Gamification is the latest shiny new object for marketers. It’s the practice of adding game dynamics into your campaigns in order to drive participation and engagement.
Badges, points, leader boards, and titles like “mayor” are no longer relegated to Foursquare or Farmville. They are popping up everywhere in marketing campaigns, rewarding consumers for all types of desired behavior.
While the promise is high, most marketing applications I’ve seen have been very superficial, as if gameplay can magically make a non-engaging brand engaging. And as if valueless rewards will somehow be perceived as valuable.
Games designer Sebastian Deterding wrote,
“Gamification proponents consider game elements to be a kind of monosodium glutamate you can just add to any interface, application or service to give it a kick, to make it more fun, motivating, and engagement … Games are not fun because they’re games, but when they are well-designed”
Sebastian expanded these insights in a talk at last year’s Playful conference: “Pawned. Gamification and its Discontents”. Before you try to “gamify” your marketing, his presentation is a good primer to read.
(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post. I’ll pick one comment at 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)
15 CommentsJoin the Discussion
Yet to come across an engaging ‘brand’ game.
Doug Shaw says
I enjoy games. I’ve been an avid Space Invaders player and all manner of video games, board games, even good old noughts and crosses has a place in my heart. I’m glad to say I never won ‘badges’ in any of these games. I didn’t need ‘badges’ to make the games any good. I played Galaxian and Dig Dug because they’re cool (well they were in 1982), and I didn’t play Moon Patrol because it sucked.
I don’t like this word – gamification. It reads like what might happen to my leg if I got lost in the desert and attacked by rats…or something. Icky.
Cheers – Doug
Drayton Bird says
This is not really a comment – just an expression of general joy and satisfaction from an old cynic.
The way you manage week in and week out to send up the crass waffle that in marketing departments employ as a substitute for thinking is a marvel.
Drayton Bird says
Whoops, that old devil jetlag done get me: there is a superfluous word in the above – “in”. Sorry.
Average Customer says
We don’t need no stinkin’ badges.
Gabriel Vultaggio says
I’m a little afraid about all the new waves of “innovation” (in this case called gamification) applied to all categories or products, because this is a “must have” in the marketing scorecard of X brand.
As marketeers we need to identify how reach consumers, but importantly, needs to be in line with brand’s image.
If not, sooner or later we will have an app to play with the new components of a “innovative” medicine to cure a terrible disease!
Mark Sampson says
Tom, I love this cartoon. For me the whole “Gamification” thing is simply about user experience and brand engagement. Like Doug states above, you don’t just play a game to collect a badge.
As someone who also has played games growing up, what keeps me coming back is the challenge; the feeling of progression (not too easy, not too hard) and lately the social interaction. And it wasn’t just me in our household playing – I remember my Dad being completely addicted to “Arkanoid”. He would spend hours every night cursing, shouting, and jumping for joy – all because of a silly bat, bouncing a ball against some bricks. He didn’t do it for any badge, he did it for fun and personal achievement. Nobody forced him to keep coming back every night – he did it because he enjoyed it, not because he would earn a badge. His motivation was simply fun.
This is where I think Gamification can make or break something. Brands need to realise that there is no secret “Gamification recipe” that will keep consumers coming back. Foursquare is losing its appeal to me right now as it doesn’t really reward me through playing – its a pretty badly designed game. SCVNGR on the other hand is all about brand engagement with the venue you check into – i.e. complete these challenges at the venue, unlock some more, then unlock a free bonus. A much more motivating and compelling proposition.
Platforms like Bunchball and Bigdoor can help with the game “mechanics” (leader-boards, points, badges, rewards etc) but in order for the experience to be compelling, the “game” has to be well designed – just adding points or badges won’t get you anywhere. Also, brands can’t ever force consumers to play their “game”, consumers have to WANT to play – nobody ever forced my Dad to play Arkanoid for hours on end, he simply did it because he got great pleasure in doing it.
For a company looking to apply “Gamification”, I’d review things in this order:
1) The core business objectives – what do we actually want to achieve?
2) Game design – what will make this experience compelling and intrinsically motivating?
3) Game mechanics – blend of points, badges, leader-boards, challenges, quests etc.
In my mind the mechanics should be looked at last of all. Design first for engagement and user experience and I think Gamification can be a very positive way of driving deeper brand loyalty.
Omar E.Avila says
Very interesting articule.
Gaming is part of our life, as it make easier the collaboration between people in their social life and also in working spaces.
on the other hand it, help to train the brain, to think creativitively, to learn how to find solutions to the constrains
It´s help to make an easier enviroment at work and of course have fun and disconnect from the daily stresses.
Big Dog says
This is the perfect cartoon for any marketer who must market their product/brand to a world that expects instant gratification. Not sure where others are with their marketing expectations, but my management is pushing hard for our organization to get brand placement in the high profile video games. My challenge back to these managers who want to jump on the bandwagon, do gamers even shop, let alone leave the house. How about if we just continue to target moms. 🙂
[Good] game designers seem to be a very principled group. They’re good theorists. I wonder, though, whether that ever gets in the way of achieving the outcomes they’re looking for. Maybe that’s what defines great game designers – people who can marry principles and outcomes well – and make that child beautiful.
Games are a good distraction from a products original USP. I have no soul when it comes to these sort of campaign gimmicks, i enjoy a game and when I’m done to boredom, I move to the next interesting campaign. More often than not,I cannot for the life of me recall what product was being advertised and I seriously doubt if it even induced the slightest motivation to purchase the product.
Have you seen this interesting presentation about gamification in market research http://tinyurl.com/3vphbza
Many thanks for the great insights this week.
This week’s cartoon print goes to Mark. The “Arkanoid test” is exactly what’s missing when many brands try to incorporate gameplay into their marketing. I think many brands are jumping to the mechanics of gaming. Mark’s order ranking is spot on.
Doug Shaw says
Well done to Mark for winning the game 🙂 I enjoyed his comment almost as much as the blog post. Good work!
Mark Sampson says
Chuffed to bits. Thanks guys! Can’t wait to receive the print.