Notable marketing: ThoughtSpot and SpotGirl

Promote a data-reporting tool with a comic book? Even the few vendors willing to break from whitepapers and blogs might not look natural doing it. But ThoughtSpot’s done it, and it works.

For How to Defeat the Top 5 BI Villains at Your Company, ThoughtSpot wins the Datadoodle Occasional Prize for Notable Marketing. The hero is SpotGirl, and she fights five villains business people know well.

SpotGirl’s weapon is a magnifying glass. When a villain known as DataGhoul taunts her, she just raises her glass and flings back good, smart data. When DataGhoul yells, “Your quarterly sales are down! A lot!” SpotGirl keys in the question: “How did last quarter’s sales volume compare with the previous quarter?” The answer comes back, and SpotGirl replies, “No, DataGhoul! It’s actually up!”

DataGhoul is one of five “BI villains” that SpotGirl takes apart in ThoughtSpot’s comic book. The others are the Waiting Widow, Timeout Terror, Backlog Blob, Model Mayhem, and Dr. Cube. You can recognize each one’s nastiness.

You’ll recognize every villain. BackLog Blob, for one, had grown “larger and more powerful … with every report eaten,” and she vanquishes him in three comic panels. BI teams don’t have the bandwidth, the next block of copy explains, so the only option is to remove the data analyst as a middleman for simple reporting.

I admit it, I like this tool. I wrote about it last May and compared it to Google. (I have no affiliation.) ThoughtSpot is easy. It answers questions straight. It’s anticipates questions the way Google does. “How many donuts did we sell …?” and before you’ve finished entering “sell,” it shows its guesses. In gray text just ahead of “sell” you see choices: state, date, and salesperson. Over time, it gets to know you and your group and makes better guesses. Enter “sales by” and you might see in gray the suggestions “region,” “salesperson,” and “day.”

When it shows the data, something called “Pop Charts” calculates the data and picks a chart that, the machine believes, best shows the data. Sales by day shows a date range, not a map. Perhaps best for people like me who’re already a little bit fed up with technology, it saves you from another menu of choices. A pin-board saves the chart, and it’s modified as the data changes.

The comic book’s soft spot is that it’s a comic book only part way. After SpotGirl’s opening act, she goes away and marketing copy slips in. You want to say, “But wait! Bring SpotGirl back!”

The next episode — comic books often come in a series — should make SpotGirl the headliner she deserves to be. Let SpotGirl fight an epic battle. Follow her through successive challenges, perilous climaxes, and eventual triumphs. True, to tell a good story might be risky; ThoughtSpot might have to reveal weaknesses that left her momentarily vulnerable. But such a story would let business readers identify more strongly, and they would likely understand and remember it better.

Just think, such a story might even help lead the business intelligence industry out of its whitepaper and blog malaise.

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