Disney: Data needs a beginning, middle and end


To tell stronger brand stories marketers need to think about the way they structure the data journey, from the purpose of information collection to using specialist insight to go beyond simple behavioural metrics.

Speaking at the Data Storytelling Conference today (1 November), Richard Ellwood, head of audience strategy EMEA at The Walt Disney Company, encouraged marketers to think about how much context they incorporate into their data storytelling.

“To tell stories from data you need a beginning, middle and end, like every good Disney story. At the beginning you need to have the right ethical collection and storage of data, you also need to make sure you have a clear vision of where you want to take that data, and for us at Disney it’s all about focusing on audiences.

“In the middle we need the right team of specialists who are directing the right data points, but who also go beyond behavioural data to understand how we can capture the qualitative richness for each of our different audiences.

“And at the end we need data curators who can look across all the data and delve into it and then direct strategy with engaged business leaders,” he explained.

Ellwood argued that the best way to tell a story is to humanise it, which is why Disney focuses on nine core audience stages that go beyond simple demographics like sex and age to focus on distinct developmental stages. The team also drill down into the key emotional needs states most prominent during these different stages of development, feeding information from 40 behavioural data sources into a bespoke big data tool.

READ MORE: Disney admits it has ‘no idea’ who went to see Star Wars as it increases focus on consumer insight

Humanising the data also means resisting the temptation to get lost in patterns that might not actually relate to consumer behaviour.

“The risk with data storytelling is that it’s potentially putting a huge emphasis on behaviour that is potentially quite low involvement from the end consumer,” said Ellwood.

“Part of the context of data storytelling is understanding that before your consumer decides to buy your product, or your audience decides to watch your content, they could be looking at other options and I think it’s really important to understand what other choices do they have.

“The data storytelling I work on starts by setting a context of who we are targeting and why. Also thinking about our competitors, what are they offering and why our offering going to stand out.”

Reacting to emerging data sources

Going forward marketers will need to be ready to react to emerging data sources, in particular through the rise of virtual reality (VR), noted Ellwood, who said Disney is starting to consider what kind of data could be gathered from VR.

“How will that data fit alongside other traditional platforms? And how can we understand the relative importance of the data we get from virtual reality?” he asked.

“Is it usage, time spent or is it even things like the neurological reaction to spending your time utterly immersed in gameplay? I find it really interesting to understand how that type of data could start to creep it’s way into the other edge of big data that we focus on.”



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