People understand stories. And not much else.

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One of the reasons that wearable technology by itself hasn’t transformed people’s health – the way we’d all hoped it might – is because it’s mostly just spitting out numbers. People are drowning in numbers and data points and starved of knowledge and wisdom.

At HeadUpLabs our job is to make the connection. Which is why we value storytelling as much as data science. In fact, our people come from both the humanities and science faculties.

Why is this important? Well, let me tell you a quick story about numbers. See what I did there…

Back in the early 80s, the American burger chain A&W released a new hamburger to compete with the all-conquering McDonald’s Quarter Pounder. They upped the amount of beef to a third of a pound. So it had more meat than its rival and in taste tests, people preferred A&W’s burger. And it was slightly less expensive. What could go wrong? A&W launched a massive TV campaign and marketed these benefits.

So what happened?

It died a quick death.

Some customer research revealed all. Misunderstanding the value of one-third, people believed they were being overcharged. They asked why they should they pay roughly the same amount for a third of a pound of meat as they did for a quarter of a pound of meat at McDonald’s. The “4” in “1/4,” larger than the “3” in “1/3” led them astray.

Some people cite this story as a way to claim that Americans are less numerate than other countries and that there are grave failings in the US education system. I don’t believe that for a second. This could (and does) happen everywhere. Why?

Well two reasons. First (and I know this from years working in advertising), people aren’t interested enough in ads that they’re willing to do fractions to understand them. Even simple ones. People are busy and distracted. So you have to do the mathematics for them.

Second, people just don’t think in numbers much. We understand stories. So in order to make numbers mean something to people and remember them and respond to them, you have to make them part of a narrative.

Just this morning I received this from HeadUpLabs. A RHR of 71 means nothing until it’s put into a story that I’m interested in (it’s about me, which is one of my favorite subjects) and that I understand.

To learn more about our story and how we can help bring your numbers to life contact us.

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