There are a few secrets to truly effective and memorable content marketing. You need a lot of content. And remember that content can take on many forms. Images are powerful. Propriety data is powerful. When used together, creating images from data can drive impactful marketing campaigns, leading to viral shares and skyrocketing engagement.
These 9 brands don’t just use their own proprietary information to create data visualization; data visualization is central to the stories they tell.
Once upon a time, there was:
Every playlist on Spotify has a story, from the “Hurry Home” commuting playlist that pops up during rush hour to the seasonal “Summer Party” to the tonally driven “Wake Up Happy” and “Confidence Boost” tunes. Each title evokes an emotion, setting the mood for any and every occasion you need. To continually optimize their playlists, Spotify tracks data about who listens to what, when, and where, which they turn into interesting projects.
Spotify’s Year in Music shows us a fascinating glimpse into a year’s worth of music lifestyle trends, like what we listened to the morning after New Year’s Eve: a playlist titled “Hangover-Friendly Singer-Songwriter.” By January 7, workout playlists topped the charts, reflecting all those fresh New Year’s resolutions. May 30 was “The Happiest Day,” or at least the day on which “happy-themed” playlists were played more than any other. In Autumn, just in time for Halloween treats and Thanksgiving gluttony, Meghan Trainor’s “All About that Bass” rose to the top like cream. And on October 10, a significant portion of the whole world rocked out to Metallica, Iron Maiden, and Slayer.
Spotify’s data visualization tells us how we trained, studied, and partied, along with where we wished we were (our favorite coffeehouse).
Then Spotify looked at its global community with Musical Map: Cities of the World, creating a data visualization of the most popular tracks and musicians by city. Want to listen to the top artists enjoyed in Budapest, Reykjavik, or Adana, a large city in southern Turkey that overlooks the Seyhan River? Just click the map location for a global musical experience. This isn’t just data visualization: It’s data visualization with sound.
Uber tracks its data like nobody’s business—and then they make it everyone’s business, which is good business. Did you know that in Queensland, Australia, 96% of taxis take 18 minutes to arrive, but UberX drivers in Brisbane, Australia, arrive in about 3.8 minutes? Telling stories using data like this is where Uber really shines.
Part of the credit goes to David Plouffe, former strategist for President Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign and current chief advisor and board member at Uber. Plouffe is known for his ability to use data to create campaigns that frame public perception and then use public opinion as leverage for legislation allowing Uber to spread.
As Plouffe told the New York Times, “This is a company that loves data and utilizes it, which is something that I’ve utilized a lot. If we can use data in smart and appropriate ways to tell our story better, people are more likely to use Uber for transportation.”
In other words, Uber’s mission is to tell stories that literally move people. On Uber Data and Uber’s Newsroom, you’ll see charts and maps telling stories like “more than one-third of partners come from zip codes with unemployment rates greater than 9%” (Philadelphia), and “Demand for Uber peaks at the same time DUI incidents are at their highest” (Connecticut).
Mint, the online money management app that lets users pay bills, track credit scores, and manage their investments, aims to make money simple. When possible, Mint uses infographics and data visualization to help users better understand their finances and investment choices.
Catchy infographics like Financing Your Furry Friend and A Dude’s Guide to Not Going Broke During Wedding Season are side-by-side with solid financial advice, like Saving vs. Spending: The Tax Refund Conundrum. Even potential investment markets are simplified with data visualizations like the Coffee Economy graphic, which shows the rising demand for coffee.
In reviewing Mint’s infographic and data visualization posts, it’s amazing how quickly stories about money become stories about people.
As data visualization blogger Randy Olson said in a recent marketing Ask Me Anything session:
“OkCupid wouldn’t be nearly as widely known if its founders didn’t take a step back and think about how they could use data visualization to communicate the compelling stories in their data. Most companies have interesting stories to tell with their data (or others’ data), yet those stories won’t capture people’s attention with walls of text to read through. Data visualization can make your point, make it quick, and avoid all the unnecessary bells and whistles that often plague infographics.”
