Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Last week, I recapped the top 3 marketing trends of 2013. One of them, gamification, deserves a little more explanation. Over 70% of Forbes Global 2000 companies plan to use gamification for the purposes of marketing and customer retention. By harnessing people's natural desires to compete, achieve, gain status and money, express themselves and even to be altruistic, marketers can turn their product into a game, and actively engage their audience.

Popular Types of Gamifaction

Check-ins and Badges - Used often with fitness sites and apps such as Foursquare, virtual badges are awarded each time a customer reaches the next "level". These levels correspond, for example, to the amount of time someone has exercised, how many people they've recruited, how many restaurants they visited and logged with their apps, and so on. This is similar to the idea of frequent customer rewards, where if you collect a certain number of points, or spend a certain amount of money you get bonus gifts, but is even more engaging and cost effective. These apps encourage frequent use, and provide constant feedback and reward. It is just as rewarding to receive a graphic badge for an achievement as it is to receive a physical prize, and the idea of "leveling up" makes customers feel like they've earned the reward at the end.

It's important, when using this sort of gamification, to balance individual rewards with community rewards. Rewards only for community achievement can encourage coasting, and when sticking to just individual rewards it's easy for customers to get bored or plateau. The solution, as found by a recent MIT study,  is to reward participants not just for their own contributions, but by how much their contributions inspire others. He likens it to academia, where a publication is deemed more or less influential by the number of citations it receives in subsequent research. This encourages users to improve themselves, and keep leveling up individual ling, while also striving to better their standing and influence within the community.

Treasure Hunts/Narrative based marketing

This is a rarer form of gamification, as it requires more set up and investment on the part of the company, but is often more engaging and rewarding then simple badge and check in systems. This sort of gamification is generally attached to viral marketing, and works well when a new product, album or movie is being released. The idea is that users must follow a series of clues and puzzles, or accomplish a series of tasks to unlock additional content and prizes. Often, a loose narrative is created, such as the theft of the brand new product that must be recovered by the careful sleuthing of the customer base.

The idea of gamification, in all it's forms, is to encourage consumers to feel like the marketing they are doing, or the product they are using, is fun. That it is rewarding. That each time they buy a product, or refer a friend, they are accomplishing something. There's nothing more satisfying then physically crossing a task off a sheet of paper. By tapping into the human desire to compete, improve, and increase their status, companies can encourage their client base to do the marketing for them. 

First five comments get a free response! If you have any tips, comments or suggestions about games and marketing, let us know in the comments below  and on twitter and facebook

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