Shifting from Data to Meaning

October 20, 2015

As Technology continues to evolve and grow, so does Data and Insights.

Terms such as “Big Data”, “Advanced Analytics” and “Machine-Generated Data” are quickly developing into favored buzz words of the digital marketing technology sector as we attempt to explain, the at times, incomprehensible amount of data that is processed in a nano second. I personally (and a few other humans), are unable to list compound fractions to the nth degree, quantify impression volumes per device or simultaneously track 7 billion unique lat/long points at any give moment, which is why I am grateful to have such raw and powerful processing power supported by technology today.

However, despite all of the advances in technology, human marketers still play a very special role, to translate data analysis into something of meaning that can be valued by other humans.
Stephen Few, author of Now You See It, stated, “Numbers have an important story to tell. They rely on you to give them a clear and convincing voice.”

There is a communication gap from super computer to digital marketer to consumer. The solution is to shift from data to meaning.

Nancy Duarte, author of resonate, Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences, discussed the narrative of numbers and scale in a profoundly impactful way.

Scale: Nowadays, we casually throw around profoundly large (and minutely small) numbers. Explain the grandness of scale by contrasting it with items of familiar size.

An example from WaterPartner.org’s 2008 animation:
This year, 1 white girl will be kidnapped in Aruba, 4 will die in shark attacks, 79 will die of Avian flu, 965 will die in airplane crashes, 14,600 will lose their lives in armed conflict, 5,000,000 will die from water-related disease. That’s a tsunami twice a month of five Hurricane Katrinas each day, or a Word Trade Center disaster every four hours. Where are the headlines? Where is our outrage? Where is our humanity?”

Waterpartner.org’s narrative of numbers by scale gives voice to the phrase, “Not just another statistic”. The perfect example of taking data and creating meaning that evoked strong reactions and influenced a positive change.

Numbers do have an important story to tell and marketers are the key to create meaning and inspire action.

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