February 15, 2023

What Stories Drive the Most Successful Digital Marketing Campaigns?


Have you ever made a purchase that you had to rationalize? Maybe it was very expensive. Or you didn’t really need it. Or it was reasonably priced and you needed it, but you had more urgent expenses. Whether the item was a new car, or a new phone, or a new pair of shoes, it’s common—even human—to justify a purchase with the argument that you’ll have it for a long time. Successful digital marketing campaigns can help you make that argument when they tell stories that speak to the TIMELESSNESS of a product.

That appears to have happened a lot in the past year. The Persado Content Intelligence team analyzed consumer responses to 20.9 billion messages that the Persado Motivation AI Platform generated across more than 3,200 campaigns from January through December 2022. The analysis reveals the common threads running through the most successful digital marketing campaigns, and what they suggest for campaign performance in 2023.

Here are the highlights of what they found. To get the whole story, read the 2023 Customer Motivation Report. Or check out our webinar on How to Deliver Successful AI-Generated Messages: An Analysis of 20.9 Billion Messages currently available on demand.

The right “narrative” contributes 46% of digital campaign performance

Multiple factors go into making successful digital marketing campaigns. All of the creative elements, from the storyline to the exact words, placement, imagery, and so on, come together to convince customers to open, click, convert. The Persado Motivation AI Platform is trained to identify and measure the impact of each component. An enterprise-grade Generative AI trained specifically using enterprise language, our technology includes machine learning and deep learning models that measure consumer responses to every message we generate. As a result, we can see which elements work and which don’t to motivate customer action.

Our analysis shows that the right narrative delivers 46% of the impact from a successful digital marketing campaign. Think of narratives as the stories a campaign tells. Nike’s Just Do It tagline and associated campaign is a story of PERSEVERANCE. DeBeers’ A Diamond Is Forever campaign is a story of TIMELESSNESS.

Other elements—which collectively contribute the remaining 54% of campaign impact—include the emotions reflected in certain word choices, the descriptions of products or offers, the CTA, and so on.

What were the most (and least) successful narratives in retail, and what does it mean for effective digital marketing campaigns in 2023?


Mixed messages about the economy, work, health, and travel had consumers gravitating to stories and products that promised reliable results. Stability, consistency—those were the ideas that captured customer attention and motivated action.

Examples of language from the most successful digital marketing campaigns.
Successful digital marketing campaigns require that teams get the right narrative for optimum engagement.

For an example of what that looks like in successful digital marketing campaigns, consider this campaign Persado worked on for an apparel retailer. The Persado Motivation AI generated the following message of TIMELESSNESS and tested it against messages that tapped into HYPE and VERSATILITY (both narratives that tend to perform well in retail). The TIMELESSNESS narrative outperformed the HYPE and VERSATILITY narratives to produce 27% more clicks.

An example of a successful digital marketing campaign.
A real campaign in which a narrative of TIMELESSNESS outperformed variants using HYPE and VERSATILITY.

Consider how that translates in terms of real revenue growth. For a campaign with an audience of 100,000, a standard click rate of 2.25% and an average $50 purchase per click, the incremental revenue impact of a 27% improvement would be $15,000. That’s on top of the $125,000 baseline. Multiply the revenue uptick of using the right message across all your campaigns, and it’s clear the growth impact that effective digital marketing campaigns can have for the business.

As is the cost of getting it wrong. Retailers that relied on narratives of CONVENIENCE last year would have been disappointed by the results. It was the lowest-performing narrative Persado tested in retail campaigns, outperforming alternative narratives less than half the time.

What retail marketing narratives are likely to thrive in 2023?

Economic uncertainty is still dogging the retail sector. The signs indicate more mixed signals in consumer spending in 2023. Customers with tighter purse strings will need to see value-for-money, making TIMELESSNESS a likely repeat high performer for the next year.

Similar narratives around VERSATILITY and QUALITY will also thrive in an economy of more restricted spending and uncertain prospects.

But, that’s retail. Effective digital marketing campaigns in Financial Services and Travel & Hospitality will leverage different narratives that fit their specific contexts. CONVENIENCE was actually the top-performer in Financial Services campaigns, while sentiments like ESCAPISM surprisingly tanked in Travel & Hospitality. To learn more about the narratives that will drive the most successful campaigns, check out our 2023 Customer Motivation Report

For more on what data can teach you about customer motivation, watch our webinar on demand. Persado VP of Customer Success, Courtney Ambrose, and Senior Manager of Content Intelligence, Sheena Vira, present results from our analysis and share how Generative AI can drive impact through higher customer engagement and, ultimately, more sales.

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