Your favorite soda newsletter, Beverage Digest, has just released data for 2010. It contains the shocking statistics showing that Diet Coke is now the #2 drink, pushing Pepsi down to #3. This is troubling and demands some further serious investigation. Especially since Beverage Digest is one of the self-described authoritative publications covering non-alcoholic drinks. Let’s assume they deserve to be listened to.
But I’ll leave the investigating for someone else. Instead, I’ll look at the exciting subject of how to communicate through the effective presentation of data — with a focus on how to transform people who are innocently viewing data into people who think they are thirsty and need to buy a soft drink. Now.
To increase thirst levels, you should be clicking on links and pictures (for larger views) throughout this post.
Here is the data from the Beverage Digest (BD) study graphed in a variety of ways. The first two graphs show a rather dull way to present the data of which carbonated soft drink (that’s CSD to the BD people) sold the most in 2010. The graph on the right is slightly better because it has a mild 3D look and the bars may rather weakly invoke images of soft drink cans in the mind of the reader – albeit very tall and skinny cans in some cases. But the winners and losers don’t just immediately jump right out at you. We can do better.
Another possibility is just to stretch or shrink the size of the can to represent its sales numbers. The following chart does this, in a mildly deceptive way. While sales are relative to the can height, its width also grows (or shrinks) with the height, so that the apparent sales numbers are exaggerated for better or for worse. The little guys really drop off rapidly in this approach. This is a good example of data that’s not only accurate but at the same time intentionally distorted. That’s a trick some good marketing people strive for. The rest don’t bother with the accurate part.
No data presentation is really complete without a pie chart, even though it’s about liquids in this case. Here’s the relative market share of the top 10 soft drinks, where the slice size and owners are quickly identified.
Next up is a personal twist, my relative soft drink preference. I add in some Root Beer players even though they didn’t make the top 10 for Beverage Digest. Maybe their non-alcoholic market analysis got confused by the ‘Beer’ part. Vote for your favorite, on the off-hand chance it’s not Dr Pepper.
Finally, those interested in more on visual data presentation should check out the book, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. It contains the famous (for the few who know of it) chart of Napoleon’s Russian campaign of 1812, created by one Charles Joseph Minard in 1869. It is probably safe to claim that this is the only chart you’ll ever see that combines army size, location, time, direction of army movement, and temperature while readily communicating the devastating losses Napoleon suffered on the campaign. The book also contains amusing examples of data distortion in graphs and charts, and even quantifies the amount of deception.
And speaking of devastating losses, let’s all go buy a Fanta to give it a boost in its battle against the mighty Coke products.