Visual Storytelling

Infographics for Marketing: Five Steps on the Road Less Traveled

Jesse Hashagen – Art Director
Ken Fabianovicz – Director, Strategy and Innovation

Infographics created for sales and marketing purposes have distinct qualities that set them apart from infographics designed solely to inform or educate. If you want to enlighten your audience while also driving measurable actions and sales results, then there are five key steps you will need to take. These steps are guaranteed to put you on the marketing road less traveled ―making your marketing message stand out and become actionable.


Step 1: Determine the Core Marketing Actions

This may seem like an obvious step, but it cannot be overstated:  What are you hoping your audience will do after they engage with your beautiful, informative, eye-stopping masterpiece of an infographic? Successful marketing infographics not only present a clear and compelling visual story, but they also drive action.

In the social space, this may include sharing, liking, or clicking. In the print world, action typically translates into visiting a website or dialing a phone number. Regardless of how your infographic will be distributed, you need to begin with the end in mind: What is the main action that people need to take after engaging with your infographic?

Experienced marketers will recognize that there is more to this issue than meets the eye. In order to define the essential core action, a whole series of sub-questions need to be addressed:

+ Is this a branded or unbranded campaign?
+ Is it for internal or external audiences?
+ Is there one audience    or potentially many audiences?
+ How likely is it that your audience will take action?
+ What is the expected “shelf life” of the infographic?

Accurately identifying the essential action takes time and attention, but it is a critical first step if your ultimate goal is impact and marketing action.

Step 2: Engage Your Village

Why are successful marketing infographics difficult to design? Aren’t we just mashing up existing campaign art and factoids into a clever design? Of course it’s never quite that easy! In fact, the details and format of a robust marketing infographic force a rigor and level of specificity that most marketing teams generally don’t face when working on other types of customer-facing materials. This specificity arises because there are actually several sub-projects at work when creating a successful marketing infographic.

Even within the context of a well-run marketing campaign, there could be issues to resolve:

+ The core marketing objectives for a specific infographic may not be readily apparent. As mentioned earlier, it can take a lot of questions to uncover the essential action.
+ Once the marketing objectives are clarified, you may find that the story and branding the client wants to use can be unclear or confusing.
+ The internal stakeholders could disagree on the messaging.
+ Finally, even with a clear marketing objective and effective story to tell, there is still the matter of gaining agreement on the actual design and execution of the infographic itself!

Taken together, these interrelated issues often conspire against infographic success. Addressing these issues requires a cross-disciplinary approach that welcomes multiple stakeholders within the client organization. The project kick-off should be attended by a broad set of stakeholders from all key groups, including marketing, sales, and any subject matter experts. This wide-lens “download” meeting is designed to gain as much topical information as possible from as many sources as possible. The marketing objectives should be clarified and agreed upon.

Step 3:  Create an Action Framework

With the marketing objectives established and the basic story elements clarified by the client, the next step is to create an action framework―distilling the key narrative elements of the story   along with initial action points:

+ The goal of this distillation process is to create a framework that integrates the visual and narrative story elements to carry the viewers’ eye effortlessly down the page.
+ Sometimes the client will have a visual style and direction to work from.  In other cases, there is a literal blank canvas. In either case, the story and the visual elements need to be framed out in a basic flow that conveys the overall direction the infographic is heading.
+ This distilling process may span several meetings, but it is a critical phase of the overall project.
+ Once a satisfactory framework has been created, it is time for another client review! Client input at this point is difficult but necessary. It’s difficult because many clients think the rough concept they are looking at is a final piece. It’s necessary because if the action framework is not aligned with the client’s expectations and marketing objectives, then no amount of subsequent design and imagery will be able to drive the appropriate levels of action and impact.

The value of the action framework is that it clearly shows how and where the various trigger points are going to happen in the information flow. Also, because it is still relatively early in the design process, changes can be made without time-consuming graphic revisions.

Step 4: Visualize the Story

Once the client has approved the action framework, it’s time for the design team to bring the infographic to life. It’s important to remember that a successful infographic has a strong narrative structure, but will also include multiple data points, charts, words, etc. These additional elements are used to add dimension and context to the main in story, so that the audience will have multiple points of engagement.

+ Curating the appropriate supporting elements requires close attention to both the visual aspect of the design, as well as to the storyteller’s art.  Include too few elements and your infographic ends up looking like an oversized + + PowerPoint® slide. Show too many elements, and viewers are overwhelmed and quickly lose interest.
+ The key is to optimize the balance between narrative flow and visual engagement, erring on the side of  “less is more”.
+ Once a Design Proof of Concept has been completed, with the narrative and graphical elements driving toward the core action, it is time to review the proof of concept with “content virgins”. These reviewers, who are outside of the design loop, provide a critical look at the content from an unbiased perspective.

Step 5: Receive Sign-off! Ready for Launch!

If the first four steps have been completed, then step five, the final client validation phase, should be relatively trouble free. Some of the questions that can help the client validation process go more smoothly are the following:

+ Are proportions accurate in terms of what to highlight or emphasize?
+ Does the story flow work?
+ Is content missing
+ Should content be cut?
+ Is the look and feel aligned with brand?
+ Do the action items ladder back to marketing objectives?

Once the client changes are incorporated, it is time to create the final infographic that can take you on the road less traveled—and drive measureable actions and sales results. Depending on your selected channels and target audience, you may have to make several different versions. In our next post, we will review the various ways to socialize and distribute your infographics.

If you would like to know the The 5 Essentials for Designing Great Infographics, read here.

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Jesse Hashagen

Jesse Hashagen

Art Director at Cadient Group
Jesse Hashagen

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