Adam Fisher
26th November 2018 - 5 mins read
W

e can probably all recall investing time to read something that grabbed our attention with an enticing headline, only to find it was convoluted and tricky to follow.

Perhaps it is the quest to create something original and valuable that drives organisations to inadvertently opt for content which creates barriers to comprehension and distractions from the main message.

Maybe it is a fear that they will not be seen as an expert in their field that leads them on a path to complicated language and clunky phrasing.

Whatever the reason, it is hugely frustrating for both the reader and the author. Ultimately, if people can’t understand what you are trying to say they also won’t know how you expect them to act.

But this situation is solvable.

Simplicity is the key to understanding and therefore should be the foundation of all written content.

Newspapers and journalists know this.

The average reading age of the UK population is generally considered to be around nine years.

The Sun has a reading age of eight, while the more highbrow Guardian has a reading age of 14. That doesn’t mean they think their readers lack intelligence, it means they know where to set their writing so that the vast majority of readers can understand it.

But how do you make your content simple to understand while still producing something valuable?


Lose the big words

The important thing to remember about your content is that you are not producing it to impress your colleagues with your vocabulary.

And very few of us have time to reach for the dictionary when we’re reading. Invariably if we can’t follow what is being said we quickly give up and disregard that content altogether.

This means that when producing content we should always think twice about the more decorative words we could use and consider if there are simpler alternatives. For example, use ‘start’ instead of ‘commence’ and ‘near’ instead of ‘close proximity’.


Short sentences and paragraphs

One of the first lessons drilled into any young journalist is the importance of using short sentences.

At the start of my career I was told to keep mine between 20 and 30 words long and it is something I try to stick to now, 20 years later.

The reason is that long sentences and those with multiple clauses invite unnecessary complexity.

Similarly, long paragraphs can be daunting for readers and cause them to switch-off and lose interest.

Again if you look at a newspaper or magazine, very rarely will you find paragraphs consisting of more than one sentence.


Avoid the jargon

A regular frustration with much written content is that organisations often fall back on jargon to explain what they do and the messages they are trying to get across.

The problem is that often these words and phrases mean little to people outside that industry or particular company – instantly turning off readers.

But use of jargon in content also suggests that you don’t know the subject perhaps as well as you should or think you do. Remember the famous Albert Einstein quote - “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

It also implies that you have nothing new to say to the reader (in which case why should they read on?).


Stick to everyday language

The key with written content, even with the more formal style used in whitepapers, is to use the language that you and your readers would use in everyday conversation.

When I’m writing content I try to use the language I would use if I was explaining the point to a friend or family member in a pub or café – just without the swearing.


Reading out loud

One of the tricks I use to test the simplicity of my own content is to read it aloud. Sure, it generates some funny looks in the office, but it’s a good way of identifying words, phrases and sentences which may be confusing.

If I stumble over parts of it, or find myself having to reread certain paragraphs, then it is fair to assume my content isn’t as straightforward as I intended.


Test the readability of your content

There are easy to use tools you can use to test the simplicity and readability of your content. Word offers two useful measurements.

The Flesch Reading Ease score uses the number of words in a sentence and the number of syllables in each word to calculate how easy it is to read a document. The lower the score, the more difficult the text is to read and ideally you should aim for a score of between 60 and 70.

The second check, known as the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, is an equation which tells you how many years of education someone needs to understand your content.

The grade score is based on the American grade system and essentially you need to add five to your grade to find the reading age of your content.



As you can see, in the above image my reading ease is 60.3 and my grade level is 9.7, meaning a 14-15 year old should be able to understand it. It’s also worth highlighting that the average length of a sentence in this post is under 20 words.

To find your score, simply go to the ‘file’ menu, then ‘options’ and then on to the ‘proofing’ tab.

Under the ‘when correcting spelling and grammar in Word’ heading you need to tick the box which says ‘show readability statistics’.

Then when you run a spelling and grammar check you will find the two readability scores.

Simplicity is a very effective content marketing strategy. It is not about dumbing down or insulting the intelligence of your readers.

