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Gamification: What It Is & Ways To Gamify Your Audience

Shanthala Product Marketing Mgr
July 9, 2012

Gamification is a term used a lot (and very loosely) lately. But what does ‘gamification’ really mean? If you’re looking for a definition, Wikipedia does a nice job. But if you’re looking for ways to gamify your audience—read on.


Gamification is not new to the world. Brands have been captivating consumers and driving engagement using gamified tactics for decades. Remember when Pepsi ran campaigns to collect X number of caps in exchange for goodies? I got my first Michael Jackson audio-tape by tirelessly collecting Pepsi bottle caps (can you say sugar high?)—and that was gamification at its infancy. It was Pepsi’s way of gamifying the non-game experience of consuming more Pepsi!



Brands have consistently engaged consumers and rewarded them for their interaction. But in the past, brands primarily communicated via one-way TV and radio broadcasts, resulting in very blurry campaign success metrics that were a mere attribution to sales activity, computed months from the campaign launch date. But as technology evolved, the communication gap between the consumers and brands narrowed. The engagement tactics and rewards ranged from collecting points in the 90’s to earning virtual currency in the new century. Social Local Mobile (SoLoMo) is the most evolved state of communicating and engaging with customers–it connects consumers to brands at the right place, at the right time on their personal devices – the perfect mix!


It is no longer an era of push marketing and messaging. It is a demand driven marketplace where consumers and brands directly communicate with each other in real time. With advanced monitoring and analytics, impact can be measured instantly, and optimizing to drive desired behavior is quick and easy.


A few things still remain the same though:

- Each brands’ goal to acquire, engage and retain customers

- Humans’ predisposed psychology to engage in games (for a value in return)


So how can you gamify your digital audience? How can you develop a loyal audience that you can turn into life-long brand advocates? Below are 6 popular tactics:


1. MEDIA: Gamify the first interaction with your customer by turning your ad unit into an engaging game.

Example: To drive awareness to its new resort Aulani in Hawaii, Disney turned their mobile media ad unit into an interactive game where the user had to obtain and assemble the Aulani key to “Unlock the Secrets of Aulani”. It was was multi-level game that encouraged users to explore the virtual resort to find the key and learn about about the amenities at the resort.











2. APPS/WEBSITE: Apps can be gamified using multiple techniques. A mere check-in or scan code to receive coupon is the simplest form as it engages users to perform desired action for a reward. A few tech-savvy brands have already begun testing and evaluating the benefits of different channels lately.

Example: Gilt launched Kate Spade New York’s new collection to mobile audience only one day prior to releasing it to their PC audience. By offering mobile audience the advantage for limited quantity products, Gilt used game thinking to drive users to their mobile app (and measure adoption of this new channel).



3. SOCIAL MEDIA: Social Media reaches the audiences that are interested in you. Users who choose to engage with your brand on Facebook and/or Twitter are users who value your brand. They are listening—pulling info from you as opposed to traditional push messaging.



4. TEXT MESSAGING: Text Messaging is the most immediate response mobile marketing technique available in the market today. 95% of text messages are read, and most within 4-5 minutes of their receipt. The typical received response rates for text messaging lies anywhere in between 5% to 25% (compared to 1.5% for mobile media).

Example: T-Mobile drove usage by gamifying their mobile audience by introducing T-Mobile 4G PayDay campaign where users were invited to play a trivia game for a chance to win $40,000 or an Audi.


5. TRADITIONAL MEDIA: Use traditional media to acquire and engage users into a gamified experience. Include QR codes or text call-to-actions in traditional media to recruit users into your gamified experience. 86% of US mobile internet users use their phone while watching TV!

Example: To increase the dual purchase of chips and dip, Doritos UK created a ‘Dip Desperado’ cross platform game on iOS, Android, Facebook and doritos.co.uk, where consumers were encouraged to safely guide their ‘chip’ through a series of challenges and land it in a pot of Doritos dip. Conumers were prompted to enter a product code from on pack purchases for a chance to win prizes.







(An advanced form of gamified traditional media would be something like this.)


6. 3RD PARTY APPS: A new type of channel is evolving where brands can gamify their audience through 3rd party apps. Companies like Kiip, Beintoo and SessionM build games and reward users with real world prizes like free Starbucks coffee, discounts at major retailers, etc. for their achievements in their network of apps. Leverage this channel to drive awareness to your brand.


Gamification builds interest, drives usage and delivers value. But it has to be executed correctly. Here are a few more things to keep in mind while building your gamification strategy:

  • Understand your audience - This should be your first step before you start developing your strategy. It is very important to build games to match your demographics–if your primary audience engages with you online, building a gamified smartphone app is a waste of time and resources.
  • Deliver value - Gamification tactics that do not communicate and deliver value are going to fail. Customer is king and would like to be treated like one.
  • Continuous conversation - Use data to analyze user behavior and engage your audience continuously to build long-term relationships with them.


With the growth in technology, specifically smart devices, gamifying the user experience has never been easier. Your competitive advantage now lies in your creativity, scalability and interconnectivity between channels–so start taking advantage!



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