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You've most likely heard or even uttered the latest 'it' term out there for marketers: Gamification. But what does it truly mean? Is it a fad or is it here to stay?

Defined as the “process of using game concepts and mechanics to engage users and change behavior,” gamification is, at its core, a simple concept with huge potential for business.

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

Why is gamification such a powerful marketing approach? Because it allows brands to combine business interests with consumer interests by making content entertaining and fun.

It may be a new word, but gamification is an old concept. It turns out we can learn a lot from classic board games like Pictionary and Monopoly by understanding who plays which games, and why.

By understanding how the psychology behind some of our favorite board games still applies to what motivates consumers, marketers can tap into gamification.

Here are four categories of game mechanics that marketers can take advantage of to drive customer engagement and brand awareness.

1. Express yourself

This first example is games that motivate people, which fall into the expressive category. Games like Pictionary fall into this artistic, demonstrative category, because they give consumers a stage and allow them to tap into their creative side.

What can marketers learn? Use an expressive campaign to capture or remarket authentic content, create a platform for your brand advocates, or a program that is incredibly viral.

Consider McDonald’s 'Perfect Pair Contest,' an engagement campaign geared toward driving awareness of a new Frozen Strawberry Lemonade, creating buzz around consumer generated content and getting people excited about the McDonald’s brand.

The Twitter contest asked consumers to nominate themselves and their significant other as the 'McDonald’s Perfect Pair,' and incorporated a video gallery, photos and a real-time leaderboard that consumers .

After judges selected the top ten Tweets, and finalists submitted videos explaining why they should win, all the content went live for public voting.

This helped the campaign go viral by giving brand advocates a platform to express themselves, which resulted in a wealth of authentic user generated content for McDonald’s too.

2. Fortune Teller

By fortune teller - think games like the Magic 8 Ball. These games are simple interactions and a fun way for consumers to learn about themselves. Marketers can leverage the same motivators to gain consumer insight, educate and attract new consumers, and better recommend the right product or solution based on consumer responses.

Madewell’s “Are You Madewell?” Facebook app and microsite applied a fortune teller type game to gamification marketing. The retailer tapped into people’s desire to learn about themselves via multiple choice questions about their lifestyle and preferences to find their fashion personality.

Madewell drove “Likes” of the brand on Facebook, increased its email database and increased awareness of the new ecommerce site. Fortune teller games and personality quizzes result in great data and analytics for brands.

3. Earning points & keeping score

Just as games like Monopoly entice us to play by offering competition, status recognition and even different payout levels, marketers can use programs that allow consumers to earn points based on complexity or value and track their progress.

Brands can further motivate ongoing engagement across a variety of activities and place variable payouts on different actions by using badges (as recognition symbols) and real time leaderboards (as status updates).

HBO’s 'Win the Throne Sweepstakes' used a similar gamification marketing strategy to acquire new HBO subscriptions, while retaining current subscriptions. HBO engaged consumers in a fun, branded experience by having them register and answer a few questions to categorize them into one of five families.

Participants could leave that family at any time and collect sweepstakes entries or points for activities like playing games, being in the top rated family, winning a bow and arrow shooting challenge, etc. The program motivated strong engagement across HBO’s Game of Thrones channels.

4. Skill-based games

Operation and Memory are classic examples of skill-based games. These games are mentally or physically challenging, or both. They motivate players to try over and over again, in an attempt to improve their performance.

In marketing, brands can use this psychology to drive high frequency and create a memorable educational experience. Brands can also encourage participants to share scores and challenge friends, making for a huge viral opportunity.

Arby’s “Fresh Catch” promotion increased brand awareness of a new sandwich by leveraging this sort of gamification. The instant win fishing advergame allowed participants to play over and over again in order to better their performance, or in this case, catch more fish.

The campaign went viral based on a wide range of consumers sharing scores, and participants came back over and over again to better their previous performance.

New word, old concept

Marketers can learn a lot from the board games we played on rainy days as kids. Gamification allows us to combine traditional marketing strategies with more innovative digital campaigns.

Everyone loves to play games, whether it is something more intellectual like Trivial Pursuit or more on the collaborative side, like Charades. This affinity to be challenged and to win, translates perfectly into marketing and turning consumers into brand advocates by offering them engaging games and interesting content.

Once a brand decides on the overall promotion goal, it is simple to build a targeted gamification program to support that. Can you think of any other gamification ties to old school games?

Matthew Kates

Published 28 August, 2013 by Matthew Kates

Matt Kates is Vice President, Strategic Services at HelloWorld and is a contributor to Econsultancy.

19 more posts from this author

Comments (5)

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Denise Johnston

Haven't seen a better explanation or example of 'gamification'. Thanks for this. It explains a lot and I think just working for clients that are gamified makes my tasks as a social representative more exciting! Thanks for a great blog.

over 3 years ago

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Nandini

Bing Gordon says, "Gamification is as important as Social and Mobile."

In some way nearly every publisher, brand, marketer and enterprise are using gamification to engage their audience. Nike+ is a successful example of brands using gamification into their online community to turn its fans into brand evangelists. For brands & marketers too, gamification is a very effective way to get consumers to interact and share their experiences to build relationships.

I have shared my thoughts on How to get started with Gamification: http://www.betaout.com/blog/8-tips-to-create-a-killer-gamification-strategy/

over 3 years ago

James Perrin

James Perrin, Digital Communications Specialist at Feefo

Hi Mathew, great insights and examples of gamification. For me, the most effective are the points earning and score-keeping ones, as well as skill based games. With the advent of HTML 5 and more sophisticated content creation methods, it's great news for brands looking to use content as a way of marketing themselves. I've always loved the idea of gamification and your examples have shown me how much more it can be used. Thanks.

over 3 years ago

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Kenny

Gamifiation is cool, and it does have a huge marketing potential. But it's usefulness is limited by what you're selling. If you are marketing a high end service firm like a dental or CPA office it's useless.

As a business management tool, however, gamification is pretty much universally useful.

about 3 years ago

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Andrew Hearn

I've been an advocate of gamification for some time, but strongly believe that too many marketers are jumping on the points, badges and leaderboards bandwagon which is quite a lazy approach.

Let's not forget the key to any gamified strategy for consumers is that it must be fun. Nobody likes a boring game!

about 3 years ago

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