How GE Uses Data Visualization to Tell Complex Stories - Gretchen Gavett - Our Editors - Harvard Business Review

Posted on by Brandon Klein

GE, perhaps more than any other major company, is dedicated to the use of data visualization as a key part of its marketing and communications efforts. Stemming from last month's Insight Center on visualizing data, I spoke with Linda Boff, GE's executive director of global brand marketing, about the benefits and challenges of this approach. An edited version of our conversation is below.

What's the history of data visualization at GE? How did your strategy around it develop?

GE specializes in complex challenges in solving the toughest problems in the world: Infrastructure, renewable energy, affordable health care. Things you have really have to get your mind around.

In trying to do that, the marketing communications brand group is always searching for compelling ways to bring these challenges to life. Five years ago or so, we started using data visualization.

One of our first was back in 2009, and was about causes of death. We separated them in male versus female, and via age spans. So if you're 24 to 36 or what have you, these are the three things you were most likely to die of. Now it seems so simple, but it was really compelling: