Data scientists are often portrayed in the media as dull and uninspired. But in practice, creative ideas with data at their core prove that facts and figures can be the stuff of standout branding. Here, we look at four areas of data that marketers have tapped to showcase brand stories in novel ways without playing it needlessly "safe."
Data that tracks consumer behavior--and not just on the backend--can be the impetus behind innovative creative ideas. Consumer-electronics giant Sharp teamed with U.K. agency Work Club to promote the brand's sponsorship of European soccer tournament the UEFA EURO 2012 last year with a data-driven campaign that aimed to fuel soccer fans' passion.
The Fan Labs website tracked knowledge, beliefs and attitudes from soccer fans around the world and came up with insights. For example, the Irish were the most dedicated fans -- data showed that they were more likely than any other nationality to give up alcohol for a year to win the UEFA EURO. Data was collected from fans who took a test on the Fan Labs site, as well as from mobile football labs that were dispatched around Poland and the Ukraine to gather information from fans, via special headgear that monitored brainwaves.
"We had such a vast amount of data coming in for 16 different teams throughout the tournament, so we had to always keep it useful and shareable," says Work club co-founder Ben Mooge. "We managed this by having a dedicated editorial plan at the start of the tournament, always looking at the data for these nuances, with an eye that would make good content for the contextual ads, or insightful PR stories that would help the reach of the campaign."
Other advertisers have made innovative use of consumer behavior and brain patterns. In a soccer-themed push for Puma, Droga5 tapped researchers at Bristol University to study whether Newcastle United Fans loved their team more than their significant others. It showed how fans' stress levels changed as they witnessed the destruction of voodoo dolls and pictures of their favorite player, or their wives. Paris hotel chain Ibis worked with BETC Paris and production company ACNE on "Sleep Art" for which they translated sleep patterns of guests who slept in sensor-equipped beds into unique paintings made by a robot. Recently, the company launched a "Sleep Art" app that allows everyone, not just hotel patrons, to make their own nighttime masterpieces.
Facebook is a rich source of data, but a few brands stand out for using it creatively. Grey Poupon, which has historically promoted "snobbishness" in its brand messaging, created a Facebook app via CP&B that scanned users' Facebook data and only let them "like" its brand page if they were deemed snooty enough. For example, points were given if they attended Ivy League colleges, or referenced art and theater in their posts. Points were deducted for bad grammar in status updates. It made the mustard stand out in the sea of Facebook moves by brands that practically begged you to "like" them.
There was also Dr Pepper's "Like Report," which played on its existing "Manliness" campaign to create a definitive ranking of manliness by analyzing 536 Facebook "likes." It let you play a game to see what guys thought was manlier -- with surprising answers -- and allowed users test their own manliness by comparing their preferences to the available data. Users could also paddle in the shallow data pool and browse topics based on gender.
The New York Times' graphic team, led by Editor Steve Duenes, helped online readers navigate the labyrinthine rules of the Vatican's College of Cardinals to determine the 115 men who were choosing the next pope. And in a bit of Photoshop trickery, the team layered the photos to create a composite portrait of the decision-making process.
For the Oscars, the team visualized the connections between this year's nominees by scraping IMDB data, in an effort to show how Hollywood is very much "a little club," according to Mr. Duenes. It also dissected movie trailers to see which parts of a film make the cut.
Other examples of data visualization came from Toyota, which impressed with a supremely detailed interactive "family tree" that featured every Toyota model made to celebrate the brand's 75th anniversary. Warby Parker livened up its online annual report by mixing dry company data with more trivial but amusing nuggets of information about its employees. And U.K. newspaper The Guardian showed just how fast Usain Bolt's Olympic Gold Medal sprint really was by pitting him in a race against every Olympic medalist since 1896.
Location, Location, Location
Sometimes, data is just plain fun and helps us answer things we didn't really know we cared about—like, for example, what happens to a mobile phone when it gets lost. In January, Netherlands-based agency Achtung planted 100 phones around the country for Vodaphone. Achtung tracked the phones on a website, revealing some interesting statistics. Men, for example, were three times more likely than women to return a lost phone to its owner. Amsterdam was the fairest city in the country because it racked up the most returned phones. But overall the Netherlands isn't such a "fair" place -- only 29 of the 100 phones were returned to their owners.
Burberry combined both weather and location data to create a bus-shelter campaign that exchanged scenes from London with the weather conditions of the various cities running the campaign. So on a rainy day in New York, the shelter in there would depict gloomy London. A similar effort for John Lewis out of Adam & Eve London, and production company Unit9 tracked local weather conditions in the U.K. to showcase different climate-appropriate outfits to feature in banner ads.