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Three Ways to Tell a Compelling Story With Your Numbers

August 10, 2010  

"Numbers are the universal language of business," writes Bill Taylor at the Harvard Business Review. "We use them to … win approval for product introductions, to make the case for expanding into new markets or entering new categories. In other words, numbers, when used well, tell a compelling story."

Taylor recently spent some time with executives from DraftFCB—an agency with clients such as Miller Lite and Honda—and was particularly impressed by their persuasive command of "numbers that matter." These figures, he notes, have the power to attract attention, shape perceptions and change minds. "[O]ne piece of data," he explains, "may be worth a thousand words."

Consider, for instance, how facts like these from a DraftFCB workbook could inspire your team to develop products and messages that appeal to your customers:

  • 80% of women plan to exclusively breastfeed; only 20% actually do.
  • 80% of people age 45+ consider changing careers; only 6% actually do.

"Why do these numbers tell a story?" asks Taylor. "Because they're simple and easy to understand. Because they're human and easily relatable. Because they surprise us, and/or capture the gap between intentions and actions."

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