When it comes to integrated marketing, we often advise clients to “show us the data.” While expert insights are critical to highlighting a company’s unique selling proposition, those insights can fall on deaf ears without data to back them up. However, how data is presented is often just as critical as the data itself.
As a former math teacher, I know that numbers mean little unless people understand what they represent, and according to studies, a whopping 65% of the population learns best through visuals. That’s where data visualization comes in to play. Data visualization helps transform numbers into stories, creating deeper understanding and resonance with readers.
Data USA, for example, is a recently-launched comprehensive visualization of U.S. public data that aims to showcase data in a visually stimulating manner. Created by M.I.T. Media Lab in partnership with Deloitte, the site contains data stories that are searchable by location, industry, occupation and education. For instance, you can access data stories on subjects ranging from the gender wage gap in Connecticut to the racial breakdown of poverty in Flint, Michigan to the wages of physicians and surgeons across the United States as well as the higher education institutions that award the most computer science degrees.
Another great example, Tableau allows users to upload data to its software, and provides analytical tools to turn these data sets into powerful dashboards and visualizations. Through different visualization tactics, users can spot relationships between variables in order to gain insights into their data set. There’s even a public version that anyone can use to explore their data and share it on the web.
Answer the Public on the other hand, is a data visualization tool designed to show readers how Google and Bing users are searching for specific keywords. Essentially, the tool maps keyword suggestions/predictions you see when performing an online search. For example, when searching “small business” users can see what people are searching for: Which small business credit card is best? Who is the best small business bank? What small business to start from home? When to register small business? This tool is a boon to marketers, as it can help them identify what information people want to know, which can offer insights into content and materials that they can develop to fulfill those needs.
Polygraph is a web-based publication that explores popular culture with data and visual storytelling. While still in its infancy, the publication has used data visualization to examine everything from the gender gap in Hollywood to the largest vocabularies in hip hop.
The Upshot for example, is a vertical that was launched by the New York Times in early 2014. The site seeks to use data-driven content to focus on politics, policy and economic analysis. The vertical was designed to fill the void left by Nate Silver, the one-man data analysis machine behind the website FiveThirtyEight, whose statistical approach to political reporting was a massive success in the 2008 and 2012 elections, when he joined his site to ESPN.com. The Upshot uses data visualizations to tell stories about a variety of issues, including migration in the United States and how President Trump’s Joint Session speech varied in tone compared to his previous speeches.
Data visualization can be a relatively low cost and creative way to promote products and services to an increasingly sophisticated online audience, that is rapidly coming to expect this level of inventiveness from companies and brands. Businesses need to consider new and compelling ways to package their data in a way readers can easily understand, and dare I say enjoy.
Photo Credit: Sebastian Sikora