Why would I use a bar mekko?

Why Would I Use a Bar Mekko?

We each have our own preferences when choosing a chart type and often these evolve over the course of a career. The various strategy consulting firms are known to have favored chart types. McKinsey has a love for the cascade chart and Bain is the land of the marimekko. I’m a former Bainie so the marimekko holds a special place in my charting arsenal. The marimekko is, of course, the more well-known member of the mekko family, but I’ve started gravitating more to the bar mekko because it has so many more use cases. I’m a big fan of the bar mekko and I think you will be too when you see how versatile and powerful it can be.

A bar mekko is a variable width bar chart so you should consider using it the next time you create a bar chart. If your presentation is filled with slide after slide of bar charts, mix it up by combining the data that may have been shown in two bar charts into a single, more compelling chart.

Here’s an example of how a bar chart can be transformed into a bar mekko.

China's Smartphone Market Bar

In this bar chart, you can compare the growth rates by competitor in China’s smartphone market. But, the likely follow-on question after viewing this chart is “How big is each competitor”, specifically how big is the “Other” segment that is declining.  Without this information, the reader can only assume that it must be somewhat large given the low total market growth of 2.5%.

Now, here’s the chart as a bar mekko.

China's Smartphone Market Bar Mekko

 

Adding a volume measure, shipment volume in this case, allows you to see that the smartphone market in China is still quite fragmented since the “Other” segment is 41% of the market. I sorted the bars based on growth rate.

I also added data rows to the chart. The first, market share, shows the reader what determines the width of each bar. Tip: It improves the reader’s comprehension when you show the data that is used for the bar width as a data row.

The second data row, average selling price, helps you answer the question “Are the lower priced phones growing faster or slower than those with higher price points?”

The bar mekko has become my favorite chart type because it can make such a strong impression. It’s easier for the reader to grasp the impact of differences between segments, products, countries or competitors when shown in a bar mekko than when they are shown in multiple charts or displayed in a data row in a bar chart.  Here are more examples of how you can use a bar mekko.

In the first chart, I’m showing gross margin by product for Apple and you can see that the iPhone not only has the highest margin, but it is also the largest product by volume. In the next chart, I’m showing market share by segment for SAP and you’ll notice that most of SAP’s revenue is in segments where its share is over 20%. The third chart compares labor rates for European countries and the bar widths are determined by each country’s GDP. You can see that the highest labor costs are in the smaller Scandinavian countries. In the last chart, you can compare projected growth rate for the world’s top 10 economies. India has the highest forecasted growth but it is still relatively small, in terms of GDP, as compared to the other top economies.

If you’re tired of relying too heavily on bar charts, give the bar mekko a try. To see more bar mekko examples, please visit the chart gallery.