Games are extremely popular in everyone’s life. From board games to watching sports, competition and reward powers a lot of our existence. And this is what drives many companies to adopt some form of game in their strategies. But is it possible to add gamification to marketing?
And the success of such strategies depends purely on how engaging you can make those games.
What is Gamification in Marketing?
Gamification is when you take a seemingly mundane chore or topic and turn it into something fun and engaging. Fueled by positive reinforcement, incentives are used to keep the “player” interested.
In reality, businesses have been doing this for a very long time. Any time you see an “Employee of the Month” placard or if someone earns a bonus for having the best productivity over a certain amount of time, that’s gamification at work.
When you include gamification in marketing, you’re turning customers into players. And the more interesting the game, the greater the reward to yourself and the business.
Where Can You Add Gamification?
You can literally create gamification in nearly any aspect of life. From reward programs for consumers to keeping yourself motivated to work, you can easily turn it into a game of some kind.
In the business dynamic, you can engage customers and staff to perform better by making the experience more entertaining. Especially if there is a worthwhile prize or reward at the end.
My point is you can virtually gamify any aspect of a business to improve its success.
Why Gamification of Marketing Works
Gamification centers around positive reinforcement. The greater the prospect, the greater the reward.
It’s why millions of people will play lotteries knowing the odds are greatly against them. This same mentality is in effect when getting a free coffee because you spent a certain amount of money with a particular brand.
When it comes to marketing, it’s all about giving a reward for consumer behavior. And it’s an aspect that is rapidly gaining popularity thanks to technology.
How to Use Gamification Marketing Strategies
Every facet to marketing gamification focuses on how the consumer behaves. With certain “games,” you can drive particular habits in your fans.
The trick is to make it as engaging, or as fun, as you possibly can.
1. Understand Your Target Market
Before you can engage your consumers, you need to understand what drives them. You should already have an idea of who your buyers are if you’ve put out any form of marketing.
But do you know what keeps them engaged to the point of playing? What motivates your market to buy certain goods or services?
Consider how a millennial consumer may not find the same games as interesting as a Generation X’er.
This is perhaps one of the most difficult aspects for gamifying marketing campaigns. You will probably have a lot of trial-and-error experiences. But, it will help you find the perfect method to engage your consumers.
2. Research Types of Games
Once you have an idea of your target consumer and what drives them to play, it’s time to find the perfect game. You’ll need to invest a bit of time to understand how certain games will impact a user response.
For instance, a reward program is often tied to the amount of money someone spends with a business. But in some situations, this isn’t a feasible method for marketing.
Reward programs work best for businesses which focus on quick consumable items, such as food, coffee or gasoline.
You need to find a game that fits your company and what you provide.
3. Explore Related Industries
There’s nothing wrong with branching out into industries that are related to your own. In fact, diversification has made a lot of businesses a great deal of money.
However, the connection between the two needs to make sense to customers. Otherwise, the experience could backfire and create a disconnected feel.
A good example of branching out is the Nike+ app. As health and fitness is a growing trend, and Nike develops fitness gear, it only makes sense to create a fitness app to engage consumers.
One of the things that makes it effective is how the fitness app keeps the brand relevant to the target audience.
4. Use Free Offers
Obviously, you want customers to pay for premium services. However, many companies have found that offering something free gets a foot in the door for possible future sales.
Take Exercise.com, for example. This platform offers a point and level system to engage consumers to use the site for free. These users can then subscribe to the system at any point to get access to more data, features and personal trainers.
The gamification works by giving a valuable free method to exercise. And those who find value in the app often pay for the premium service.
5. Be Realistic with Rewards
If you plan on developing a reward-based system, you want to make sure it’s sustainable. Otherwise, your marketing campaign could quickly tap the bank account.
Offering a free vacation to your email subscribers may help increase a mailing list. However, it could get incredibly expensive over time if you offer it more than once a year.
Not to mention how people will try to cheat the system by signing up with more than one address.
When coming up with rewards, keep your budget as well as your target consumer in mind. You don’t want the game to be a success at the expense of the business.
6. Not All Rewards Need to be Tangible
While valuable prizes work exceptionally well in certain circumstances, not all rewards are tangible products.
For example, Fitbit engages its consumers by giving out “badges” earned for certain amount of steps. Most video games nowadays will give achievement rewards when meeting certain goals while playing.
Both of these examples cost nothing more than the graphic used to depict success. And both are effective at engaging the target audience.
In essence, non-tangible rewards such as the ones I mentioned provide nothing more than delivering a way to make someone feel proud of the accomplishment.
