Marketers Struggle to Tell the Right Story with Data

Translating complex information into coherent stories remains challenging

The immense growth of digital advertising has created all sorts of data-related headaches for marketers. One complication that particularly stands out is how marketers grapple to translate their complex data into stories that most people can understand.

In a January 2018 survey of 506 marketing and creative professionals worldwide conducted by Widen, telling the right story with data was cited as the biggest challenge respondents faced when utilizing their data. Nearly twice as many said they wrestle with telling stories with their data than they do with visualizing or analyzing data.

Merging storytelling and data analysis is difficult since they require disparate skill sets. It can be difficult to find employees who possess the talent to execute both of these functions. For every Nate Silver, a popular journalist who masterfully combines statistical rigor with storytelling, there are probably 10,000 academics who don’t know how to communicate their findings to ordinary people.

Another thing that make data-driven storytelling arduous for marketers is that they simply struggle to organize and utilize data.

In a Q4 2017 survey of US marketers by Adestra and Ascend2, 43% of respondents said they outsource their data-driven marketing strategies. While the majority of the respondents use a combination of outsourced and in-house resources, just 5% rely strictly on in-house resources to manage their data.

Adestra and Acsend2 also found that marketers considered data management and marketing technology to be the most difficult digital marketing tactics, with nearly half of respondents reporting that they find data management to be challenging. And in a February survey of US marketers by Blueshift and TechValidate, 54% of respondents said one of the main roadblocks preventing them from making better use of customer data was their insufficient data analysis capabilities.

As the amount of data that marketers rely on ballooned, an emphasis on unifying data sets arose within the industry. About half of the marketers, publishers and tech developers in North America surveyed by Winterberry Group in 2017 said that centralizing ownership of data would be one of the most important changes that their organization could make.