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Storytelling with data: how your business can turn information into compelling tales

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Storytelling with data: how your business can turn information into compelling tales

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 In our interview with Jeff Marcoux, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, he mentioned an excellent mantra for businesses interested in big data: “large data makes graphs, but significant data tells a story.”  Businesses looking to harness data insights should be ready to tell their story. Are you telling the story of your customers and what motivates them to buy your products? Or does the story of increasing customer demand for a certain kind of car mean you need to produce different parts?

Whatever your story, the way in which you tell it is what makes it interesting and sticky to your audience. If you’re looking for some inspiration to package your business’ data, here are three unique and surprising stories about data that are as interesting in their presentation as they are in the tale itself.

The story behind worldwide smoking data

Great progress has been made in the last 30 years to educate people in America and Europe about the dangers of tobacco, but has it had an impact on the rates of smoking? The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation compiled 32 years of data from the Journal of the American Medical Association that tracked rates of smoking across 187 countries from 1980 to 2012. Then they created an interactive map that shows rates of smoking across the world, adjustable by age group and year.

The story it tells: America and Europe are doing great. Asia is in trouble.

One can immediately see that the United States has one of the lower rates of smoking in the world, while rates in Asia tend to be higher—in some places, much higher. Start narrowing the data by age group and country, and it shows a marked decline in the US among young people, but the same demographic experienced a sharp rise in Asia, especially China. IHME Policy Transition Specialist Katie Leach-Kemon deconstructs the data and offers a hypothesis: the culture of smoking in China, combined with tobacco advertisements outside of schools, along with availability of more disposable income, have all led to a rise in smoking, especially among youth.

How winemaking is connected to European colonization

Animated history maps have long been used to show the rise and fall of empires, or the trading of territory during wars. Joshua Malin on VinePair created a unique animated map that shows the entire history of wine and how (and why) it spread all over the world.

The story it tells: winemaking is the story of European colonization.

It turns out winemaking is deeply tied to the spread of cultures throughout the Mediterranean, the rise of the Roman empire, and the colonization of the Americas, Africa, and Asia by European powers. Malin’s gif shows this spread in less than 40 seconds, and shows how wherever Europeans went, they brought grapes with them, giving rise to the global wine culture we have today.

The truth about horoscopes

You’re likely familiar with word clouds, which are a popular way to visualize how often certain words appear in a selection of text. While it’s interesting to see how many times Abraham Lincoln mentioned certain words in the Gettysburg Address, word clouds are far more useful when they can tell a story about larger sets of related data. Enter David McCandless’ Horoscope infographic on Information is Beautiful, where the author took more than 4,000 horoscope predictions and created a cloud of the words that occurred the most—in each of the 12 zodiac signs.

The story it tells: horoscopes are the same no matter what your sign.

In a conclusion that should be no surprise to anyone who understands basic psychology (or how horoscopes are created), the largest words—those that occur the most—repeat in every single zodiac sign. This quickly visualizes the phenomenon known as the Forer effect—the psychological principle that if a person believes something is meant for them, they’re more likely to believe it even if it’s extremely vague (or false).

What’s your business’ story?

Every business has a story to tell, and your significant data will do exactly that. Have you found the perfect way to tell your data tale? Or are you still looking for ideas? Where do you find inspiration? Let us know in the comments below—we love seeing how people are telling their stories! 

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  • Well, it must have started with the crickets that love the smell of apples in a bushal basket. And, oh no, thats wrong because in the beginning, There was snow. Lots of snow.