Why Storytelling is the New Market Intelligence KPI

Recently, a client pulled me aside after an intelligence readout and asked for 5 minutes of my time in a one-on-one setting. As a professional services provider, situations like this make you brace to hear that your contract may be in jeopardy. Instead, what she conveyed to me was not only NOT surprising, but was something other clients had all recently relayed to me as well.

I think we need to change the format of the report” she said.

No problem. What were you thinking?” I replied.

I think we need to have your team do more story-telling for us. We’re trying to communicate what’s going on in the marketplace to our upper levels, and more and more they are asking for the “why” as opposed to just the wanting the numbers.

As mentioned, her request was an echo of something we have heard from other clients all within the past 12 months. What’s interesting, is that all of these clients represent long-term relationships where our market intelligence reporting has remained relatively unchanged relying on benchmarking data, numeric metrics and visual graphics to convey results. So what’s changed? Why the sudden request for “stories?” As a veteran in this field, I think I can identify three key reasons this is becoming the norm for insights reporting:

1. Increasing Growth of Content Publishing

As digital consumption has increased, so has the amount of ads encountered by the average user. In 1984, a person was estimated to see over 2,000 ads/day. Fastforward to the present, that number has increased to over 5,000. The proliferation of ad-blockers and the support from platforms like Facebook to hide invasive advertising means marketers are understanding that they need to convey more than product features or visual displays baiting people for clicks.

Instead, the digital world is changing as companies strive to convey how their product can change your business through customer testimonial blogs, human interest videos and social posts conveying corporate positions on moral and ethical issues. Think about this… in the past 6 months, the most important thing driving business impact for two of the biggest banks has been their stance and content on gun control. Now, more recently, Nike is opting to push content about heroism and racism as opposed to “just advertising” shoes.

The result is that as companies push more and more content, competitive intelligence needs to convey both the results of those efforts and the WHY behind those efforts. Ten years ago competitive intelligence simply need to show that Competitor X had increased web visitation by 15% and it was naturally assumed this was through ad placement. Now, however, the context and story behind the increase is equally important.

2. Senior Executive Involvement in Publishing

One key to success in the digital space is being known as a thought leader. More and more upper-level executives are realizing that this requires their personal involvement in publishing content. In almost every case, we are hearing that “we need stories so that we can explain these insights to our executives.” Executives are asking marketing teams to convey not just what type of content is working, but why it’s working, so they can adjust their behavior and create new content themselves—whether online or in public speaking events.

Don’t believe us?Here are 9 CEOs successfully publishing today who are telling your directors and manager why they need to be blogging too. For them, digital intelligence reporting has evolve beyond “we saw a 10% increase in click-through rates,” and instead needs to be “our competitor is focusing on the employment and empowerment of women in the workplace, as well as weighing in on how they are responding to the #MeToo movement; they are seeing new levels of engagement from these efforts.”

Digital and competitive intelligence gathering has to evolve beyond “we saw a 10% increase in click-through rates,” and instead needs to be “our competitor is focusing on the employment and empowerment of women in the workplace, as well as weighing in on how they are responding to the #MeToo movement; they are seeing new levels of engagement from these efforts.”

3. The Saturation of Data

In the famous Stephen Spielberg 1993 film adaptation of Michael Crichton’s “Jurassic Park,” Jeff Goldblum’s incredible portrayal of Dr. Ian Malcolm serves as the conscience for the narrative by criticizing the park’s creator for his carelessness with genetic manipulation by stating “You spent so much time wondering if you could, you never bothered to ask if you should.

Marketers should heed the same wisdom when it comes to data collection. The mountain of agencies and data providers has exponentially grown over the past 10 years, and enterprises have brought so many on board that their daily routine has evolved into doing nothing more than sifting through online dashboards and reports looking for patterns. The end result is a fatigue in trying to discern meaning or consequence from this routine. (Read Sara Spivey, CMO of Bazaarvoice, talk more about this conundrum) What marketers are striving for now is intelligence that surfaces truly actionable insights. The best enterprises rely on human analysts—storytellers—that know exactly how to interpret the relevant signals, and convert them into the stories and insights that will quickly drive action in-market, whether at the senior executive level, or as a part of more structured marketing campaigns or sales playbooks.


The takeaway here is not that metrics no longer matter. Quite the opposite; when it comes to market intelligence, the data still identify what works and what doesn’t. We’ve simply moved beyond the “what” to true “why” storytelling. Marketers now need human analysts whose strengths lie in translating data into stories that show why a competitor is winning, or why consumers are so passionate about gun control. These why “stories” function as a real-time feedback loop to inform the messaging and collateral you need to create yourself. Your content will be all the richer when it is written not just knowing that your audience will respond to it… but why your audience will respond to it.