Friday, July 25, 2014

Hemingway app: can it make you a better writer?

I'm writing this blog post with a new app called Hemingway.  In fact, it's not that new, it's been around as a web app for a while. But the desktop version launched today, the app made the front page of Reddit, and it's back in the news.

So what is it? In short, it's an app that makes your sentences, well, shorter. The app takes its cues from Hemingway's pared-down writing style. It suggests you break up long sentences, reduce adverbs, simplify phrases and use the active voice.

For example, here's how I (might have) explained the above without the use of the Hemingway app:

As you can see Hemingway has marked up my errors for me so I can correct my style. 

In other words, it forces you to write in a way that's as concise as possible. 

The question is does it make you into a better writer?

The short answer is yes and no. 

If you're writing a work email, clarity is key. Ditto if you're writing instructional copy. Or writing for twelve year olds. 

But the English language is a complex and nuanced one. Writing in such a minimal style takes a lot of the beauty out of it. It's easy to read. But is it nice to read? Does this sort of writing inspire desire?

I'd argue that there's nothing wrong with an adverb here and there. And although it's possible to use shorter sentences, what you often end up doing is using a lot more of them. This increases the length of what you're writing.

I've written this entire piece using Hemingway. Even though it's a brief blog article, it's been a struggle. 

It's hard to explain why, even harder when you can't use adverbs. The best thing I can suggest is you try the web app for yourself and see if it helps you write better. (I was going to say 'more clearly' -- I couldn't). Writing in this style becomes a reductive chore after a while. And I dare say it becomes pretty repetitive to read.

But what it is good for is forcing you to think about the way you write. Perhaps Stephen Elop should have fired up Hemingway before he wrote that 1200 word email firing 18,000 staff. Hemingway app is the perfect antidote to long, rambling and incoherent writing.

Used sparingly, it's a valuable editing tool.

It isn't for everyone, and it isn't for all the time, but it's definitely worth checking out.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

DDM - Dublin Tour - Day 2 - A Day of Marketing Platforms…and Yahoo

By Johnnie Campbell. Social Planner

Marketo and Adara:

Day 2 kicked off with a trip to Marketo and Adara. Back to back these companies offered a fairly salesy approach, similar to our experiences at Facebook and LinkedIn. Marketo and WebSand again seems like marketing platforms aimed more at marketers within an SME rather than an agency itself. Nonetheless, Marketo offered an interesting example of long-term data marketing using their client Havard University. Havard have a fairly illustrious string on alumni that generally go on to be fairly affluent benefactors of the university itself. Using Marketo they’re keeping track of their alumni, not just in terms of their current financial status, but also what they’re doing online. They’re able to serve specific ads to these alumni and therefore have seen a significant increase in ROI because of this system. An interesting take, but perhaps not relevant to all industries.

Adara were the only non-platform to talk on the second day. They are a data company offering travel data from airlines to a range of different industries. At first I was skeptical about how travel data could be used across different industry, but after more inquisition it seemed quite effective. Firstly, they busted a few travel myths:

“Myth: Travellers book air first, then hotel, then car.

 Fact: 72% of business travels, and 70% of leisure travellers book their hotel on the same day as they book their flight. Meaning a huge opportunity for the hotel industry to use real-time marketing.”

 The reason I found this compelling was actually how it could be transferred into other industries though. For example, our client Glenfiddich could benefit from targeting high net-worth individuals flying to Beijing, by advertising our premium range of Glenfiddich aged single malts at Beijing airport duty-free stores. We could target users as their booking their flight / hotel, or even through retargeting as they arrive and switch on their mobile in Beijing.

Quantcast & Yahoo:

I’ll start with Yahoo. We saw a very run of the mill deck from Yahoo about their global relevance, claiming to be the 3rd biggest site on the internet today…interesting. However, I was really looking for an update on Tumblr, and what they planned to do to monetize it / any future releases they could update us on. Rather than talk directly about plans to monetise the platform (which they do intend to do by the way) they shared with us a fantastic example of how they’re working with agencies currently. This example came I the form of a Tumble site build for Nebraska, a film released earlier this year:

This showed an extremely creative example of how ‘brands’ can use Tumblr (and pay Tumblr) to create fully social websites. Every image and quote from the film was treated as a separate post, so users could share and ‘like’ each one separately, whilst the whole experience acted as through it were a normal site build. Definitely one for us to consider in future, and a very creative use of the platform.

Quantcast were interesting in many respects, and we actually implemented Quantcast analytics on one of clients websites last year without fully knowing the ad offering that came with it. Quantcast analytics proposed to be able to offer accurate competitor site tracking – much like, but with actual accuracy. Unfortunately, we’ve been unable to use this as our competitors sites aren’t on Quantcast’s radar. However I’m sure for more general industries, this can be extremely useful.

