Visualise it!

By 29 March 2012Posts

The latest, hottest trend in brand content marketing is visualisation. The cool pinboard social medium Pinterest might have something to do with the surge in popularity of visual representation of data, but to consider visualisation as only a relatively frivolous social marketing activity, will do this powerful brand content platform a disservice.

Over the past three years the data visualisation industry has found its marketing feet. The main driver is the powerful — but often poorly executed — infographic.

Originally used to create an easy to understand visual representation of complex data, all infographics these days are not created equal. It’s so easy to do a simple chart or graph and then to add a pretty picture or graphic, anyone can manage it. But to generate an infographic that adds useful content value to brand communication is significantly more complex. It requires an expert understanding of two disciplines: Intellectual analysis of the meaning of data and an ability to interpret data sets and the relationships between them graphically.

Editorial minds trained in writing about the relationship between data sets, coupled with graphic design artists who can connect data points visually make up killer infographic teams. If such a team also follows due process in the conceptualisation and execution of an infographic, the result can be an amazing piece of valuable brand content art that promotes instant meaning from complex data much better than long-winded copy can.

In today’s mobile world of immediate and continuous conversation, visualisation is the killer app for creating brand attention, to convey meaning quickly and to promote sharing amongst fans.

In addition brand infographics represent a new wave in company public relations. If an industry-relevant brand content piece can be presented to interested external media as a beautiful and attention-grabbing graphic picture, the likelihood of it being used increases substantially.

But the real value of investing in the creation of infographic art lies in using it across a brand and company’s owned media channels. Sharing and conversation is likely to be stimulated if the topic is inherently valuable and presented in a useful visual way.

Auto visualisation

Another interesting trend is the automation of visualisation. A new crop of web utilities automate the creation of infographics in a fun way, within severely limited themes. Clearly automation cannot truly replace the expertise of dedicated and conceptual visual thinking and execution.

The automation of data visualisation works especially well in the discipline of business intelligence. The days of boring, same-old Excel spreadsheets should now be over when it comes to data presentation. Bespoke, custom-created software applications that automate regular reporting, for instance, save huge amounts of time in creating meaningful and visually impactful, regular management reports (for internal and external use).

It’s surprising that many companies do not invest upfront in the automation of regular visualisation tasks, especially when it comes to reporting. (Imagine how impactful an infographic approach will be to a company’s integrated annual reports and presentations.)

If intelligently conceptualised and created, a purpose-coded, bespoke software application can go one step further and also automate output to a variety of platforms, such as interactive PDF, Keynote, PowerPoint and other presentation tools, as well as to mobile apps and the regular web.

The process involved is to ensure the format of source data is usable and correct, to properly design the final look and feel of the data within a brand identity context and then to code an application for automatic visualisation and designed output. Such an app can enhance the look and feel of brand information hugely and can cut the time of regular presentations and reports from days to seconds.

Visual culture

On a macro level a brand’s visual identity is a cultural thing. In this context logo design and application are well-developed marketing disciplines.

From a brand content vantage point however, marketing decision makers should consider how the visual representation of brand content data, via tools such as infographics and automation of data visualisation apps, can positively impact brand conversations. Visualisation is the high road to intelligent brand engagement. It needs to be an integral part of brand management culture.