We’ve been discussing data visualization and earnings information for the past month or so. Now that you understand the impact of graphic design on analysts and how to structure an earnings infographic, let’s see some real-world examples of companies who are using infographics in disclosures of material information.
Why disclose with infographics
Adding infographics to your disclosure is the best way to represent change at your organization. That can be growth within a business segment or value to shareholders. Whatever the metric being expressed, infographics allow storytellers to show data in such a way that it demonstrates change and allows for comparison. The golden rule for infographics is that if data is worth presenting, it’s simultaneously worth visualizing. You can see more on this topic inside our latest E-Book release, How to use data visualization to win over investors.
BG Group have had a couple of cracks at infographics in their disclosure process over the last year. Their latest is by far the best, though there is still room for improvement. As you can see in the top image, they have chosen to focus on the geograhy of operations as a key visualization metric. They’ve tied data together using color as the primary visual trigger, which works very well. However, if you download their full infographic  or see the screenshot below, you’ll notice that the first set of earnings data is presented rather than visualized. Though they have tried to show change over time, it’s difficult to achieve with simple text. A better move would be to use a horizontal bar graph in the same color palette they’re already using, so that a visitor can see change more easily.
Sanofi have released several very simple infographics as part of their disclosure process in 2014. The results are simple, single page PDFs that focus predominantly on net sales by business segment. This would be an excellent area to focus on, and indeed the data here is useful in so much as it allows for comparison of business segments against one another. However, it does not let the reader explore change over time. E.g. net sales in Emerging Markets were 2,776 M in Q3 – what were they in Q2 and Q1? Change over time is an important data visualization feature that your disclosure infographic should highlight.
Pepsico has actually been using disclosure infographics for longer than any IR firm has been talking about them. They have an entire website devoted to an archive of infographics. Check out pepsicoinfographic.com for more on that. What you’ll notice again in the screenshot below is that Pepsico, as with the other examples shown here, have fallen down in their visualization of the data because of their color selections. This graphic isn’t illustrating information so much as it’s putting drawings around numbers. The full infographic has more shades and colors than you can really count. We consider visual triggers like color and contrast better used to link data points together and show interconnectedness. Muddled rainbows built around numbers aren’t really infographics at all. This is a critical point if you’re exploring using infographics in disclosures.
The final example we have is of another major multinational. Philips has one of the lengthiest disclosure infographics being distributed on the web right now. Again though, they’ve committed the cardinal sin of presenting data rather than visualizing it. Yes, Adjusted EBITDA is a cruical non-GAAP metric but if you can’t compare it to anything, its not terribly useful to the reader. With the time and effort Philips is going to, we would expect they’ll lift their game next quarter. Perhaps they could show EBITDA vs the past or vs a competitor for data context.
If you’re going to take the time to create an earnings infographic, as the companies above have done, also take the time to consider how your information is being shown. Are you presenting the data or visualizing it? Does it allow for comparison? Can a reader use it to draw conclusions, and can they pull out the information they want faster than from your earnings release? If so, you’ve done your job. If not, take a look at our E-Book below to gain a better understanding of data visualization.