In fact, OKCupid’s entire blog, OKTrends, is all about their data, which makes for a fascinating read. Did you know that women who go on blind dates with good-looking, average-looking, or unattractive men all report having a pretty good time on average? And if you want to know whether someone has sex on the first date without directly asking them on your first date, you should ask, “Do you like the taste of beer?”
OKCupid doesn’t just tell stories; their stories reveal who we love, how we love, and how we navigate the turbulent waters of the dating world. And they do it with data.
Many companies use data visualization in their content marketing on a daily basis, while some choose to do a few high-profile, high-value content pieces each year. Optimizely’s Optimization Benchmark Report for the second quarter of 2015 is one such high-value piece, produced from surveys with Dimensional Research.
In both text and data visualization, the report shows most companies’ optimization struggles, budgets, and team structures, as well as how often companies run A/B or multivariate tests and how they measure ROI. For those interested in seeing how other companies handle optimization, it’s well worth the free download and is an asset in telling the story of the velocity of the optimization industry as a whole, rather than just noting benchmarks.
KickStarter provides its data completely free, making the company a great resource for anyone interested in creating their own data visualization projects. In 2014, KickStarter had a landmark year and used a series of data visualizations— charts, graphs, and maps—to highlight their 22,252 success stories.
By far, the most frequently funded types of projects were in the music and film/video categories, with games and publishing following distantly behind. Technology projects received the highest monetary pledges, followed by design and games. Thirty-six backers came from Antarctica—though likely not funding the “Coolest Cooler” project (a high-tech, high-style cooler with a built-in ice-crushing blender and waterproof Bluetooth speaker).
Anyone who’s ever tried to launch a project through KickStarter knows the importance of telling your story well. It turns out KickStarter’s figured that out, too.
EVE Online is a multiplayer online role-playing game set in a fictional universe of connected star systems, moons, planets, wormholes and complexes. To describe the game as a “world” would undersell it; it’s at least a galaxy. And in that galaxy, in-game professions and activities range from manufacturing to piracy.
Among these hyper-engaged players are some data visualization wizards who have taken it upon themselves to show things like:
- The History of Player-Owned Space in EVE Online, 2007–2014
- Player Age Distribution
- Market Share of Frigate-Class Internet Spaceships in Eve Online
And many others.
User-generated content that other uses share and promote on multiple websites, including Twitter and Reddit, is invaluable marketing with minimal company work.
Cubeyou+ mines social media data for insights that can be made into buyer personas, customer profiles, and marketing inspiration. As part of its own content marketing, Cubeyou+ publishes data maps of current topics, such as “Favorite ESPY Award Athletes Mapped by State,” or “The Fourth of July Party Map – How Do Your Festivities Compare?”
These trend maps, all made from social media data, don’t just reveal things like what people enjoy most on Independence Day; they also tell stories of who these people are and why a state like Delaware might prefer barbecues over fireworks.
As the company noted in its write-up alongside the data visualization, “When you’re planning on marketing a Fourth of July sale in different regions, it’s helpful to ask these questions instead of assuming everyone loves fireworks as much as you do. Unexpected results like Delaware preferring barbecues to camping, beer, movies, or fireworks can spark a question that can light the fire under a wildly successful campaign. (It turns out that Delaware can have some very wet weather in July, and barbecue can be enjoyed indoors while fireworks can’t!).”
Cubeyou+ combines fun and interesting data visualization with analysis designed to help marketers think more productively about their audiences. As a result, their content marketing has taken off.
A music discovery app that enables users to identify songs playing around them, Shazam presents a unique opportunity in gathering data. In fact, Shazam analysts can predict a hit song 33 days before it…hits. On Shazam Charts, they publish their findings on the “Future Hits” tab so users can listen to up-and-coming tracks.
Shazam can even break down which parts of songs are most popular—sometimes, it’s the instrumental intro; other times, it’s one catchy line. This insight into what Shazam says works well could conceivably prove quite inspirational to any musician inspired by the data available.
“Shazam has more than 100 million monthly active users, and that’s what makes our data so exciting,” said Cait O’Riordan, VP of product for Shazam at the Strata + Hadoop World 2015 event in London, England.
Data is so integral to Shazam’s development and growth that it surpasses content marketing usage to help dictate their everyday business.