By - April 18th, 2012

[G]artner, predicts that by 2015, more than 50% of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes”; and foresee that by 2014, a gamified service for consumer goods mar...

Gartner, predicts that by 2015, more than 50% of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes”; and foresee that by 2014, a gamified service for consumer goods marketing and customer retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon. But why? If you were to bring gamification into your own marketing strategy, what are the potential positive - and negative - effects?

Gamification is a term that gained itself a bit of a reputation as a fad. However, when simplified, it is a useful way of explaining how gaming and reward mechanics can be used to build excitement and loyalty.

In theory this is nothing new, Boots and Tesco have been applying a points and rewards system into CRM activity for years, making the process of giving intimate details of your shopping over to the retailer seem worthwhile and fun as you seek to gain more and more points. Or another example could be Weight Watchers, which ‘gamified’ the process of dieting by applying a points based system to it. The company’s latest messaging takes this further by prompting people to play the game of Weight Watchers.

Phil Dearson, Head of Digital at The Marketing StoreIndeed Phil Dearson, Head of Digital at The Marketing Store, the agency behind the famous ‘gamified’ ad campaign McDonalds Monopoly, believes it’s an over-hyped term to a very effective marketing tactic.

“It sounds pseudo-scientific when it is simply adding a game layer to a typically non-game-related behaviour. Marketers have a history of inventing words to make something sound more interesting, important or complicated than it really is. For example: impactful, dollarization, brandstorming, ideation, leveraging, monetization.”

He adds, “Gamification is not a substitute for a marketing strategy. It's a tactic. It can be a very effective tactic but only once identified as being so after an analysis of business objectives and the role it might have in the lives of the people we're interested in. Does it make business sense?”

Gaming strategies

Part of the reason it has so recently become such an interest for the marketing community now is the fact that mobile and social media technologies are well suited to such activity, as people can share and be involved on the go.

Amy Kean, Head of Consumer Innovation at media agency MPG Media ContactsAmy Kean, Head of Consumer Innovation at media agency MPG Media Contacts, which has clients including Nando's, Credit Suisse and EDf Energy, says gamification is not a new practice, more a new concept.

"People often reference gamification like it's a new concept, when in reality gamification - adding a layer of competition or gaming to everyday life - has always existed, we've only just recently given it a name to describe its relevance to marketing,” she said.

“Think about it - if you're racing a friend to the top of some stairs that you both need to climb, or giving your child a gold star for brushing their teeth properly, or putting a pound into a swear jar, that's all gamification. It's a simple process that humans have invented to make their lives more interesting,” she explains, “From a commercial perspective, gamification is present in loyalty schemes (getting points just for shopping!) and even sites like Ebay, which uses an auction model to bring some 'play' into commerce.”

A good example of a brand using new technology to enhance a gaming mechanic is TopShop. This ‘gamification’ tool can be a great way to link up offline and online, which is evident by the popularity of the likes of FourSquare etc, and this is just what the high street retailer has done but by using mobile app Scavngr.

TopShop Scvngr AppLast year TopShop launched a campaign aimed at building loyalty among the student population. Using the mobile app students were set challenges to collect points which then unlocked prizes and discounts.

At the end of the campaign the brand recorded over 1,686 challenges completed with over 110,057 points redeemed.

But rather than simply using the new channels as an excuse to create a campaign mildly linked to gaming mechanics, for no point whatsoever, brands need to understand how the use of the data and information gamification can generate, can be used to answer hard business objectives.

Kean believes that it isn’t a fad and that the term can be a useful way to apply fun to marketing, “It can't be a passing fad because it's part of our inherent social behaviour. As such, when used properly it can generate a genuinely positive impact, for example the Swedish Government used gamification and the 'national speeding lottery' to reward people for driving within the speed limit.

“New media - online, mobile and social technologies - enable us to track our progress in whichever game we're playing and show to the world that we're 'winning'. It can even earn us some genuine awards, particularly when brands get involved and want to give cash, prize or fame rewards for people interacting with their brand in their day-to-day."

Game ROI

McDonalds Monopoly, as already mentioned, is another classic example of gamification but hat has been updated to fit within the context of social media and mobile. There are several layers to the activity including Instant Win and Collect to Win, in which users have to collect tags off the food to win prizes.

McDonalds MonopolyThe prizes range from food at the fast food restaurant to cars and cash, but The Marketing Store’s Phil Dearon, who worked on the campaign, believes the key is not in bribing people with the prizes, but creating a compelling experience.

“Effective game layers are a reward in themselves, requiring no additional incentive to participate as the mechanics are engaging in their own right. However, virtual and material rewards can stimulate participation. Reward mechanics where the game layers are not in themselves rewarding will not sustain engagement,” he said.

What’s becoming clear is that while the term gamification is in growth, the phenomenon is nothing new and key to its deployment is a solid marketing strategy. Knowing what makes people tick in a social media and mobile context will help in being able to deliver an exciting gaming layer because, while big prizes will help, they will not be the point of success.

When using a gaming strategy in marketing you are delivering a promise to your consumers, a promise that they will have more fun or gain more from an otherwise unrewarding experience, so it had better deliver on those aspects above all else.


The 2nd annual State of Corporate Social Media Briefing has just been released.

Featuring 47 pages of stats, facts, and analysis, it's an essential read for all corporate social media practitioners.

Based on the responses from 650+ executives, the report gives you insight on internal social media organisation, metrics and measurement, and future trends.

Download a free copy here.


Next Reads

comments powered by Disqus