Gamification (the use of game design mechanics applied to marketing) has gotten a lot of attention lately. How popular is the concept? The term has popped up quite a bit in the last 3-4 years, and it was actually added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2011. Some people might think of it as just the latest fad in digital marketing. But the concept has been around for a long time. It’s a powerful strategy for influencing and motivating people. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry. And it’s here to stay.
Gamification is rooted in the concept of game mechanics. These are the specific techniques (typically employed by game designers) that engage and motivate participants. They include basic human motivators like achievement, avoidance, reward, recognition, discovery, incentive, time limits, pride, fun and status. Starting to sound familiar? Once you start paying attention, it’s amazing where you’ll see these tools used.
Savvy marketers know that these techniques can motivate and engage consumers. And not just gamers, but all of us. Most obvious are the hot social media apps like FourSquare that rely on game mechanics like leader boards, rewards, recognition, badges, and achievements to push engagement and participation.
But you’ll also see game mechanics used with loyalty programs like Hilton Honors, JetBlue TrueBlue and Subway Sandwich Cards. Websites like The Huffington Post, SEOmoz, and Mashable use gamification techniques to encourage users of their sites to read more articles, comment more often and share more frequently. You’ll see simple game mechanics used on websites to encourage users to complete their profiles (think about LinkedIn’s ubiquitous progress bar, for example.) The same thinking has even moved into areas such as fitness, shopping, education, training and even filling out government forms.
Are there uses for advertising agencies like ours? Absolutely. We could all be using some of these ideas to make our campaigns more engaging, and to help our clients motivate their customers to spend more time with their brands.
So, look around you. Where’s the potential gamification opportunity in your marketing program?