Why Data-Driven Storytelling is the Next Big Thing in Content Marketing

B2B marketers know there is no shortage of data; most of us are overflowing with it. But sorting through that data and using it in new and innovative ways to connect with your target audience – that’s a different story.

Companies estimate that they’re analyzing only 12 percent of the data they have available. The result? Eighty-eight percent of it is left on the cutting-room floor. And some of this data is valuable. That’s why innovative marketers are capturing this otherwise discarded information and using it for a totally different purpose: content marketing. But how are they doing this effectively?

Data-driven storytelling

The Harvard Business Review predicts that data-driven storytelling is positioned to be the next big trend in content marketing. Brands today view themselves much differently than they did in previous decades. They are no longer just advertisers, but also publishers providing large amounts of content through digital newsrooms, podcasts, and other branded content. The goal? To keep their brands and perspectives in front of customers, to build awareness and familiarity. They want to get attention and, moreover, they want to keep it.

Data-driven storytelling leverages the growing availability of data sets to analyze and uncover new angles on stories. But where should you start with your content strategy?

Getting started

As with any story, the best place to start is with an idea. What are your audience’s pain points, what keeps them up at night? Even if your competitors have addressed this topic in the past, it’s data that will bring it back to life. Which brings us to our next step: searching the data.

Seek internal and external data that confirms or disproves your angle. Once you find the right pieces of critical information, focus on only one or two major statistics. But above all, remember to use the “human element” of storytelling. People are hardwired to pay attention to stories, so integrate these into your content strategy, whether it’s a blog post, podcast, infographic or other piece of content.

4 real examples: how brands are doing it

1. Allstate: driving engagement through data

Allstate has put data at the heart of its content strategy to drive awareness. For example, the company features data-driven insights and infographics on its blog frequently. Recently, it published a fun infographic that harnesses data, titled “What’s Your Car-buying Personality?”


This infographic leverages data points to diagnosis the reader’s “auto-buying personality” and illustrates how it stacks up to those of others. Allstate frequently publishes content that uses this strategy, leveraging in-house and commissioned data sources to drive the content.

2. Intuit: surprising readers

Intuit is another great example. The company uses data-rich stats as part of its marketing strategy for TurboTax. On its blog, Intuit uses data to capture the attention of its audience and share surprising information. For example, it recently created an infographic that compared the financial habits of millennials versus Gen X to reveal unexpected data points … for example, even though millennials statistically have less debt than their Gen X counterparts, they are more worried about debt.

gen x vs millenials

3. Jawbone a view behind the data veil

Jawbone sells fitness trackers that capture all types of data, from sleep patterns to physical activity to what people eat. The company leverages this data to tell interesting stories, such as what people eat and drink on Valentine’s Day.

This recent blog post revealed that the Jawbone community logs 124 percent more wine consumption and 529 percent more champagne consumption on Valentine’s Day. The community also eats 71 percent more pizza and drinks 60 percent more beer on this day. Women eat 3% less garlic on Valentine’s Day; men eat 37% more. (Make of that what you will…) Sharing information about how your audience compares to others is a great way to capture interest and drive engagement.

4. Kickstarter — celebrating success

Kickstarter is a company that assists artists, musicians, filmmakers, designers, and others in generating the resources they need to bring their concepts from ideas to reality. It uses data points to share and inspire Kickstarter readers.

For example, the post “Some Cool Stats on the Coolest Cooler” highlights a Kickstarter project that was falling short of its $125,000 goal. However, the project was revamped and eight months and $13.3 million later it emerged as one of the most-funded Kickstarter projects of all time. The site uses data to tell stories and inspire others to continue revising, modifying, and moving forward with their creative ambitions.

some of the coolest stats on the coolest cooler

Kickstarter is also unique because it actually makes data one of its main blog post categories.

Data and content marketing: tips for success

  1. Use internal data. Today’s enterprises have access to more data than ever. But many closely guard this data and use it for internal decision-making only. Use your own original data to provide value and capture the attention of your target market.
  2. Highlight data points through visuals. The human brain is wired to be more sensitive to visuals, and to remember them better. John Medina, author of BrainRules, said, “We are incredible at remembering pictures. Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll remember 10% of it. Add a (relevant) picture and you’ll remember 65%.”

Plus, online content with relevant images gets 94 percent more views than content without them. That’s too big an advantage to ignore. So make your data more powerful by using infographics and images, because they work.

Just remember to make the image meaningful. As the Nielsen Norman Group’s eye tracking study shows, users pay attention to information-carrying images that are relevant to the task at hand, but they ignore purely decorative images that don’t add real content.

  1. Opt for counterintuitive data points. The most compelling stories include an angle that’s counterintuitive because it captures attention much faster. Sort through data to find contradictions against common beliefs, which then can be used to educate and surprise your audience. (Verify your data to make sure it’s defensible.)
  2. Look for trends. Review multiple sources of data, internal and external, to find trends. Then use these trends in content assets, such as blog posts, infographics or reports.

The winning formula

There’s no lack of data, but gathering these data points is only part of the equation. We must then integrate them into stories that truly resonate with our target markets. We have to take the time to develop a truly powerful narrative – if we’re going to illuminate great data points as they deserve.

When you master this, customers will feel more connected to your brand, resulting in higher levels of engagement and more authentic interactions.

Is your company using data in its content marketing efforts? If so, please share.

Content marketing is the linchpin of demand creation – the link between brand awareness and lead generation. Done well, it builds familiarity, affinity and trust with prospective and current customers by providing information that resonates – in the right format, through the right channel, at the right time. Download, “Creating a Content Marketing Strategy: 6 Best Practices That Work,” to learn how to deploy a content marketing strategy that drives results.