Mike Hanbery October 2, 2012

Current Marketing Trends: Introduction to Gamification in Marketing

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The marketing trend of gamification is becoming so popular that it has its own wiki at gamification.org. According to the site, “gamification is the concept of applying game-design thinking to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging.”

Adding game elements to your marketing program can be a very effective way to turn a passive customer into a brand evangelist in a short amount of time.

While it may seem like this is a recent trend brought on by social media and smartphones, a classic gamification success story kicked off way back in 1992 when McDonald’s joined with Hasbro to create their wildly successful co-branded Monopoly promotion. In this promo, players receive game tokens with each purchase that correspond with the real estate squares on a Monopoly board. As the player completes a set, they receive prizes ranging from french fries all the way up to $1,000,000. McDonald’s patrons have found the game so engaging that many report eating at their favorite location multiple times a day just to acquire extra tokens.

If you are thinking about adding elements of gamification to your marketing efforts, here are some of the main elements to consider

Frequent flyer miles are another long-standing example of basic gamification. While these programs may lack some “cool factor” compared to newer examples, they still remain very effective ways to cement loyalty to a brand. As soon as users begin to accumulate points with a specific airline, these flyers soon start to choose that company over other options. They do this because they want to increase their point balance and there is now an extra cost of using a competitor, in lost points.

Progress and Feedback
How am I doing? Helping clients answer this question is a powerful motivator for behavior. The profile progress bar on LinkedIn is a good example of giving members feedback about where they stand compared to an ideal user. This element of the site prompts users to continue to add information to their profile. The more data users add to their profile, the more value they get out of the service (and the more valuable that profile is to LinkedIn).

The Nike+ program gives runners feedback through their iPod, smartphone or other Nike gear throughout their run and then keeps track of the total miles they have accumulated. They get updates on their speed and the remaining distance in real time through their headphones.

Look for logical places you can break up your process or buying cycle into smaller steps and reward buyers for continuing to move forward. Celebrating the milestones in your process and making your clients feel that they are making progress will keep them energized to continue. The longer your clients have to wait to see the positive impact of your services, the more effort you will have to put in to maintaining the perceived value of your services.

Level Up
Video games are the classic example of encouraging additional effort with the reward of making it to a new level. The tricky part of designing a level up feature is to find the sweet spot between rewards being too easy to obtain and making it so hard to earn a perk that your participants lose interest.

Do you have a card in your wallet for a free coffee after your 10th purchase? Unless you’re a big coffee fan, that 11th free cup is probably not an effective motivator to get you to change your morning routine. It’s too far off in the future.

Your coffee shop could redesign the program to be progressive to engage you much sooner in the game. If you received a free shot of syrup or an upgrade to a larger size on the third purchase, this would allow you to feel the zing of achievement on your third cup. The next level would be a free drink at the 5th purchase but only if you decided not to redeem your 3rd cup offer.

These kinds of level up achievements get customers involved in deciding whether to cash in their rewards or keep going to get the bigger prize. Either way, the feedback on the achievement comes fast enough to keep them involved in the game.

How to Use This Information
Before adding gamification to your marketing mix, the first question to ask is what goals are you trying to achieve with your current and prospective customers?

Do you need to retain current customers? Develop a loyalty rewards program that can be as simple as a punch card. Be sure to offer a reward as soon as it makes financial sense to boost engagement.

Do you need to increase frequency of purchases for current customers? This can be as simple as “buy two, get one free” or get as complex as the McDonald’s Monopoly game. Can you create a VIP program?

Are you looking to attract new customers? Create a welcome program that offers new customers a progressive menu of rewards for increased purchasing behavior in a set period of time. Spend $100 in the first three months and get 10% off, spend $250 and get 30% off, etc.

Ready to get in the “game” with your marketing program?  You can contact Webolutions at 303-300-2640. We are happy to discuss how we can help you create more engaging experiences for your clients.

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