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Don't just use stats—build a story around them

Every statistic has a "who" behind it. Use it to illustrate the point.

Elliot Begoun

February 8, 2021

3 Min Read
Don't just use stats—build a story around them

Thirty-eight percent of Americans consider themselves flexitarian. Thirty-six percent of Americans are clinically obese. Ninety-three percent of people believe breakfast is essential, but 66% of them skip it. Let’s face it, we all love stats. They adorn our pitch decks and retailer presentations. We cite them when we want to appear smarter and more knowledgeable. We use them as part of our go-to-market narrative. What if we’ve been using statistics in the wrong way? Could we leverage them so that they deepen our understanding and increase their narrative impact?

Yes, because behind every statistic is a person. By relegating that person to a data point or a number on a pitch deck, we miss the power of their story. We aggregate individuals into statistics and, in the process, anonymize and dehumanize them. That doesn’t make our story more compelling or help us to better understand our consumers. Maybe we should try a different approach.

Kate looks up from her phone in quiet reflection. She just finished reading another article about the climate crisis. She stares down at the burger she is eating for lunch and thinks, “I can do better than this.” At that moment, she commits to eating a healthier diet for her and for the planet joining the other 38% of Americans who also consider themselves flexitarian. This will change the way she eats, shops, and the brands she buys. 

Two of John’s friends have had recent cardiac events. That’s what is going through his head as he steps on the scale. He is one of the 36.5% of Americans who are clinically obese, and he is scared. He wants to be here for his wife and kids. He wants to have a good quality of life. He knows things have to change. But where does he turn, how does he start? He feels lost, vulnerable, and afraid. What will he eat? Will he need to learn to cook? Where does he go for information, what products can he trust?

It is another crazy morning for Jill and Scott. They take turns squeezing in workouts while the other works to get the kids ready for their Zoom classes. They, like 93% of Americans, know breakfast is essential. So, they take what little time they have to make their kids some cereal. But by the time they finish feeding them and cleaning up the dishes, there is no time left for them to eat. Plus, they aren’t sure what they should eat or even if they should. They’ve been reading about intermittent fasting and questioning what’s the right way to start their day. Instead, they become part of the 66% of Americans who skip breakfast because they are time-starved and nutrient confused. 

Tell me, are the above three paragraphs more compelling than just the statistics themselves? Would they improve the way you tell your story to an investor or a retailer? More importantly, does it put a face and name to the problem you are trying to solve with your product? 

In my opinion, it is yes to all of the above. Building a story around the data, we take what has been anonymized and dehumanized and make it personal and real. We are less effective when we disconnect the people we serve from the problem we are solving. The who in every one of our statistics should be a big part of what we are doing and why we are doing it. 

A final note: Don’t throw shade on my stats. I didn’t do a lot of in-depth research, just a few Google searches. I needed some data points for illustrative effect. Thanks for reading. 

Elliot Begoun is a 30-year industry veteran, author and the founder of TIG, a practice focused on helping emerging natural product brands grow.

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About the Author(s)

Elliot Begoun

Founder, TIG Brands

Elliot Begoun is a 30-year industry veteran, author, podcast host, founder of TIG Brands, and champion of Tardigrades. TIG Brands supports a community of entrepreneurs interested in building nimble, capital-efficient, resilient brands that become Tardigrades, not Unicorns. Learn more about TIG Brands’ programs here and catch Elliot at FoodBytes, the Hirshberg Entrepreneurship Institute, and the Natural Products Business School. Tune into the TIG Talks podcast and find Elliot’s articles in publications such as The Huffington Post, SmartBrief and New Hope Network.

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