Their ad tool leaned towards inbound marketing interestingly enough, and the benefits of measuring every step of the purchase funnel from awareness to last click. Quantcast are offering data tagging at the early stages of the purchase funnel and are accurately able to attribute sales back to these initial ‘awareness’ driving adverts…perfect for industry with a longer path to purchase, as many of our clients have. They used an interesting analogy to get across this concept:

Meet Konrad. Konrad is a nightclub promoter in Faliraki for one of the island’s most successful clubs…Club Stratos.

Konrad’s job is to flyer for the club, giving out drink deals for those who redeem the flyer when they get inside. He gets commission on the amount of Konard-labelled flyer that are redeemed inside.

Konrad is told to flyer on the beach, to raise awareness for anyone thinking of going out, but doesn’t have a defined idea of which club they want to visit:

Flyering on the beach is hard word. Konrad sees about 5 conversions to ever 100 flyers he hands out. So he has a great idea:

If he stands outside the club, giving out flyers to people outside, he sees his conversion rate go up to 50. However, for the club, this isn’t effective marketing, as those waiting outside were probably likely to come in anyway…without a flyer…paying top dollar for their drinks inside. So Konrad loses his job.

The ‘moral’ of the story is that attribution needs to occur all the way from the beach to the club. They could set up a different offer outside the club to entice people inside, but people like Konrad on the beach, raising awareness at that stage of the funnel, need to be attributed to the final sale.

It’s a bit twee, but I think it’s a helpful analogy for explaining data’s role in digital marketing.

And that wrapped up my visit to Dublin!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

DDM – Dublin Tour - Day One - LinkedIn, Facebook, HubSpot and a Twitter No-Show

By Johnnie Campbell, Social Planner

Recently I visited Dublin’s bustling tech city as part of a tour organized by the DMM Alliance. We saw this as a great opportunity to visit the European headquarters of some of the biggest social networks, and general digital marketing providers. The tour was split over two days, with everyone from Facebook, to LinkedIn, to HubSpot to Yahoo offering their thoughts on current trends and future releases. Here’s a an overview of what I learnt whilst over there:

Day 1; LinkedIn, Facebook, HubSpot and a Twitter No-Show


I arrived at LinkedIn bright and early on Thursday morning, having been told ‘not to check in’ or mention our location online, due to LinkedIn’s wishes that their office remains hidden. However bizarre that seemed, it was the first of many covert and overly precautious measures that I experienced on the tour.

After being seated, we were taken through a relatively bog standard sales presentation, which, considering it was solely aimed at individuals who already work in digital marketing, seemed like it was preaching to the converted. Nevertheless, some of their positioning, and indeed the questions that resulted from the talk were very interesting.

“According to Econsultancy, LinkedIn is now responsible for 64% of all visits to corporate websites from Social.”

Stats like this are disposable in my opinion. However here it helped me realise how far LinkedIn are weighting their offering towards B2B marketing, rather than B2C. It seemed a large proportion of the audience were involved in some in B2B and therefore perhaps they tailored the talk in such a manner. However, they generally failed to explain the possibilities of their ad offerings to consumers, especially considering their fairly unique ability to accurately target individuals based on their position / household income.

Perhaps this graph to the left was the only real mention of how marketers should use LinkedIn to target high net worth individuals. Although they would go on to mention about 4 new targeting opportunities on the channel, including Career Crowds (Business Travellers/IT committee/Fortune 1k), Wealth Crowds (Credit Card Propensity/ActiveTraders/Mass Affluent), Followers of Industry (Finance/Marketing/Technology) and finally Degree Targeting (Masters/MBA).

In terms of their actual ad offering, it all seemed fairly similar to Facebook’s. NewsFeed ads dominated due to their higher engagement rates…and they also include a fairly strict approval process to ensure NewsFeed ads are engaging enough to be promoted. The also offer some of the more standard ASU style ads on the right-hand side. Finally, one ad offering was of interest to me. Inbox ads. Inbox ads can be incredibly intrusive, and normally I’d steer well clear of this type of thing. However, when considering a high-end, high value product, and the ability to target accurately against high net-worth individuals, this becomes more interesting. Using this tool you can send custom inbox messages, not only from a brand, but seemingly from an individual within the company. With a certain level of personalisation, I believe this could be extremely effective for lead generation.

After the talk had finished, a few interesting questions were banded about. The most interesting of these was:

“What steps are LinkedIn taking to help consumers find vendors, rather than vendors find consumers?”

This raised a good level of conversation amongst the audience and left our LinkedIn sales rep a little uneasy / unable to give a definitive answer. However, pondering this a bit more it seemed like a possibility for future marketing models. In the light of the digital age when the consumer holds all the chips, maybe Social channels should be doing more to encourage consumers to find the brands / products they need, based on where they are in the purchase ‘funnel’. That was all from LinkedIn.


