The latter has become the digital Uzi of choice in the war for
At times helpful, other times just plain gratuitous, charts,
graphs, visually formatted lists and cartoon explainers are popping
up everywhere. They're being heralded by marketers as "content
marketing" -- the new new thing. That's great but it's time for a
The reality is that information graphics and its more
interactive cousin, data visualizations, are hardly new. USA Today
first pioneered their use nearly 30 years ago. And McPaper was
preceded centuries earlier by the ancient Egyptians and cave
What has changed in the past 18 months is that suddenly
infographics are hot. They're seemingly everywhere. The format's
most notable proponent? Bloggers. They have quickly embraced
visuals as they realize Twitter and Facebook users find them so
irresistible, they can't help but click through.
But they're not alone.
Many brand and corporate marketers are embracing the format.
Now don't get me wrong. There's a lot to be said for information
graphics. I am one of their biggest proponents. I recommend them to
lots of clients. The tactic, when used appropriately, has virtually
unlimited potential. They can help many businesses stand out in the
clutter. They inform, inspire and entertain. And they prove that
content is indeed still the reigning king.
It's just that there's a dark side, too. Their misuse threatens
Yes, information graphics are in danger of being overexposed. My
hope is that marketers and media soon realize the appropriate time
to pull the Uzi out of their bag of tricks and not just do so
because they own one.
Here are three pieces of advice as you consider integrating
infographics into your campaigns. In the sprit of the topic, I have
packaged them all using the same mnemonic. (Feel free to convert
these into um, yes, an infographic.)
First, infographics must make the complex simple, not make the
simple complex. Far too often we make a doodle just because we can,
rather than when we should. The result is that we inadvertently
convey information in a visual format that would be just fine or
even better in text. Use infographics to help people understand
Second, such visuals should have a strong consumer message, not
be used to strongly message the consumer. This may mean that it's
better to develop a multi-brand, topic-oriented product rather than
one that is used to deliver a single brand message. Make the
infographic story about your consumer, not you.
Finally, don't just think about how graphics can become social
but about how social can become graphics. There's gold in your
Facebook walls. Mine the comment stream for common themes and
convert this flat information into a rich graphic. It will make it
easier for your community to understand and follow the conversation
in your digital embassies. Help us visualize the feedback you are
Will marketers and media get the message about infographics and
at times lay down arms? Let's hope so. Otherwise, we'll maybe one
day need an infographic to explain why we didn't.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steve Rubel is exec
VP-global strategy and insights for Edelman.