Visualize This

The roles of infographics in marketing

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a graph is worth at least twice that much. But a graph will only say what you need it to if you know what you’re trying to say and choose the right kind of graphic to do it. This is as true in marketing as in any other business type. Note that when I talk about the right kind of graphic, I don’t just mean bar graphs vs line graphs vs pie graphs, though those decisions are important. I’m speaking more about choosing and creating a graphic based upon the two questions laid out by Scott Berinato in the 2016 Harvard Business Review article Visualizations That Really Work.

  1. Is the information conceptual or data-driven?
  • Am I declaring something or exploring something?

Berinato points out that asking those two questions leaves you with one of four types of visuals, as depicted in the graphic below. Let’s look at a brief description of how he defines each type followed by an example of the use that each has in marketing.

  • Idea Illustration (conceptual and declarative): this type is used to clarify complex ideas such as a process or a hierarchy. 
    • Ex: You are consulting for a new firm, and you need to lay out the different types of advertising channels used by the main competitors in their industry. 
  • Idea Generation (conceptual and exploratory): this type is useful in strategizing stages, such as designing new business processes or brainstorming how to answer challenges.
    • Ex: You are exploring the possibility of a new marketing plan, and to visualize its possible structure, you sketch out a marketing funnel for it. 
  • Visual Discovery (data-driven and exploratory): this type is used when you are either trying to visually confirm a hypothesis, or organize large amounts of data that you don’t yet know the significance or usefulness of. 
    • Ex: you believe there is a correlation between the different selling tactics of your sales reps and the number of new customers each acquires. To determine which of these tactics to propose as the standard, you collect and graph the data to visualize the tactics’ relative efficiency.
  • Everyday Dataviz (data-driven and declarative): this type consists of data-based basic charts that are meant to tell a story, affirm it, or set a context for it. 
    • Ex: you want to show your target audience the higher relative advantage of your product as opposed to your competitors’. You include a bar chart showing the higher efficiency of your product in the email marketing you send out.

Obviously, the above examples encompass only a minuscule portion of the many ways each of these four types of graphics can be used in the world of marketing. But it is important that, before beginning the process of creating your graphic, you determine what its purpose will be by asking Berinato’s two questions. Once you know which of these four types you are aiming to develop, you will be able to do so with more direction and efficiency. You are then more likely to get what you want out of the graphic, and in this industry, aren’t we all result-driven anyways?

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