I’ll try to stay positive about the Facebook talk.

Facebook again opened their doors for us like a secret volcano lair. Their office wasn’t as undercover as LinkedIn’s, but the NDA forms and chipped lanyards we had to wear (to get past burley Irish security) falsely encouraged us to think we were in for some serious insider knowledge. Instead we were told about Facebook’s ubiquity, and given slightly out of date user statistics. There was a small section at the end of the talk which focused on their targeting and ad models. In this section we were told about their work with SecondSync to provide ads that complimented TV spends. This is an interesting move from Facebook, having been a Twitter ad model for nearly half a year prior to Facebook’s pick up. But none the less for Blue Chip brands looking to activate on their TV placements, and effectively jump on ‘second screeners’ – this could prove to be a successful product for them. Frustratingly they offered no estimated timings for the release of auto-play video ads – which for me is make or break for the Facebook ad model, and certainly something I want to test for my clients. However, they did say that various small tests they have run in the US have proven ‘extremely successful’.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the talk again was the questions at the end. One chirpy chap who’d evidently been practicing his lines for a good while chimed in and asked:

“Can you tell us about the measures Facebook are taking to combat click-farms? Especially considering new alarming evidence that suggest the majority of bought ‘likes’ on Facebook are now defunct, due to being from fake accounts?”

This was the question Facebook were dreading. And unfortunately their response was equally as rehearsed:

“Facebook work tirelessly to identify and remove fake accounts on an ongoing basis”

Our Facebook man actually went on to say a lot more, but really it was nonsensical political manoeuvring to avoid the question.

And that concluded our Facebook talk on a fairly sour note.


HubSpot were an interesting one. I had never used the tool prior to this talk, and probably still won’t use the tool for any ongoing client work I do. The reason for this is that it’s largely aimed at users who run their own SMEs, or perhaps agencies running significant ‘inbound marketing’ for their clients.

Inbound marketing is a term that was coined by HubSpot founder Brian Hailligan, and relates directly to the concept of Permission Marketing – a Seth Godin classic.

Inbound marketing is promoting a company through blogs, podcasts, video, eBooks, enewsletters, whitepapers, SEO, social media marketing, and other forms ofcontent marketing which serve to bring customers in closer to the brand, where they want to be

HubSpot provided a really different take on digital marketing, using outbound marketing techniques to spread the reach of our content, this is something we are big fans of here at Gravity, Content is the key word here, and effectively this all boils down to the wider concept of Content Marketing. How to find content from your business, how to turn one story into multiple pieces of content (blogs, videos, images, slideshares etc), and finally how to make it easy for consumers to find when they’re in the right frame of mind to see it.

The tool seems pretty good at aggregating all of these different channels into one marketing platform. It serves emails, manages Social channels and helps with SEO. However for more complex client structures and databases, it’s perhaps not plausible to run through one platform alone.

HubSpot certainly helped me to form an understanding of inbound marketing, but perhaps the most useful part of their talk was where they shared free online tools to help with audience research and SEO. Here’s a few of the tools they shared, some of which we were already using, and some of which have proven to be extremely useful since:

Google Keyword Planner
Google Consumer Surveys
Google Trends


As the title suggest, Twitter experienced an unexpected illness from one of their key speakers and were unfortunately not able to speak. Update at a later date when they are hopefully feeling better ;-)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

How social media and e-commerce is now driving luxury business

Luxury has always been cyclical. During the last five years it’s been ‘territorial’. But the sector’s amazing growth in South East Asia and especially China has now slowed considerably.* Emerging markets’ rising incomes fuelled strong demand for luxury goods to migrate east. But many factors have caused maturing Asian consumers to
rein in their spending. The good news is that developed countries are set
to be the main beneficiaries of these changes. So now it’s airports, directly operated concessions within department stores and, increasingly, online sales that are all helping the sector to bounce back.

But an even bigger change is underway. According to Boston Consulting Group’s survey of more than 10,000 customers, social media and, the explosive rise in smartphone usage, is responsible for more than half of total luxury purchases.**

Living in the ‘conversation economy’, as we all do now, we’ve taken a look at how luxury brands can exploit the increasing growth in social media to enhance their online presence and build upon their reputation.

IN A WORLD OF SHARING……luxury brands need to adapt. Like everyone else, they can no longer resist the greater openness and accessibility expected from consumers.
The new world's dynamism, volatility and complexity no longer offers luxury brands the luxury of choice when it comes to whether or not they should change their traditional marketing values and practices.

CONTROL AND WHAT WE CALL 'UN-CONTROL' The increased focus on Western markets brings a new challenge: more developed societies’ brands are now controlled and shaped by consumers. Being part of these social and digital conversations is critical for brand success.

But we believe it is not just about joining these conversations. We believe that to create brand impact you need to change the conversation.

