Next in 2019: Data and Storytelling Converge

Jan Mascarina
15 Jan 2019

Marketers agree - the best way to improve customer lifetime value (CLV) is to make better use of data (Criteo). On the other hand, storytelling is now a fundamental part of brand communications and marketing. In a study by Origin/Hill Holliday, story-telling increases the perceived value of products and services over a description. 

For quite some time, these two known benefits were considered within silos when planning marketing campaigns. Not in 2019, says Charanjit Singh, our Managing Partner. He explains, when interviewed by Branding in Asia:

In 2019, we expect to see the convergence of data driven marketing and storytelling – where data informs brands about the kind of stories they should be telling – to whom, and when to tell them most effectively. Brands will be more cognizant of this in 2019.

Knowing how to analyse the data meaningfully to guide storytelling is part of a much longer conversation, but in the meantime, here’s how you can get off the ground. Use data insights easily available to you, to give your writer a good sense of who is reading your content or watching your videos.

Content for a coke-drinking meme enthusiast is quite different from content for a whiskey-drinking self-improvement guru, or even a fruit-juicing marketing manager. Crafting content relevant to your audience is a no brainer, so take a step further and analyse how well each content theme performs, and double down or expand those that do. 


What does best-in-class data-driven storytelling look like?

Singaporean content creators and marketers seem to be catching on, increasingly telling highly focused narratives over the past year or so. Let's take a look at some examples that nailed storytelling for an intended audience. 

RSAF - Limitless Together

How do you entice 20-somethings to join the air-force? Tap on their communal aspirations, and contrast that with realities they see with themselves and around them, thereby encapsulating their brand tagline of 'limitless together' pretty effectively. Beyond creative video-storytelling (though we have to admit, we saw this treatment last year with an earlier 'Our Home, Above AllRSAF50 ad and thereafter another 'Symmetry of ChangiChangi Airport ad prior, so that does take away from the impact of this video slightly), this video takes real scenarios that people in their intended target audience face and juxtaposed that into a video. 

The results? 

Well, let the comments from their intended audience speak for itself: "This makes me wanna be a pilot!" and "Hats off... This ad really has some magic. And despite the snazziness and high-production value, it comes off as very relatable" among others. 


DBS - Live More, Bank Less



"Live more, Bank less" was a new slogan introduced by DBS in May 2018 to replace the 12-year-old "Living, Breathing Asia" which had been in use since 2006. Understanding that they serviced a multitude of customers with a plethora of personalities and stories, DBS released a range of ads in an attempt to cast as wide as an appeal net as possible, closely matching different aspects of their many customer's lives. It goes on to propose the idea of the bank as an enabler for your passionate pursuits, in line with their new tagline. 

This works because it indicates that DBS has zeroed in on the audiences it services, and is telling individual stories and putting them front as centre as an integral part of their brand image.  


Your Brand is like a Diamond

The issue with telling stories without sound data insights. 

Think of your brand as a diamond. Multi-faceted, emitting a unique sparkle that differs depending on what angle you see it from. A diamond’s lustre is strongly affected by the way it’s cut and presented, and improper cutting of diamonds could affect its brilliance. Data informs you where to cut, and for whom, to make your brand truly shine.

Without data, you’re essentially a diamond cutter without instructions.

Data informs you quickly about what kind of content you should be crafting, for whom, when and where to serve it. 

Guided content strategies ensure that your stories are told right, with a lustre, every time. 



What happens if I don't consider data within my brand stories?

What happens when a brand delivers excellent storytelling without authenticity?



Let's take a look at an example from the reigning king of audio-visual-storytelling platforms, YouTube. Towards the end of 2018, they released YouTube Rewind 2018. With 15M dislikes, it is YouTube’s most disliked video in history. Why the strong response? Based on popular tech blogger, Marques Brownlee (who himself, appeared in the rewind), there is a mismatch between YouTube users’ expectations for the rewind video, and what YouTube made, which is a glorified ad to encourage spending from advertisers.

It's received as out of touch, inauthentic (Will Smith referencing Fortnite, really?) and subservient to their advertising agenda - forgetting the intended audience. A better approach could have been YouTube making two videos. One for the advertisers, one for the intended audience. For the latter, a more earnest collection of elements from the existing YouTube rewind, in line with Pewdiepie’s version.

Be warned, marketers. 2019’s digital audience is definitely more shrewd than they've ever been. 


A summary of digital data-backed storytelling in 2019.

1. Data-informed narratives: Don't create content solely with your brand in mind. Create it for your audience, and their needs and motivations. What are topics of interest to them? What do they care about? What will resonate with a large segment of them?

2. Data-informed deliveries: Find out when your audience is online (optimum posting and delivery times). Where they are online (what platforms are they using?). What they do online (what do they do during their time online, how can you craft content that feels natural or ingrained with what they're doing). Craft a content strategy that delivers toward this information, for maximum efficacy. 

3. Data-backed predictions: The calendar remains the same every year (sans February 29s), and so do the milestone events and trends that go along with it. Observe data trends to understand what content is popular during specific timeframes, and act accordingly. 

See, data-backed content is not all that difficult. Follow our three-step plan outlined above to ensure you win in 2019. 


Year In Retrospect 2019 v2

This insight is part of our Year In Retrospect Series, where we look back at the past year, to predict what's coming next.

More insights
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