TL;DR: Google’s “Year in Search” videos successfully engage and inspire audiences, harnessing the power of data-based storytelling. With hundreds of millions of views and thousands of positive comments in their comment sections, these videos personify and humanize data, translating search statistics into inspirational stories of resilience and positive change.

So What: The “Year in Search” campaign delivers a masterclass for marketers and communicators on connecting with their audiences through seemingly simple stories of adversity, resilience, and triumph. Its videos redefine data-based storytelling, creating engaging, memorable, and impactful content using simple language and inclusivity as tools for connecting with a global audience.

 Our Google searches reflect our interests and create a snapshot of the times. Google’s “Year in Search” campaign compiles these snapshots into a virtual time capsule of inspirational stories, proving that data coupled with the right visuals can convey messages that leave us awestruck, nostalgic, teary-eyed, and, above all, inspired.

Year in Search” is a masterclass of connecting dry data with emotions, and Google’s 25 Years in Search video is its culmination.

The video uses a masterfully crafted narrative arc, complete with voiceovers, inspirational music, and moving visuals that evoke nostalgia and hope. The campaign’s visual stories focus on the triumph of the human spirit over adversity.

How to Do Storytelling with Data

“Year in Search” videos have always been about storytelling, positioning Google’s search feature as a global hotspot that unites us through our shared questions, concerns, and challenges.

Here’s a breakdown of the “recipe” for these videos:

  • Engaging narratives. “Year in Search” videos create an easy-to-follow narrative arc by organizing data chronologically. This way, they show people how events connect and why certain search terms become popular. The videos humanize their narratives by showcasing the impact of the events behind the search trends on real people.
  • Emotional appeal. Google’s videos adopt a well-structured approach to the emotional aspect of the stories they tell. They carry the viewer through despair and sorrow while dangling hope through resilience. Carefully paired musical and visual inserts then herald joy and relief, unveiling the campaign’s message of kindness, perseverance, and innovation.
  • The storytelling experience. The stories of the “Year in Search” campaign are fascinating in their mosaic-like forms. The videos serve us with many highly specific, individual stories, like a frontline worker’s struggles during the pandemic peak. Despite their apparent disparity, these data bits fit the larger narrative arc seamlessly, lending deep significance to every second of the video.
  • Personification of search data. By reflecting collective human behavior, search data becomes the main character of the stories. It determines the narrative’s flow and produces a tangible impact through the real outcomes it creates. 

The 2020 “Year in Search” video is a seminal campaign milestone. It is a perfect example of a marketing cocktail based on engaging narratives, emotional connections, and visual storytelling. Against the backdrop of the global pandemic and the emotional resonance of collective loss, the video addresses topics ranging from environmental issues to cultural moments.

Its ability to capture the collective human experience at the end of a troubled and challenging year has earned it hundreds of millions of views and positive feedback.

Bringing Humanity to Data

One of the most striking things about the campaign is its humanity. The “Year in Search” campaign uses concise, easy-to-understand language to communicate complex data across geographical and cultural boundaries.

“The most human trait is to want to know why. And in a year that tested everyone around the world, ‘why’ was searched more than ever. ”

Inclusivity is the key to addressing a global audience, and the campaign’s language addresses everyone, not solely through its tone and simplicity but also by referencing globally relatable events.

simple design by GoogleSimplicity works. 

Rife with reflective questions, like “Why do we search?”, the videos engage, challenge, call to action, and narrate with a personal touch. From a communicator’s perspective, the recipe for the language and success of the “Year in Search” campaign is intricate but clear.

  • Empathetic tone. The videos convey unity, a shared experience, as well as a shared hope for a better future.
  • Hopeful angles. Words like “strength” and “resilience” are leitmotifs in the video scripts.
  • Direct connection. The narrative emphasizes phrases like “how to” and “what is” to draw the audience directly into the stories by referencing common search behaviors.
  • Personal involvement. The videos address the viewers directly in a conversational style.
  • Emotional charge. To enhance the impact of its message, the campaign builds tension with emotionally charged words like “challenge” and unprecedented.” It then uses the resulting tension to lend a further emotional edge to its message through words like “together” and “hope.”

The point of data-based storytelling, as featured in the “Year in Search” campaign, is to humanize data, turning it from statistics into narratives that address, inspire, and engage a global audience.

Lessons for Communicators

Humanization and personalization set Google’s data-driven storytelling apart from other classic examples of data-based narration practices. Such stories often feature graphs and illustrations to lend weight to the unfolding conflicts and resolutions. “Year in Search” takes that approach much further.

  • Cover every aspect of storytelling. Videos allow you to connect with your audience through visuals, audio narration, music, and rhetoric. Use these communication channels to create a compelling narrative structure and build emotional connections by humanizing data.
  • Focus on universality and inclusivity. If you want your message to reach as many people as possible, you must make it inclusive and relatable for a global audience. Use simple, conversational language. Focus on data patterns your audience will find interesting, and provide context for the data you use for the foundation of your stories.
  • Engage, encourage, and create emotional impact. Reflective questions create personal connections with audiences by inviting automatic, subconscious answers. Focus on positivity and elicit emotions through impactful words and phrases. Insist upon resilience and positive change.
  • Be positive and authentic. Authenticity builds trust, and trust facilitates emotional connections. Genuine, consistent communication across different platforms builds a solid and trustworthy brand image.
  • Urge action. Google’s “Year in Search” videos don’t miss the opportunity to encourage viewers to act. “Search on,” they say, keeping the messaging simple and concise. CTAs bring interactivity to videos. Having fired up the audience, they give them something they can do now.

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