The “stat story:” How marketing statistics became the message
by Randy Mitchell, Creative Director
“Why don’t we make the stats into the story?”
That was how the whole movement started. Some strategic visionary decided that marketing statistics were compelling enough to be the focus of entire campaigns.
At the time, this thinking must have seemed like heresy. B2B marketers firmly believed that the findings are there to support the story, not replace it. Successful B2B campaigns focused on weighty matters, such as prospect pain points, industry regulations, customer feedback and product differentiation.
Using marketing statistics as the lead for communications was simply not a viable strategy. Until it worked. In fact, the approach kicked stats.
Suddenly, response rocketed because target segments did not want to be in the dark. And everyone raised their hands. Product managers, C-Suite leaders, business owners and startup savants all had to know the latest transformative marketing statistics.
The formula was basic but arresting. Find hot, new data points, usually via search. Then, shape the messaging to imply, “get these facts or get left behind.”
See if any of these statements sounds familiar:
“85% of brands must improve this”
“5 findings that will disrupt your market this year”
“30% more website traffic with this hack”
“7 social numbers that will astound you”
Those are all “stat stories.” In essence, the marketing statistics became the strategy and the creative.
Seemingly overnight, the stat story approach was everywhere. Hubspot preached it, clients demanded it and agencies scrambled to grab the hot new finding first and leverage it.
B2B marketers had to adjust rapidly to this new reality. Suddenly, a compelling statistic could fuel blog articles, social posts and entire lead generation campaigns. Headlines without numbers were considered “fluff.” Great conceptual ideas were discarded in favor of “10 facts every plant manager needs to know.”
But the new approach also had its pitfalls. B2B competitors would inadvertently use the same marketing statistic in an attempt to differentiate themselves. Some B2C brands latched onto the wave but couldn’t translate the stat story approach effectively for a retail consumer mindset. Worst of all, marketing statistics that had no relevance were pushed forward simply because the numbers looked good.
Over time, the stat story mentality began to recede. Make no mistake, it still drives response and shapes some strategies. But prospects simply became overloaded by the approach. When every other email promised “top 5 findings” or “10 must-know revelations,” the stat stories turned into white noise.
In the end, a very curious thing has happened. For many B2B brands, marketing statisticshave reverted to their natural role. They’re back to being vital support pillars that help validate the positioning, but they’re not the entire story.
If you happen to be a strategist or statistician, this is actually a very good development. It means that people will start taking your statistics seriously again. They’re not propaganda to generate response. Instead, they’re the foundation that great ideas are built on.