Storytelling has always been a powerful tool for marketing creatives. Today, brands are telling more ambitious stories than ever before. At the same time, organizations are more equipped than ever to collect and analyze data from practically all areas of their business – and savvy brands are using that data to elevate their storytelling chops.   

Here at Blue Fountain Media, we’re in the business of creating powerful brand narratives and believe they’re realized best when informed by data, an approach known as data-driven storytelling.

What is data-driven storytelling?

Data-driven storytelling is the use of data insights and analytics to enrich content and motivate a desired action from your target audience. That action could be a conversion, like adding an item to your cart and checking out; an engagement, like a share or comment; or something more abstract, like increased brand recall and awareness. In our increasingly digital world, data-driven storytelling is becoming more and more important for brands vying for consumer attention and affection.

When we think of stories, we often think of something written, with a beginning, middle, and end. But stories at the scale of digital are different. While written content still plays an important role online, something like an infographic, or even the UX of an online store, can also be a vehicle for storytelling. That can big opportunity for brands looking to speak their piece.

Complex to comprehensible

Brands have more information at their disposal than ever before, but the average consumer isn’t equipped – or willing – to pour over raw data. By bringing data and creative teams together, you can realize the story your data is telling in a way your audience will actually want to consume.

For a great example of this in action, look to Spotify. At any time, the streaming giant – which collects listening data from its more than 217 million subscribers – lets users view a report of their listening habits, providing stats on how they listen, what their favorite tracks are, and how they stack up to the rest of the world.

These reports are shareable, surprising, and naturally user-centric, and rely on user data that could have easily stayed on a spreadsheet in Spotify HQ forever. Instead, Spotify puts the user at the center of their own musical narrative and clearly defines themselves as the brand making that story possible.

Proving your values

Modern consumers expect businesses to stand for something, and they’re ready to call foul on brands that don’t pass their sniff test. Having data to back up your brand’s authenticity can earn the buy-in of skeptics and also bolster the loyalty of your existing fans. Data can also act as a proof-of-concept that a product or service works – a big advantage for disruptors seeking credibility.

Our team often uses data to help brands walk the walk and not just talk the talk. For collision repair giant Service King, our team curated traffic, accident, and road data, and transformed it into an interactive safety map that helped users understand the dangers of the road, whether that’s deer, snow, or UFOs. You can check out the map, and learn more about our work with Service King, here.

This wasn’t just a fun way to get users on the Service King website. It also helped further establish the company as an ally for drivers and showcased the brand’s commitment to their mantra: Let’s not meet by accident.

Conversions, naturally

If brands want to get more users to convert, they must understand the journey from the first visit to the final click. Data offers visibility into consumer decision-making and allows creative teams to bridge the gap between the story they’re telling and the experience the user is having. That information can be used to shape all parts of a multi-faceted digital story, from the messaging you lead with to the direction of your design. The result: An online experience that makes users feel excited (instead of pressured) to convert.

Privacy, please!

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, modern consumers are decidedly vigilant about where their data is going and how it’s being used. That’s an important sea change, but it shouldn’t slow down your data-driven storytelling if you keep your users in the loop.

What we’ve seen is this: Consumers are willing, if not excited, to be the center of a data-driven story, as long as brands are clear about what data is being used and for what reason. Practice transparency and respect privacy and users will come aboard by choice.

Tomorrow’s stories

How we tell stories in digital is going to keep changing, especially as VR, AR, and voice all promise to thrust us into a brave new future. It’s a safe bet that data will play an important role throughout, but how things will look in 5, 10 or 20 years remains an exciting unknown.

We can, however, be certain of this: People will always gravitate toward quality stories. It’s in our nature. We love hearing stories about others, and we love being part of our own. In that sense, data is a new tool we have to an old end. Brands and marketers ought to remember that.