach is key for brands to create content that not only captures attention but inspires action as well.
A story must be shaped before it can be shared, and information is the putty from which all great stories are formed. Research initiatives (including stakeholder interviews, focus groups, consumer panels and more) routinely produce hundreds of pages of crude data; knowing how to collect, interpret and distill that insight into a story is both a science and an art. What shape your story ultimately takes—from high-level brand strategy and positioning materials to a tactical playbook to drive your future go-to-market strategy—finding the heart and soul of your story in raw data is the first and most important step of your journey.
How Data-Driven Insights Inspire Compelling Brand Stories
- Build an honest understanding of your audience, category and marketplace rooted in data
- Interpret and distill that data to find the heart and soul of the story you are telling
- Personalize content to maximize relevancy
- Incorporate authentic imagery and video to create emotional connections
- Encourage engagement to capture more data and further improve the stories you tell in the future
Brands must then leverage the insights uncovered in the data to answer foundational questions about their audience. For instance, how and where can they find information about your product or service? What are their distinguishing attributes and behaviors? How do they demonstrate purchasing intent? Digital marketing provides a variety of tools to support you in these efforts, empowering your organization to effectively identify and even subdivide its audience into unique segments—and to deliver relevant information to each segment at every step of the decision-making journey.
The context for your story is also critical. Put simply, brands must set their story in the present day, with recognition of recent and potential future sources of change within the category (and of the social climate more broadly) to evaluate the relevancy of the story they are telling. This assessment has meaningful implications for your brand strategy, as tacit acknowledgment of change can help inform your ability to position the brand as a solution to that change. Conversely, a lack of awareness or preparedness can blunt the potential impact of your messaging, or even undercut your credibility.
One critical tool that can help shape your story at this stage is keyword research. Keyword research is the process of evaluating words and phrases to identify how people are exploring and researching a topic online, and which words and phrases most closely align with their thinking—and thus have the greatest potential to get your story seen. Armed with this information, brands can create their story using language that they know will resonate with the target audience.
Once your brand has a confident grip on the data and a full picture of the context in which the story is being told, you can begin crafting messaging itself. Telling a captivating story carries its own set of creative challenges unique to every initiative—however, there are a few perennial best practices brands should consider when it comes to creating compelling content. The first is personalization—customizing your story is critical in order to ensure it connects with each distinct subset of your audience wherever, whenever and however they choose to experience it.
Second, make it emotional! Brands must appeal to the hearts and minds of their audience as well as the senses. In addition to using crisp, descriptive language, brands must create emotionally engaging imagery or video, which has greater stopping power than words alone.
Lastly, keep in mind that the best stories are participatory. Encourage your audience not only to take action, but to engage with the brand via their preferred channels. These engagements produce invaluable data, and the insight you receive from your audience can be fed back into your content creation process to help you tell even better, more relevant stories in the future.
Telling a great story demands careful research and creativity in equal measure. Whether your platform is a website, social media page or ongoing email campaign, brands must leverage and interpret data to understand the wants and needs of their audience across every channel—and apply that insight to the story they are telling. This is critical, as a great story has the ability to change the hearts and minds of your audience and inspire immediate and meaningful action in the form of awareness, conversion, loyalty and advocacy.