Gamification – A Marketing Strategy

Summary: What is Gamification? What are the pros and cons of using this strategy in marketing? How is it being implemented by brands today?

What Is Gamification?

Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game context to engage people and to impact their behaviour. It’s a strategy that delivers by engaging consumers in a fun way, allowing them to interact with their desired brand through quizzes, treasure hunts, photo sharing, competitions and more, while giving recognition and rewards to participants in the process. Rewards can be anything from discounts in store, loyalty points, freebees, competition entries and level ups within a game process.

According to Gartner, 70% of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application by 2014.


Why Gamification Works

The pros:

  • It can present immediate feedback for brands – game scores can translate to business goals if implemented in the right way.
  • It creates in-depth engagement – Game mechanics provide more in-depth engagement over other forms of digital advertising due to its addictive nature for users.
  • Inherent motivation to return to the source of interaction – Achieving a certain level of status motivates consumers to frequently engage with the brand.
  • Uses fun to embed the brand into a consumer’s life.
  • It creates healthy competition and word-of-mouth between consumers – generating brand awareness by normal people acting as influencers.
  • Brands can drive desired user behaviour.


It’s Not All Fun And Games

The Cons:

  • No long term value for users – Without a competitive ‘me to’ aspect, minimal levels of engagement could result in virtual ghost towns.
  • Disruption with traditional loyalty programs – Game based marketing has the potential to discard traditional loyalty programs, disrupting existing customers; they might find starting the process again un-worthwhile.
  • Investing a substantial amount of time and money – If a brand doesn’t understand what it is about video games that engage their market is a recipe for disaster and a loss of time and money.
  • Invitation for consumers to try and cheat the system.
  • Novelty wears off – Brands can overlook the importance of creating meaning and fun behind the program.


Who’s Using Gamification Successfully

Nike ‘Angry Winter’ Campaign

In 2011 Nike started their use of gamification in which players had to help athletes stay warm while they trained outside in the cold.

Participants did have an incentive to play; a leader board of the highest scores were created and those at the peak would win a trip to meet one of the athletes featured within the game.

Obviously this wasn’t all for fun. The game also advertised Nike’s new rage of winter clothing worn by each athlete, directing and prompting users to purchase from their website.

Nike produced a typical competition that highlights how a brand can use gamification to drive awareness of its new product range.

Another Example From Nike + And The Running Experience Community Project

Nike + is one of the most famous examples of gamification as it locks a high amount of potential customers into staying connected with each other and the brand.

This platform collects personal data from participants; keeping them updated on their running activities, displaying their latest achievements and overall evolution. Meanwhile this type of gamification allowed users to compare and compete with people from all over the world, including direct friends when connected to social media.

For Nike this viral game boosted exposure along with customer loyalty.

The highly developed gaming system also allowed them to collect information about their consumers over a substantial period of time, after which they could segment and market their products and services to directly benefit those interacting with the brand in the hopes to increase sales.  All the information collected also allowed an increase in productivity of the R&D and Online Marketing departments.

US ARMY – Recruitment

Another great example of gamification is being implemented by the US Army. They have developed a free downloadable game which has become their number one recruitment tool.

The game allows potential recruits to partake in a virtual army experience in order to see if they have what it takes to become a battle fighter. When participants show signs of promise they are rewarded with badges of honor, the same badges you would earn if you were to join the American forces for real.

The game was developed with a clear business goal; increasing recruits numbers in reality. Before playing the game everyone is recommended to create an account to join the ‘online army’ where a hub of information and data can be found about the real job role.

Success Is In The Game

Although there are a few cons when using gamification as a marketing strategy, I believe if your brand can deliver a strong concept it’s an asset worth nurturing.

Gamification works because today’s consumers are looking for a more rewarding and engaging relationship with their favourite brands, and traditional marketing is failing this.

According to Brian Burk, research vice president at Gartner:

“Gamification aims to inspire deeper, more engaged relationships and to change behaviours, but it needs to be implemented thoughtfully, most attempts at gamification currently miss the mark, but successful and sustainable gamification can convert customers into fans, turn work into fun, or make learning a joy. The potential is enormous.”

According to Burk three key ingredients must be implemented and correctly positioned for a gamified application to truly engage its audience: motivation, momentum and meaning!


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