It is about ensuring your content is easy to understand for as many people as possible. And that takes skill. But, it is well worth it.

Steve Jobs famously once said: “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”



At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper.

Marketing

Pixel perfect- 4 brilliant examples of games being used in marketing

Emily Stonham 13th February 2019 — 9 mins read
G

amification is defined by the dictionary as ‘the process of adding games or game-like elements to something (such as a task) so as to encourage participation’. Using games in marketing can therefore be taken literally, with interactive games or apps to promote a service, or in a more abstract way, through gamification.  

Using gaming in your marketing is a fantastic way to tap into people’s natural instincts to compete and win. Psychologically speaking, most humans have an innate desire to compete. Of course, there’s plenty of people who like to just hug it out, but competition seems to be firmly rooted in our brains.

In this blog, we’re looking at everything from alternate reality games to YouTube gaming channels. I’ve collected four of my favourite examples of marketing games and gamified marketing campaigns to help inspire your next marketing move, take a look.

 

Halo 2- I love bees

The first thing that I thought of when researching for this blog post is Halo’s fantastic alternate reality game I Love Bees. This revolutionary game was not the first ARG, but it opened up a new path for creative marketing, and has led to many other innovative games since.

 

 

This game was designed to promote Halo 2, and started off with two key pieces of content. A website link to ilovebees.co was hidden in the Halo 2 cinematic trailer, and some previous ARG players received jars of honey in the post. These two events weren’t connected publicly for a while, but curiosity eventually got the better of players, who started exploring the website listed.

The website, which appeared to have originally been a beekeeping website, was covered in confusing snippets of text and code- almost as if it had been hacked (hint hint). The apparent owner of the site, Dana, posted a blog stating that her website had been compromised. Fans started to realise that this was something that could be solved, and began to work on unravelling the clues.

The premise of the game involved global co-operation between players, with practically no guidance. The players received times and GPS codes, which eventually led them to work out that they needed to go to specific payphones across the world at particular times to answer calls. Some calls were pre-recorded, others were ran by live operators which added another level to the immense detail of this ARG.

Other players worked on the website code, deciphering hidden messages that led to audio files being found that revealed a complete audio drama with the story of the game. The game increased in complexity as time went on, with players being emailed, phoned and invited to real character meetings. It all ended up with players being invited to one of four cinemas, where they could play Halo 2 before the release and get a collectible DVD.

The incredible detail and complexity of this game led to dedicated fans going above and beyond to win. One fan stayed to receive a phone call at one of the payphones whilst Hurricane Frances was merely minutes away from reaching them. I would call it a successful marketing game if players are willing to brave a hurricane, wouldn’t you?

The main thing to take away from this example is that people love games. Obviously, hosting a full scale ARG may not be the best business move, depending on your company. They require a ridiculous amount of planning and funding, and a customer base who’s going to actively engage with an interactive piece of content.

If you do have all of these things, though? Go for it. ARGs are amazing. I’d recommend listening to the podcast Rabbits- it’s one of the best pieces of fiction that I’ve ever listened to, and actually what kick-started my personal interest in ARGs in the first place.

 

UpUpDownDown

This next example is less about gamification, and more about actual video games being used for marketing. Arguably, this isn’t even a deliberate marketing move- but it’s had an amazing impact from a business perspective regardless.

UpUpDownDown is a gaming YouTube channel, run by Austin Creed. Austin Creed, more commonly known as Xavier Woods, is a member of the WWE tag team The New Day. This channel is hosted by Austin, and features a whole host of other WWE stars in every video. The channel is very successful (1.7M subscribers, at the time of writing) and I’m personally a big fan of the content that they produce.

The thing that intrigues me with this is how easily it slots into WWE’s marketing strategy. There’s the obvious benefits of it being a successful channel with a large audience- merchandise, brand deals and brand awareness for WWE. It also provides a more unique form of content for WWE fans, and can subtly encourage more hype around upcoming events, simply by mentioning it in a video.

The channel even has an impact on the TV show itself- The New Day have a set of ring gear (wrestling clothes) which is themed around UpUpDownDown.

