How to create compelling data stories

What characteristics do great data-driven marketing and data strategy have? What must award-winning work do or achieve? With the entry deadline less than two weeks away, our experts tell us what they’ll be looking for when they’re judging the Data Storytelling Awards this year.

Last year’s winners at the Data Storytelling Awards

Marketing Week’s Data Storytelling Awards are back for a second year, with entries open until 19 July. We asked some of the judges to give us their views on what makes an outstanding Data Storytelling submission, and what you need to do to beat the best in the world of data-driven marketing

Lara Izlan, director of programmatic trading and innovation, Auto Trader

There has been growing focus and innovation in the application of data to marketing, advertising, audience building, and product development. As such, the judging panel will be looking out for clever combinations of creativity and data in solving key challenges, or in creating brand new opportunities. The success of these solutions should be underpinned by clear performance measures, with innovatively defined metrics.

Successful work starts with well-defined objectives and a clear idea of how the work supports your brand’s strategic goals. What is the commercial opportunity? How do customers benefit? Does it enhance consumer experience?

Next are the hypotheses; being explicit about your assumptions, creative in the approaches you want to test, and ensuring you have the right metrics to measure success.

Finally, be open to the insights or the story that the data shows. It is tempting to find patterns in the data that can be moulded to suit the objectives of the project, but the anomalies may tell a more interesting story.

Stuart McDonald, regional head of customer insight EMEA, AIG

It often starts with a hypothesis, an identified customer need or a pain point. It’s then about dictating an approach that stays true to the original goal.

Award-winning work must address a key strategic issue, have buy-in from the business and demonstrate positive action as a result. This could mean a change in behaviour, an uplift in key performance indicators (including revenue) or the launch of a new product or service. It has to have an acknowledgement of the project’s value in achieving the outcome to stand out from other pieces of work. It also has to have an obvious thread running through the story.

Projects that show data has not been considered in isolation, that multiple sources have been looked at – and sometimes rejected – as part of a strategic approach, are ones that are the most well-rounded. Often a simple insight can lead to big change. Being able to discern the signal from the noise – as statistician Nate Silver mentions – is a skill. Then being able to tell that in a compelling, cohesive story will win over all else.

Romain Bertrand, UK country manager, eHarmony

Great data-driven marketing is based on unique human insight. The data is collected with a specific purpose from the outset and, importantly, solves a problem for the brand’s audience or customer.

I believe award-winning work has to start with a clear strategy and objectives. It needs to include tangible and verifiable evidence of the outcome at the end and it has to help a brand clearly differentiate from the competition. You willl find that the best work will often help solve a complex business issue.

The awards have set the bar high and shone a spotlight on brands and their strategies that are blazing a trail in this sphere. More fully integrated campaigns are likely to pique the judges’ interest this year, as well as mobile campaigns that deliver tangible business benefits, not vanity metrics. Entries from ecommerce brands would be welcomed; businesses where data sits at the heart of what they do. Entries from small and medium-sized companies would add great value, including startups from non-traditional sectors. We want to see the disruptive British brands.

Simon Kaffel, EMEA Head of Data Transformation and Head of CRM and Channel Data Services, HSBC

The data industry has a prime opportunity to do some clever stuff right now. With the wonderful world of big data, more and more information is at our fingertips and the technology available allows data to be at the centre of driving business growth and revenue.

Last year’s Grand Prix winner, The Guardian, got the basics absolutely right. I don’t think
the awards should be an opportunity to demonstrate just really whizzy stuff. They also have to be focused on making sure that you don’t lose sight of that solid data foundation and that you are managing your data well. You need to be doing a lot of the stuff that isn’t necessarily sexy but is fundamental to enable a business to make use of its data appropriately.

Award-winning work has to focus on what is probably considered more mundane, but actually, with increased legislation in this area, it is more important that you get that right. Consumers want an organisation to demonstrate that their data is being looked after and that it is being used in the right way.

The final deadline for entrants for Marketing Week’s Data Storytelling Awards 2016 is July 19. Full details on how to enter can be found here.

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