Brands need insight. We can all agree with that but whilst the logic of informing decisions with insight is strong, many stakeholders find it challenging to achieve this consistently. Stakeholders are time-poor, with busy, competing agendas. They don’t have the time or inclination to look through 50-page PowerPoint decks – and then have to work out what they have to do with it. Brands are seeking new ways to communicate insights. That’s why we are experimenting with insight-driven artworks, delivered in small, postcard sized packages.
At one level, changing the way we communicate insight is as simple as altering the style of a report format – for example, a written business summary might be sufficient to communicate to a board, where there is a short but focused time slot on a formal agenda, but communicating across a wide group of stakeholders might require an infographic or animated video. The animated video will grab an individual’s attention and take them on a short journey, with the style keeping them engaged for a minute or two.
It’s easy to see the benefits of infographics, dashboards, video montages and data visualisation because they are all extensions of what we have traditionally used – they are designed as short, bite-sized take-outs instead of a long deck. They are an incremental change to what we are used to doing.
A postcard pushes at the boundaries of what is ‘conventional’ thinking. It is tiny in comparison. But it is poignant; a postcard is traditionally used to convey a short message (holiday greetings) and a feeling (of envy!) quickly. They are designed to stop and make a person read them and transport their emotions, fleetingly, to a different space. And that is what insight should do too; stop a stakeholder in their tracks, grab their attention and convey a feeling and a message quickly. In short, informing decisions is actually about conveying short messages across groups of stakeholders.
But how do you do that in such a small space? Is it just one chart or a miniature infographic? How do you stop them being bland without any ‘interaction’ with them?
How We’ve Developed an Artistic Approach to Reporting
There are three things that I think a good insight-driven postcard needs. Firstly, it needs to convey a message with a feeling (just like a holiday postcard conveys a feeling or transports you to another place), secondly, I think they should be thought-provoking. Unlike a holiday postcard, an insight-driven one needs to make a stakeholder think because for the stakeholder to action it, they need to internalise it and own it; make it their own, carry the feeling and message with them and be able to translate it into their daily decision making. Thirdly, postcards need to work across all insight projects whether qual or quant.
In summary, the aim of the insight-driven postcard is to communicate the insight, not just a data point. The message that the postcard is conveying is what the findings mean; what is sum of all the data and quotes actually saying to us?
So, if there’s the theory, what’s the result? What actually is an insight-driven postcard? Building on those three core foundations of what they need to be, our experiments took us into the world of artwork. Yes, that’s right, artwork. This may seem like a leap from our conventional business world that we occupy in all its rational, numbers-driven logic, but they do say that a picture paints a thousand words, so what better way of trying to condense and convey a whole insight project’s finding into such a small space?
Engaging Stakeholders with Art
What art does is stimulate the senses in a different way to anything else. Art creates an emotional connection in a different way to charts, infographics, dashboards etc; with art we create a debate with the viewer; we provoke thought, which helps them find their own understanding of the message. This is emotion that is rooted in thought-provocation and whilst not as immediate as a chart it can have a deeper and more lasting impact on the viewer. In this way, our postcard reader is provoked to think about the message that the insight is bringing them. We are connecting them to the insight not just to a data point.
Art helps us in other ways too, because no two pictures are the same. If you walk into an art gallery, your emotions are stimulated by so many different styles – from watercolours, to oil paintings to sculptures, although styles are far more nuanced through the colours of pop art or impressionist paintings or the abstract forms of cubism. Each style prompts a different reaction and can communicate with use differently, which is very powerful in our experiments with insight-driven postcards. As we are experimenting with these, we are finding that the different styles are incredibly powerful in helping us convey different insights; the selection of style is as key to the communication as the actual picture is itself.
At first glance, our insight-driven postcards may seem a little odd in a world full of data and rational argument, but get beyond the immediate shock at seeing a cubist painting instead of a research report and you realise it is telling you something more important. And that is the real insight here; to cut-through in such a clinical, data-driven world, we, in the insight profession need to re-connect with what it is we do well; which is understanding human emotions and conveying meaning. Let’s connect our stakeholders with the insights we are finding, stimulate their minds and inspire them to action.
And – if you’d like to see how consumer opinions of your brand could be represented as a piece of art, you can find out more about getting involved here.