Editor's note: Kelly Hight is manager of custom research and insights at Hilton Worldwide, Memphis, Tenn. Tom Logue is vice president at Message Factors Inc., a Memphis research firm.

Storytelling. Depending your point of view, it might be an innovative new way to communicate important information to research consumers or it might be the latest fad emphasizing style over substance.

The exchange below started as friendly e-mail banter between friends and former coworkers and evolved into a serious debate on the pros and cons of storytelling. Kelly is a client-side researcher for a major hospitality company; Tom is an account executive for a custom research supplier.

It all began with a forwarded article. 

Kelly: Tom, thought you’d like to see this article on storytelling in research.

Tom: Thanks. Honestly, I feel like such a curmudgeon but I really dislike the storytelling fad.

K: I disagree about storytelling being a fad. Clients don’t want to be overwhelmed with detail; they just want to know what to DO – and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

T: But doesn’t it worry you when a CMO says, “Stop boring me with the numbers.”?

K: When I was working on the supplier side, the consistent criticism that we received was that we used our reports to show off how smart we are – which meant thousands (literally) of pages of tables and numbers and diagrams but no real direction or recommendations. I think every qualified CMO should say, “Stop boring me with the numbers and give me the message in a form I can use.”

T: A fair point. And anything that promotes the acceptance and usage of legitimate research is fine in my book. When I refer to storytelling as a fad, I’m thinking about the creeping expectation that everything can and should be turned into a pithy anecdote or colorful infographic or edgy video. It’s how Bob Vila must feel watching DIY shows on HGTV these days.I’m not...