Earlier this year, Firebrand Group asked a group of top marketers and innovators about their big ideas for 2017. For the next few weeks, we’ll be bringing you insights based on those interviews. This is Part 1 of a two part piece, based on an interview Firebrand conducted with Heather Taylor, director of creative strategy at the economist, about what companies can do to get ahead in the coming year.

Big Idea: Groundtruthing

Truth used to mean something in this world, before 2016 came along and we entered the upside-down. Oxford Dictionary declared its word of the year to be “post-truth”, which it defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” So in this post-truth world, what can companies do to combat the webs of misinformation that is leading consumers astray?

For Heather Taylor, director of creative strategy at the Economist, the answer is something she calls “groundtruthing.” Groundtruthing is, in her words, “information provided by direct observation as opposed to information provided by inference.” There’s also an increasing backlash against “large scale information”, such as “satellite images, large data sets and more recently, polling.” According to Taylor, these sources of information “feel intangible, which makes them difficult for people to comprehend and so are easily dismissed.”

In other words, the processes that go into the creation of “large scale information” require a complex understanding of, in these cases, science, mathematics and statistics — which is not something the average citizen necessarily possesses. The problem, then, is bridging the gap between the data scientists and the lay people, and figuring out how to present the same information in a way that is accessible to the general public.

For Taylor, the solution is to “put someone in the middle of the change and make it feel more real… By covering events and issues at the frontline, we will be more in the center of these experiences and that will give us greater understanding and access to what will seem to be unfiltered truth.”

By doing this, we accept that we live in a post-truth world, where people are swayed more by how relevant a story is to their lives than the objective truth. This does not mean that we should abandon the truth completely. Instead, we must recognize that we humans are ruled by our emotions. Only once we understand this can we move forward.

For more on this topic and many more, download our 20.17 Big Ideas eBook here.