As Stalin once said, "one death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic."
And when he did so, he highlighted one of the biggest challenges we have with information: making it meaningul. You may know your numbers are important, but if you don't present them in the right way, people won't connect with them - let alone take action.
Re-framing information in a meaningful way is the idea behind this lovely little app on the BBC website, which aims to make people think as much about what they drink as they do about what they eat.
The app is based on a simple insight: whilst many of us wouldn't spend an evening shovelling junk food in our mouths, we'd quite happily put away half a bottle of wine and a few pints without really thinking about it. Yet, alcoholic drinks contain as many calories as some of the unhealthiest food out there.
The solution: don't just tell people how many calories they've been drinking, tell them how much crap they've been "eating"...
So next time you're presenting some numbers, think about how you could make them mean something to your audience. And next time you're sipping on a pint, don't forget that you're also munching on a donut.
Another year, another series of X Factor, another plucky youngster turned pop star a dead cert to be Christmas number one, right?
Well, actually, this year maybe not, as a campaign to get internet users everywhere to buy Rage Against the Machine's Killing in the Name Of instead gathers apace, with hundreds of thousands of supporters on Facebook.
Now, bookmakers have now slashed the odds of RATM being Xmas no. from 100-1 to 3-1 and Hitwise reports the two are neck and neck in terms of interest on the net.
Word is that Amazon reports Joe ahead in this week's sales, but there's still everything to play for. Feel free to get on there and cast your vote!
Personally, I'm hoping the Ragers nab it - but even if they don't it's definitely another nail in the coffin for any dreams marketers once had of a passive, accepting "consumer."
I mean, there's no doubt that Simon Cowell is an incredible marketer, but whether it's the double talk over Jedward, the sensationalism in the papers or just his over-polished exterior, he seems to be getting more and more complacent by the year - blythly expecting people to fall for the same old routines time and time again.
Now at least some of the public are realising they don't have to swallow the hype. In fact, thanks to the power of the internet, they can create their own - and spit it right back in his face.
The best presentations you can give, I always think, aren't just the ones where you teach the audience something, but where they teach you something too. So, during my recent talk to the Financial Services Forum it was with great delight that I learned of Kublax.com, thanks to the marvellous David Lundholm of BGL Group Ltd (the guys behind Compare the Market, amongst other things).
Kublax is a fantastic, free, online financial management/budgeting tool that plugs what I've long seen as a big gap in e-banking services - the ability for you to analyse the data your bank holds on your money. As I wrote in my paper:
"With consumers set to take ever greater interest in their own data, brands need to start giving them access to their information, together with the tools to explore. Why doesn’t HSBC help me carry out some simple financial analysis when I use their internet banking, so I can manage my money better? "
Thankfully, the good news is that I don't need to hang around for my bank to get its arse in gear any more - and neither do you. With its secure encryption system (it uses the same tech as the banks), its easy to pull up data from all your accounts through Kublax, so you can view all your money as one. You can then get an easy overview of not just your incomings and outgoings, but what you're spending your money on (with automatic catagorisation) and even how your expenditure compares to similar users. Here's a couple of examples from my account (with some of the exact figures removed for modesty :)
So far, Kublax has one month's worth of my data. Where it's really going to get interesting is once I've been using it for a year or so and patterns & anomolies start to emerge. I'll also begin building a picture of myself through my transaction history. In a funny way, the proportions in that pie chart up there say something about me as a person. These days, as I said in this earlier post, data doesn't just report on what you do, it tells you who you are.
Aside from awareness, and being bothered to take the simple steps to set up your account, the main problem I think Kublax has is trust. It may say SECURE in big letters and have plenty of security accreditations and plaudits from reputable sources, but it's hard not to feel a twinge of doubt as you type in your internet banking ID and that secure code that your bank have told you NEVER to give out to anyone (even them!).
The solution for me would be for Kublax to either integrate its tech into existing e-banking software ("Kublax Inside") or arrange a spot of co-marketing, in partnership with the banks. For me, that'd be a real win-win-win situation. Kublax gets credibility, the banks look like the good guys for introducing people to this handy free tool and their customers get a new way to manage their money better, at a time when cashflow is a real issue for plenty of people.
Until that day, why not get ahead of the game? Grab yourself a Kublax account and take control of your finances for yourself.
So here's a fun little site for you to try out. Personas by Aaron Zinman of MIT takes your name, scours the internet for stories about "you" and catagorises each one to create a picture of your "data DNA" -a collection of themes that are attached to your name. The moral of the story claims to be "a critique of data mining, revealing the computer's uncanny insights and inadvertant errors" but really it's just a fun reminder that if you don't put the right filters on your information you'll get all kinds of crap back.
To put it another way, if someone tries to build a profile of me using just my name as an input, then fact that "Matt Sadler" is also a UK footballer, a US comedian and an amnesiac in a slasher film just might muddy the waters a little...
Information is Beautiful has been set-up to publicise and expand upon his forthcoming book, which is all about the wonderful world of data visualisation - and it features some truly illuminating ways of representing information.
Sex. Everyone's talking about it. And now, thanks to Twitter, quite of few of us are talking about it in public.
In today's society of gossip girls and boys, that's just the kind of chat we love to eavesdrop - and now, thanks to this neat little site, promoting Philips "sensual massagers" (vibrators to you and me), listening in on other people's sex lives is easier than ever.
The idea is simple: a clever little piece of programming grabs every tweet featuring the word "sex," then uses them to produce an interactive orgy of a word cloud, which you can browse through by theme - like birthday [sex], crazy [sex], kitchen [you get the picture].
For me, it's an engaging, relevant, smart, simple idea that should bring a bit of extra attention to Philips' sexy side, without contradicting their familiar, safe personality.
The lesson for marketers out there, however, is that the idea works because sex is interesting. I'm pretty sure that doing the same with "dishwasher" just isn't going to cut it...
If you haven't discovered Tag Galaxy yet, you should go have a play right now.
Just type in a word and the site uses it to create your very own galaxy of Flickr images, all based around that term. In the centre is your original entry, but then orbiting around it are lots of similar terms, allowing you to explore related themes.
Tag Galaxy is a great way to bring an idea to life and explore it further. If I worked on a brand that was all about "Joy", for example, just a couple of clicks gives me a whole planet made out of the stuff:
With the option of diving off into space, to look at some of the things that Joy is related to:
Much more inspiring than a dictionary, hey? And even more fun if you try it with brand names...