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PowerMap: Excel Charting Plus Bing Maps on Steroids

  |  September 19, 2013   |  Comments

Data visualization tool, PowerMap, lets users leap from big data to invaluable insight shockingly fast.

Digital marketers often wrestle with the myths and truths of "big data", and what to do with it. But data is just numbers until used to answer questions. Then it becomes insight. Luckily there are many new, yet familiar tools to help. One of the newest, PowerMap, lets you leap from data to insight shockingly fast.

Mapping data geographically can paint a stunning picture that actually tells you what you need to do to market smarter. PowerMap is likely the most beautiful insight tool you've seen yet, and can unlock insights to drive campaign performance. It has to be seen to be believed.

Powermap Visualizations
click to enlarge

Excel Charting plus Bing Maps on Steroids

Think of PowerMap as Excel charting plus Bing Maps on steroids. Before PowerMap was PowerMap, it was GeoFlow Preview for Excel 2013 created from a Microsoft Research project. It can chart data with 3D columns overlaid on a map over time. And as of early September new features make PowerMap even stronger:

    • Smart Start-Up. PowerMap can identify geographical data for the data type it is, and then automatically maps it. Zip codes, for example, are identified as zip codes - without telling PowerMap that they're zip codes. Countries, states, cities, counties and even latitude and longitude - PowerMap knows what to do with your data.
    • Region Shading For Visualization. During an election, political analysts love to highlight voting by county. These election maps highlight each state or county, then color them red or blue. PowerMap puts this type of map at your fingertips, but instead of votes, use any data you'd like. This is in addition to the existing visualization options bubbles, Heatmaps, and columns.
    • Flat Map. PowerMap was born as a 3D visualization which was highly engaging and interactive. Now data scientists and analysts can also switch to a 2D map for a broader geographical view.
    • Create A Video. Share your PowerMap data with people who don't have the PowerMap plug-in. String together several PowerMap scenes to create a story, and PowerMap takes care of the smooth transitions. Files are exported as MP4.

Applying Insights to Advertising Campaigns

Here's an example to illustrate the value of PowerMap. Did you know that different parts of the country (and the world, of course) have different start-dates for school? This year, all of Hawaii's public K-12 students went back to school August 5, while New York went back September 9.

If you're targeting the back-to-school audience, you'd want to know precisely when school starts at different places across the country. This information is publicly available. Since there are over 15,000 school districts, it's easier to work with a third party data provider, in this case MCH Strategic Data. A distinct geographic targeting strategy emerges when you combine the first day of school data with PowerMap, something even MCH Strategic Data hadn't seen before.

We're working with two data points: Date and geography. It looks like this:

Back-to-School Powermap
click to enlarge

Visualizing the data on a map and over time drives home many insights. One key insight: A nationally targeted campaign won't allow you to differentiate your ad copy to cities or states which are already in school. If Los Angeles' 640,000 students go back to school on August 13, you'd have to have the same ad messaging and bids until New York City's 1.1 million students go back on September 9. So switching from a nationally targeted campaign to a region-specific campaign makes more sense.

Data is just numbers. Tools like PowerMap unlock insights by visualizing lots of data in an intuitive manner. You can then focus on understand how everything fits together, plus where and when you should take action. This is a new tool, and right now it's only available for Office 365 Pro Plus on a PC. It's a free download for those users, hopefully coming to more users soon!

What's the first thing you'd want to plot using PowerMap? What are the questions this tool can answer for you?

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John Gagnon

John Gagnon is a Bing Ads Evangelist (aka “search nerd”) at Microsoft. He has worked for both Bing Ads and Google AdWords, and is a frequent speaker at digital marketing conferences such as SES, SMX, and others. He has advised hundreds of clients ranging from Microsoft teams like Windows and Internet Explorer to small businesses like local garage door repair shops just getting started.

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