7. Inspire Social Competition
Although some people are easily entertained playing solitary games, a large portion loves the aspect of competition. It’s why sports of all kinds hold a lot of popularity among audiences.
For instance, a lot of fitness apps will show leaderboards regarding specific activities. It fuels the competitive nature of these users who will continue to use the app until they are ranked, “the best.”
Think of radio call-in shows. How often have you heard, “be the fifth caller and win” or something similar? Then, these winners are highlighted to give the person recognition while promoting the business.
8. Celebrate Everyone
Obviously, the best prizes are for those who demonstrate superior skill. However, recognizing the others inspires them to try again at a later date.
In many instances, a simple “thank you” message is enough to keep people engaged.
For example, a lot of Twitch channel marketing centers around charity events. And although the broadcasters usually highlight the top 10 donors, they always thank everyone for contributions while telling why the donations matter.
Elements like this keep the audience engaged and feeling proud of their own interactions even if they weren’t highlighted.
In other words, ignoring players other than who wins doesn’t incentivize those people to play again in the future.
9. Augment Existing Games
An effective way to gamify marketing is to augment an existing game to fit your audience. This kind of process has been around for quite some time and is just as effective today as it was in the 1900s.
Take McDonald’s and how it uses Monopoly to drive sales. Every year, people spend a lot of money buying goods to get the pieces to win. Safeway also uses a similar game to promote its goods.
In both instances, the companies deliver minor prizes such as a free item when they buy something else. For instance, free fries when you buy a burger.
Games and rewards like this incentivize consumers to keep spending money…even though the odds are extremely low to win the big grand prize.
10. Keep Games Easy to Play
One of the most effective ways to promote gamification in marketing is by making the game simple. You don’t want to confuse consumers or delay gratification. Otherwise, customers won’t view it as worth their time.
This is one of the reasons why many shopping rewards work so well. For instance, you can earn discounts at the gas pump by spending $100 or more each month by shopping at certain grocery stores.
The more people shop, the bigger the discount.
It’s simple to understand and doesn’t require a lot of effort to play.
11. Consider Using Augment Reality
Augmented reality is an effective tool for gamification in marketing. It turns the real-life images from a smartphone or tablet into something that seems to exist in the real world.
A perfect example of this is Snapchat marketing with lenses that change the way you appear to friends and family.
Another great example of augmented reality in marketing is the Ikea app. This will show you what certain pieces of furniture look like when placed in a room. Then, users can make a purchase from the app based on how items look in the home.
12. Provide Tips to Improve
Providing tips on how users can improve helps to reinforce engagement. It empowers the player to keep trying by guiding them through the process.
A good example of this is CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer. The platform gamifies creating titles and headlines by delivering a score based on what’s effective in social media. Then, it provides tips about how to improve the score.
Tips and suggestions demonstrate to the consumer how your brand is interested in the person’s ability to play. After all, their success is yours as well.
Besides, no one wants to play a game if it’s obvious they have no chance of winning. Helping players gives them hope.
13. Use Games with Deadlines
Using deadlines in your games helps with two important factors:
- Delivers a Sense of Urgency
People are often susceptible to “limited time only” situations. It makes them feel like they’re going to lose out by not acting quick enough.
- Helps with Budgets
Remember, you want to give sustainable rewards. Using a time frame helps by creating an outline of what you need to spend over a certain duration.
Pushing games that have a longer period to play also helps gather a larger audience. Someone who might know the game exists today may learn of it tomorrow.
14. Adapt to What Your Audience Wants
The best gamification marketing strategies are those which adapt to consumers. And keep in mind prizes and games that worked last year might not be as effective this year.
It’s all about collecting data and finding patterns and behaviors of customers to drive future gamification.
This is done by tracking as many aspects of the game as possible. Tracking will help you see what interests players more and what prizes are the most effective for your audience.
15. Develop an App of Your Own
Many companies today add mobile apps to their gamification marketing strategies. This is because of the prevalence of hand-held devices in society today. And depending on how elaborate you want the app, they’re also affordable to build.
Think about it; mobile use accounts for nearly 50% of Internet access across the globe. Creating your own business app keeps your brand in the pockets of consumers almost everywhere.
Branded apps don’t have to purely be games in and of themselves, though. They are often simple trackers for reward programs.
The point is mobile apps have a place in consumer behavior, and you can easily accentuate your success by developing one of your own.
Gamify Your Marketing Strategies
The most effective campaigns are those which engage your target consumer. Not everyone will find value in the same game. Do a bit of research into your consumer base and find a platform that works best for you.
Gamifying the experience has great potential to drive sales, leads and overall success of your brand.