When the channel was first created, it didn’t seem to fit WWE’s image so much. Obviously, it’s a project of Austin’s, but I believe the channel does benefit WWE in quite a few ways. There’s been collaborations with one of WWE’s own side channels, for example. Did it really match the theme of a wrestling company to be associated with a video gaming channel? Apparently so.

The lesson to learn from this marketing move is it’s important  to step outside of your comfort zone, every once in a while. Obviously, consider your actions and consider how your audience will perceive them (maybe don’t work with a pizza company if you’re a health food promoter). But do experiment with new platforms and forms of content, to keep your audience on their toes.

 

McDonald’s Monopoly

This is one of the most well-known examples of gamification in marketing, and it’s been around since 1987.The premise is simple- it’s basically fast food monopoly. Players collect tokens with their food purchases, and trade them in for prizes. These prizes can range from free food, all the way up to huge cash prizes.

The prizes for this game are so good, in fact, that there was a huge scandal involving fraud back in 2001. An employee figured out how to cheat the system, and ended up scamming ridiculous amounts of money out of McDonald’s. He ended up with a three year jail sentence, and 50 other people were convicted. Personally, I think I’d rather stick with the free dessert as a prize rather than a jail sentence, but each to their own.

In all seriousness, the longevity of this campaign shows how successful it is. The game encourages repeat business in a short amount of time, and successfully uses both print and digital to drive up hype around the campaign. I’ve even been sucked into this game before at my previous job, where the staff would band together and collect tokens as an entire team. I don’t even eat at McDonald’s regularly, I just wanted to play the game.

That’s the key takeaway from this campaign. If you’re going to use games or gamification, it needs to be simple and fun. If you can’t give a 30 second elevator pitch for the game you want your customers to play, it may be too complex and time consuming to drive any good levels of engagement. Keep it simple and fun, and try to avoid getting scammed for $24 million too.

 

Volkswagen Fun Theory

This final example is iconic in the gamification industry. Volkswagen created the Fun Theory campaign, to show how people’s behaviour could be influenced by adding an element of fun to a mundane task. This is one of my absolute favourites, as all the projects had a great impact on the environment, as well as being interesting from a psychological point of view.

There were numerous projects in the Fun Theory- my favourites being the piano stairs, the 50 foot drop bin and the bottle bin arcade. These were simple yet brilliant ideas, turning boring acts like walking up the stairs or recycling into something fun.

 

 

 

By turning the stairs into a working piano, a large majority of people took the stairs over using the escalator. The 50 foot drop bin and the arcade bin encouraged more people to recycle and pick up their rubbish. The positive effects of this campaign were amazing, and just go to show that gamification can have real impacts on the world.

The main lesson to learn from this campaign is that, generally speaking, people like to play. Gamification offers excitement and competition where there might not originally be any. If you’ve got a product that could stereotypically be considered quite dry or dull, using games in your marketing strategy could be a wonderful way to create excitement about your brand.

 

Overall

Overall, it’s worth your while adding an element of gaming into your marketing strategy. But how should you go about doing this?

If you’ve got the resources to do an ARG- go for it. They’re brilliant for engagement and brand loyalty, and are a great way to attract media coverage too. 

Try to step out of your comfort zone, too. If you always do the same thing over and over, people won’t keep coming back to your content as they’ll know what’s going to happen next. Surprise them. Launch a scavenger hunt, or release a mobile app. Maybe try using an online quiz, if you’re not sure about how to get started with gaming.

Remember to keep it simple and entertaining. If you have to spend more than 30 seconds explaining it, the novelty is gone and you won’t get very high levels of engagement. Add a points system to your game so people don’t have to track it themselves, or only ask people five questions instead of 50 in a quiz. Loyalty cards are another simple and popular way to add gamification into your marketing content as well.

If you’re still not sure about using games in your marketing content, or don’t know where to get started, get in touch with Thirty Seven today. We offer interactive game design services, and also other useful content creation services for gamification like contest or survey design. We’d be delighted to help with your marketing strategy and content creation, get in touch today at hello@thirtyseven.agency or 0118 380 0975.

 

Adam Fisher
6th July 2018 - 3 mins read

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