Storytelling entails all the visual, front-end stuff like email, facebook posts, tweets, custom designed landing pages, commercials, catalogs, sliding images on the home page, etc. There is some analysis of data to make decisions here but most of it is a creative endeavor fueled by gut decisions.
The other side of online marketing is the data-driven optimization side. This side entails optimizing advertising channels based on strict data. Paid search doesn’t tell stories. Writing meta-data for better ranking organically, landing page multivariate optimization, getting better data into product feeds for comparison shopping engines – it’s the evergreen stuff always running behind the scenes that fits into this category.
The data-driven stuff is very measurable so it’s held to a higher standard than the storytelling stuff – much to the chagrin of the direct response marketers, but measurable isn’t always the only thing that matters. The people in the company responsible for doing the storytelling stuff don’t actually want better data. If you’re not sure what’s working, you can’t get blamed. And since you can’t get blamed, you get to decide, to be creative, to create stories that reinforce purpose, instead of nitpicking every last detail.
The truth is you need both. Left to their own devices, the data-driven direct response people will compromise and dumb-down everything to the point of complete blandness with the excuse of “it’s what the visitors want!” You need the storytelling side to balance this out and aim for higher aspirations and lead customers to where you want them to be.