Brands want customers to follow them. To engage with them. Be hungry for information about them. Which they can pass on to their friends.

In their turn, customers are more than happy to engage with brands. All brands have to do, therefore, is be interesting. Meet customers on their level. Talk in their language. Our snapshot of the chattering, moneyed, classes who are your customers demonstrates their willingness to be actively involved and seriously engaged on social media. This means luxury brands really have to accept that they can 'let themselves go' a bit. Just a bit – no need for cartwheels! And then they can reap the rewards

of consequent customer un-control. Because that's what customers like and it’s what they’re doing: sharing and commenting and passing an opinion on…well, everything!
Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Investigating Magic and Logic at SXSW 2014

Weird and magical or sane and purposeful?, every year SXSW throws up a wealth of new ideas that help us understand not only the trends and developments that are happening right now in the ever moving digital world but also helps us keep an eye on the future, the experimental and the seemingly crazy.

After attending over 50 talks, panels, key notes and after hours debates we can safely say that there is plenty of #Magic and #Logic at SXSW, however what is more exciting is that both of these areas provide plenty of strategies, ideas and stimulus that can put to use by brands and companies right now.

To share this we have produced TWO entertaining, highly visual and thought provoking presentations for each of these areas featuring 5 trends for each of #Logic and #Magic including lots of examples and inspiration along with specific implications for your brand.

#LOGIC - Keeping SXSW relevant
SXSWi14 clearly showed that Social and digital has not just grown up but it now has free will and natural autonomy – this means when using these channels brands need to be agile, innovative and never stand still.

From Miley Cyrus to Oreo Cookies and Upworthy my review will show you the real gems of #Logic that I observed that can help give you the edge over your competitors.

#MAGIC - The wonderful future
In the last year technology has moved at an incredible pace and fuelled all sorts of magical developments that offer huge opportunities for brands. This has brought with it a number of challenges none of which are insurmountable.

SXSW showed me that the #Magic is out there to embrace and adopt, when coupled with a respectful approach to privacy and social responsibility as exemplified by the likes of Coke the World is truly your oyster.

Friday, March 21, 2014

#moyesout - igniting a community - 42K and counting

It’s Monday morning, and Gravity’s resident United fan enters the office to an unprecedented level of abuse. After their (somewhat) shocking 3-0 loss to Liverpool over the weekend, conversation in the office quickly turned to Moyes’ shaky position at the helm. This made us think:

When has conversation about Moyes’ untenable position been at it’s highest?
Are we currently in the midst of Moyes’ least popular period at the club?
When has online uproar reached its highest point with #MoyesOut?

So, knowing the need for a quick turn around whilst the conversation was still relevant, we decided to map mentions of #MoyesOut over the season to date. The data showed that in fact losses earlier in the season had caused more uproar than the previous weekend’s embarrassment. We also saw that there was a significant amount of people saying #MoyesOut before the start of the season! Pretty interesting stuff.

After marvelling at some of our initial findings, we began to wonder how we could benchmark the #MoyesOut mentions against another manager. The first manager that came to mind, perhaps because of various allegiances in the office, and because of a similar notable online campaign for his head was Arséne. It’s fair to say the results were fascinating. Mentions of Arséne were in total, much lower than Moyes. However, the sheer scale of #WengerOut mentions (around 45k in one day) after the loss to Aston Villa on the first day of the season overshadowed the entire graph! We then subsequently stretched the results back to the start of 2013 to give some context of #WengerOut in the latter half of last season.

Fairly happy with our work* we had to think about how to get this piece of content out there. It was quickly decided that Reddit’s r/soccer page, as the bustling ‘front page’ of Football news and stats, was the way to go. We uploaded the image to imgur and <a href="">posted to Reddit</a>. We had around 150 upvotes on the post in the first 1 hour, and from there things started to fly.

3 days on, here are the results:
41,264 views on the original image we shared on Reddit! (Gravity Thinking branded)
1,114 Reddit upvotes and 278 comments. #2 in r/soccer (190k active users)
Approx. 681 tweets…leading to just over 1,600 RT’s in 4 languages.
Shared by: Oliver Kay (chief football correspondent from the times), Owen Gibson (Guardian chief sports correspondent), Bleacher Report UK, Loaded Magazine, Paddy Power, Betfair, BTSport, Bootifulgame, InsideWorldFootball, FTBpro, &amp; more… - a combined total potential impressions of 2.2 million (combined total followers of tweeters)
Over 220 direct mentions of @GravityThinking in 2 days!
No paid media and no help from influential friends, this was a great bit of real-time content showing off what we do best!

*worth saying that this graph doesn’t differentiate between users mentioning #moyes/wengerout in a sarcastic way, this was just a quick search for volume metrics. The good news is, with our tool Crimson Hexagon, we can identify sarcasm, and deliver sentiment results at around 95-97% accurate!