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The Power of Play: Gamification Can Change Marketing

gamificationMarketing is increasingly returning to its roots:  Arresting attention by creating a fun distraction. One way to grab attention, empower social sharing and help people have fun is to “gamify” your marketing.

Gamification — the practice of applying game mechanics to non-game environments to motivate people and change behavior — has been tested seriously by marketers since 2011, and is now mainstream.  “Gamification aims to inspire deeper, more engaged relationships and to change behavior, but it needs to be implemented thoughtfully,” said Brian Burke, research vice president at Gartner in this press release. “Successful and sustainable gamification can convert customers into fans, turn work into fun, or make learning a joy.”

Gartner and other vendors emphasize the need to motivate, engage and reward audiences to play.  In the course of that play – be it customers or internal sales or other employee teams –  people will discover new products, learn about their own interests and skills, and become ambassadors for the game (and hopefully, the brand that makes it happen).

The folks at M2 Research found that effective gamification can increase marketing exposure and engagement by 100%-150%.    They recommend elements of a great game include: Strategy (The Play Proposition), Creativity (The Mechanics of Play), Communication, Reward, Virality (Share-ability).

An early decision that marketers must make for a true game is the player relationship – competitive or collaborative.  Or, if your brand allows it, perhaps neither – as demonstrated by this great Pizza Hero mobile app feature from Domino’s Pizza.  It’s inspired by gaming, but not forced into a construct.  It’s simple and useful:  Stuck for ideas on the best  flavor combo?  The pizza slot machine feature allows you to just shake your smartphone and the app will pick the toppings.

Before you leap headfirst into the mobile app phantasmagoria, note that mobile analytics firm Localytics has found that 26 percent of apps are only used once after being downloaded.  The Domino’s portfolio of mobile apps is one that combines brand, business, and the customer experience – the essential elements for a big digital win.

As with any customer engagement strategy, it’s all about context.  The TopRight Customer BuyWay™ methodology always starts with a rich understanding of customers’ needs, wants, and expectations of the brand, across all channels.  I don’t know that you can start out thinking, “We need a mobile app game.”  Start out thinking about customer engagement – what will motivate people to engage with the brand and solution?  What content will provide utility, guidance and assistance with some real challenge?  When the answer is, “Play a fun game to learn more” or “Interact with other customers to increase loyalty,” then the answer might be a new gamified mobile app.   The crux is providing an experience that delights.

Games do not have to be an app.  Interactive elements with gaming features can work well in ecommerce when there is already brand loyalty.  Clothing company Moosejaw gamified the way they engage loyal customers by offering items for low prices that went up throughout the day creating a sense of urgency for consumers to buy. They also included ways for consumers to score better deals by inviting friends and posting socially.   The company reports that when the tool was launched, in less than 15 minutes, Quikly sold over five hundred $10 Moosejaw gift cards. Consumers then took those $10 gift cards and, on average, made purchases of $66, a 560% return on investment.

Give your games meaning, and your customers will have the motivation to engage.  If the games are relevant and fun, and the players are challenged at different skills levels, they will build sustained momentum.  As you can see from Domino’s and Moosejaw, gaming can be less about chance and reward levels and more about sales, too.   Getting the game on for your marketing can be an effective way to move the business to the #TopRight.

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